The Great Ignored

I said I’d write about whatever bugged me, So here’s a long rant about bad political phrasing. It’s a constant bother of mine that with great literature to reach for, our leaders always seem to grasp for awkward neologisms.

It’s only day one and we’ve already had our first piece of crushingly bad political rhetoric: David Cameron’s claim to be standing in this election for the `Great Ignored’

As Sunder Katwala and others have pointed out, the template for “the great ignored” seems to be Richard Nixon’s “Silent majority” speech. Now, to be fair to tricky Dick, that wasn’t a campaign speech. It was a speech about Vietnam, given a year after his election to shore up support for his policy in Vietnam.

In comparison to that phrase, there are two problems with Cameron’s rhetorical use of the “Great Ignored”.

The first is obvious. It doesn’t make sense. If you’re talking about them, they’re not ignored, and what’s so great about being ignored anyway? Is the fact being ignored really the only quality that links those that David Cameron wants to support him? A silent majority has meaning. The verdict of quiet, decent, British families makes sense. The ‘Great Ignored’ doesn’t.

If you want to evoke the neglect of a whole nation, why not be literary and borrow from Chesterton’s “Secret People” and appeal to the people of England, too long smiled at, paid service to but passed over, who now, at last, have the chance to speak?

The Great Ignored? It doesn’t sound like a club anyone would want to be a member of.

The other problem with “the Great Ignored”, is that by definition, it includes neither the speaker or the audience. If you appeal to the silent majority, you are subtly identifying the audience with yourself. Talk about the great ignored, and you begin to sound like you’re praising the waiters at a posh banquet. Indeed, if you’re not careful it begins to sound like you’re the one who’s been ignoring them.

This is David Cameron defining the Great ignored: “They start our businesses, operate our factories, teach our children, clean our streets, grow our food, keep us safe. They work hard, pay their taxes, obey the law”.

Who is the “us” in that paragraph? Who is the “They”?

So I don’t think the great ignored will last long in this election campaign.

Indeed, if i were Peter Mandelson, I’d be riffling through my Kipling to find better phrases to link electorate and leaders. Here’s a place to start. A way to talk about the natural modesty and awkwardness in the face of praise of the English. (Which not co-incidentally is about the difference between real achievement and self promotion and gloss).

“‘So long as Severn runs to West
Or Humber to the East,
That they who bore themselves the best
Shall count themselves the least.

…they shall choose the lesser word
To cloke the greater deed.

‘After the quarry and the kill-
The fair fight and the fame-
With an ill face and an ill grace
Shall they rehearse the same.

‘Greater the deed, greater the need
Lightly to laugh it away,”

18 Responses to “The Great Ignored”

  1. newmania

    Its bit of “The forgotten decents ” is the working class people adopting needy lifestyles so as to acquire needs targeted help.
    Its a bit of the “Squeezed middle” ie those who get nothing and pay all the tax and do not get a free house
    Its the people who work enormous long hours in ultra competitive circumstances just to see it burnt and wasted by Public sector parasites they know and see.
    Its the people in the South whose infra structure needs have been ignored while Cardiff is developed

    Its everyone who goes to work pays taxes does little wrong works hard and who New labour regard as a cash cow and / or as a bigot and / or as an impediment to their centralised plans to which we are all insufficiently subservient .

    Clumsy maybe but I think it might work

  2. newmania

    PS I am midly suprised you will admit Kipling has anything at all to offer . Last I heard he was a jingo-istic racist limerick writer … in lefty circles..but then who isn`t ?

  3. CS Clark

    A further problem with it as rhetoric is that it’s one Freudian slip away from ‘Great Unwashed’. Never make your tongue a hostage to fortune, especially when your memory isn’t as good as it used to be.

    But I can see the point of it. It’s a way of absolving the electorate, shriving it, making it clean. All those increases in public spending? No, you didn’t really vote for them, did you. Sure you voted Labour, but you actually wanted them to keep all the tax money in a sock under the bed, ready for a rainy day, didn’t you. Isn’t it terrible the way they ignored you and went ahead with their manifesto commitments.

    Pity really, since I had thought the Tories had come to terms with the idea that it’s legitimate for other parties to form governments.

  4. Rapunzel

    I’m not sure that using the concept of “them” and “us” is a great vote winner for the Tories.

    Although, it would tie in with Julia’s suggestion that he was just a whisker away from referring to us lot as “the great unwashed.”

  5. Undecided Libertarian

    A Future Fair for All is hardly much better. As is the Lib Dems’ emphasis on ‘Real change not fake change’.

    There should just be a complete ban on sloganeering come election time. I feel like politicians are talking to people as if they’re idiots!

  6. newmania

    Isn’t it terrible the way they ignored you and went ahead with their manifesto commitments.

    What you mean no tax rises , open and honest government , that sort of thing ?

  7. bert

    I actually agree with Sen – “the great ignored” is not the best slogan. Maybe Cameron should be reaching out to core Labour voters – the “great ignorant”, perhaps?

    Anyway, all of this flim flam pales into insignificance compared to Labour’s wake at Downing St this morning. Brown was at his funerial worst. How can this man hope to inspire voters – unless they want a final push before jumping off a cliff?

    I rarely agree with Clegg – but he was spot on today – “the beginning of the end for Gordon Brown.”

  8. AB

    Julia is spot on, but I also thought it sounded vaguely like a species of bird, akin to a Great Buzzard. [Hushed voice] “The Great Ignored chooses suburban England for its nesting place, and can frequently be found washing Mondeos in a repetitive grooming ritual.”

  9. Tony

    Argh. Chesterton. When he put pen to paper I doubt he realised that, come the 21st century, his poem would be most commonly quoted by Telegraph blog commenters immediately prior to a rant about not liking immigrants.

    Oooh – development of the campaign so far! After months of shameless Tory hackery Iain Dale is now attempting to row back to respectability:

    “[T]here’s only so far I am going to go in cheerleading. If Brown or Clegg make a good speech…I’ll say so.” – Dale

  10. newmania

    You are thinking of the Great Awk perhaps AB which is already taken as is the Great Sulk . I think the problem with this is really that Cameron will want some of the people who have quite obviously not been ignored to vote for him
    Public Sector Proffessionals for example They can hardly walk they are so cash -fat and lazy but he needs a few of them to tick the wrong box

    Oh this is a nice bit of Kipling presaging , I hope | tax payers revolt

    IN EXTENDED observation of the ways and works of man,
    From the Four-mile Radius roughly to the Plains of Hindustan:
    I have drunk with mixed assemblies, seen the racial ruction rise,
    And the men of half Creation damning half Creation’s eyes.

    I have watched them in their tantrums, all that Pentecostal crew,
    French, Italian, Arab, Spaniard, Dutch and Greek, and Russ and Jew,
    Celt and savage, buff and ochre, cream and yellow, mauve and white,
    But it never really mattered till the English grew polite;

    Till the men with polished toppers, till the men in long frock-coats,
    Till the men who do not duel, till the men who war with votes,
    Till the breed that take their pleasures as Saint Lawrence took his grid,
    Began to “beg your pardon” and—the knowing croupier hid.

  11. Nick

    I suspect Chesterton (and Kipling) were passed over because the Tories are trying to win votes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as England.

    Agree that the “great ignored” is an odd phrase, though. Makes me think of the Lib Dems.

  12. makemeadiva

    I think the phrase is totally misjudged. Cameron thinks he has popular appeal, but I really hope he’s wrong…


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