‘An incompetence’: played, and won!

Gordon Brown has slipped the media a fast one by saying Peter Hain is guilty of ‘an incompetence‘.

It was one of those occasions where I heard the words but knew something wasn’t quite ‘normal’ about them. When I heard the phrase second time around I loved it. It pitches itself between damnation, and absolute damnation. It’s calling him, by a semantic step to the right, an incompetent rather than a liar.

I’m hoping this is one of Gordon Brown’s own creations but I can well believe his media advisors dreamed it up. It’s a classic case of ‘played – and won’. They wanted to create a phrase that the media would pick up on – and haven’t they just. Politics shows peculiar talent for this, maybe because it contains colourful personalities.

I have a feeling this will go down alongside other ‘isms’, such as: Anne Widdecombe describing there being ‘something of the night’ about Michael Howard, which has stayed with him since; Tony Blair’s ‘irreducible core’; and Bernard Ingham branding Lord Biffen as a ‘semi-detached’ member of Cabinet. I would like to include Donald Rumsfeld’s ‘known unknowns’ but I’m not entirely sure he showed the same acumen with that one…

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