Wednesday, April 05, 2006

War of Words

The leader of the UK Conservative Party (and Tony Blair clone) David Cameron has described the UK Independence Party as a bunch of "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists". [Source BBC News]

What is the purpose / effect of this statement?

Commenting on the story, BBC political correspondent Nick Assinder identifies two results, and infers a purpose.
It has got him on the news bulletins (result no 1) for suggesting his Tory party has absolutely nothing in common with the party which once boasted Robert Kilroy Silk and Joan Collins among its members (result no 2). And, as such, it can be seen as part of his campaign to distance the all-new Conservative Party from anything that smacks of extremism, illiberalism or, well, nastiness.
In other words, saying that UKIP is X is an indirect way of saying that the Conservative Party isn't X. (This is a useful rhetorical pattern for handling negation.)

But name-calling is a dangerous game, and often reflects back onto the name-caller. It is an commonly observed phenomenon, that people often apply to other people precisely those epithets that apply equally to themselves. Pot calling kettle black.

And the attack also establishes an apparent symmetry between the Conservatives and UKIP. Cameron and UKIP Spokesman Nigel Farage are given almost equal billing in the BBC story. UKIP leaders are threatening to sue Cameron for libel. Well it keeps UKIP in the headlines as well, doesn't it?

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