“When I use a word”, Humpty Dumpty said to Alice, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean.”
Today the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, declared that a school built over nine miles away from an existing Grammar School is not a new school but is an annexe of the existing school. It is currently lawful to build annexes to existing Grammar Schools but not to build new Grammar Schools. So, Morgan’s decision that the word “annexe” means something that it clearly does not, allows her to avoid the difficulty of a vote in parliament to reintroduce Grammar Schools - a vote that would split the Tory Party and which she might well lose.
Morgan’s linguistic trickery puts her in good company in this government. Iain Duncan-Smith improved the government’s record on poverty at a cynical stroke by redefining the word “poverty”.
George Osborne announced a new National “Living Wage” which - combined with his attack on tax credits - leave millions worse off and with an income significantly below the previously accepted level of the Living Wage.
Theresa May, in her deeply nasty and unsettling speech at the Tory conference, deliberately undermined the true meanings of “asylum seeker” and “refugee”.
David Cameron has described property as “affordable” when only those on well above average incomes can afford them. And he has laid claim to the “centre-ground” despite this government being the most right wing since the 1930s.
Orwell’s 1984 is all about a dystopia where one of the main tools of control is the manipulation of language itself by those in power. The behaviour of these Tory politicians is frankly sinister.
Perhaps worse are all those media outlets that fail to report on this twisting of words. A properly functioning democracy requires a media that has basic standards of decency and honesty. I worry about our democracy.