Although it's not a new thing, politicians have of late been using phrases like 'We are quite clear that...' or 'David Cameron has stated his position, and he is clear that...' or 'I have made my position clear...' - rather a lot. An awful lot, in fact, as if anyone likely to speak in public in the last days before the General Election has been attending an official tutorial on how to sound strong and definite and united about party policy. As opposed to weak, muddled and disunited.
It's an election trick. And one that in my opinion that has already been used to death and beyond. It makes me want to howl 'STOP USING THAT SILLY PHRASE!' at the speaker. One Conservative Party lady on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions? last night, when defending herself and her party, used the word 'clear' in a variety of similar, off-the-peg phrases over and over again - at one point three times inside a minute. This was slipping in a ready-made cant expression in substitution for something original and personal to herself, that might have required thought and imagination. I'm guessing that front-line politicians are told to stick to certain key phrases, that sound upbeat and positive, and not attempt to paraphrase them, nor add their own nuance. But let me be quite clear. I regard the use of official party catch-phrases and expressions as a dumbing-down of the whole electoral process. I am perfectly clear on that.
I suppose the repeated use of this word 'clear' is meant to persuade the electorate that the Conservative Party (and indeed any party that does the same) has worked out everything, testing every link in its chain of delivery commitments, and finding that each rings true. It's a word associated (in other contexts) with bright eyes and bright light and sharp focus. And with the notion of 'transparency' - a very positive buzzword in its own right.
Ah, transparency! For some reason, it has become vitally important to 'cost every policy to the penny', and to have some outside body verify that the forecasts hold water - as if expert accountancy opinion now determines what constitutes a government worth electing.
Personally, I'd be satisfied if a party could reliably estimate things to the nearest billion over the lifetime of the next parliament. There are bound to be unexpected costs (and lucky windfalls) in the five years ahead, and the vigorous pursuit of one flagship policy could easily upset the net gains or expenses associated with another. It's impossible to predict the financial future 'to the last penny', and I don't believe a word of any of the more nebulous claims being made, such as what a 'Mansion Tax' or a 'Bank Levy' might bring in. I expect that if the Conservatives get in again, they will find it expedient to scrap HS2, the proposed high-speed London-Midlands-North of England rail link, and so magically cover the cost of all their other promises. (My own guess on this is of course as good or worthless as anyone else's)
I'm impatient now for these last days before the General Election to go by, so that the blather will stop and the actual voting will begin.
The event itself will be most interesting. It was always traditional in my family to make a night of it, staying up very late, to 3.00pm perhaps, to watch the results roll in until a clear picture had emerged. Dad and I did that many times together, and I followed the tradition in 2010, and I will do it again next Thursday night. I fancy that the result in the morning will not be quite as generally predicted. It's not a forgone conclusion at all. I am quite clear on that.