29 Apr 2008

The evolution of Engkeylish - the art of double speak

When one begins to adopt another's clothing in an attempt to persuade an audience there is nothing to be afraid of one must develop a language which allows the Pretender to say one thing to an audience but another to the select group who are supporting him. So it is with the National Party which as adopted what can be best described as "engkeylish" - the phrases given to the Party spokesperson by the policy controller to explain their policy.
One of the key indicators of this is the use, in press releases and speeches, of the words: "Strugglers" and "Battlers" who will all be living at addresses along "Struggle Street." These descriptors will be trotted out by speakers of Engkeylish at every opportunity - usually tied to the phrase "relief from the tax burden." The phrase and linkage will provide the panacea mantra response to any questions about National Party policy as in:
Q: What does National propose to do to improve industrial relations?'
A: Under the National those battlers living on Struggle Street will find that lifting of the tax burden will mean that their working conditions will improve."
Q: Will workers expect higher wages under a National Government?
A: Under the National those battlers living on Struggle Street will find that lifting of the tax burden will mean that their wages will increase.
Of course the required follow-up question " Does that mean Employers will argue that because there has been tax relief they're no longer obligated to improve working conditions and / or wages?" will not be answered or likely to be asked as the speaker moves onto the next question.
This response mantra is typical of the "engkeylish" speaker, the doublespeak developed by Bill English and given to John Key to deliver in the required 8 second sound bite that passes for policy.
Given that one would expect the media to have a long term political memory one should expect the next question that the speaker acknowledges should be: "How come those very same working battlers and strugglers you are now championing were and are in other fora labelled by your party colleagues as "work shy" and "bludgers" (usually as "dole or benefit bludgers")?
But in the world of political doublespeak and spin this contradiction is ignored or masked by the other obscurantisms that permeate engkeylish and other National Party phrasings.
We should watch out for "accountability" and "transparency" along with "a commitment to" which when used in mission statements, policy intentions and speeches all gloss over the suspicion that there will be an agenda hidden under the management speak that will only be revealed when, on attaining government, National will revert to its "core business" which is revealed in the responses from Key and Wilkinson to questions on different aspects of their policy.
First; Key in response to a questioner at a public meeting in Keri Keri last year: (20.12.07)
"The reason why the wage gap is widening so rapidly between New Zealand and Australia is taxes. Australia has cut taxes, we haven't..... we would love to see wages drop. The way we want to see wages increase is because productivity is greater. So people can afford more." (It is worth noting that in response to this statement being raised in Parliament the clause "we would love to see wages drop" should have had the phrase "in Australia" added or, as in the political speak heard on the American hustings "I mis-spoke" or "I was mis-reported").
Whatever the reporting one can see the use of engkeylish in response to the question - "here is the immediate panacea - cut taxes and the differences between the two radically different economies will vanish." Thus allowing National to revert to its core business of "demanding more from the workers (read "bludgers") while keeping wages down . Anyone who was employed under the Bolger-Richardson National Government would recall the immediate response to Union calls for wage increases... "They're unnecessary as we've given you a tax break."
The Kate Wilkinson (Industrial Relations spokesperson for National) response to questions about their Industrial Relations policy revealed the "revert to core business" agenda when she discussed the "refinements" (another doublespeak term) to be made to the current employment law. The policy is to "refine" the law by reverting to the legislation of the 1990s which allowed employers to set up "employer developed collective 'contracts' that cannot be changed that apply to a particular site and thus lock employees into contracts that severely limited their individual rights as workers.
As SFWU President Wyeth said "National set out to destroy workers rights in the 1990s and nearly succeeded. More recently they have opposed four weeks annual leave, opposed paid parental leave, opposed extra pay for working on public holidays and opposed getting some sort of work life balance laws up and running." So, one wonders, why should one accept the engkeylish mantra that all will be resolved by accepting the statement that: "Under the National those battlers living on Struggle Street will find that lifting of the tax burden will mean that their working conditions (wages/ health services / educational opportunities / life styles / etc ) will improve."

25 Apr 2008

The Pretender's new clothes

Over recent months the media has been fascinated by the emergence of the latest pretender to leadership of the National Party. Their fascination has spilled over to the polls in what has been recognised by researchers in the USA as the bias effect.
The research showed that the repetition of poorly researched and quickly read news articles were more readily assimilated than articles that required the reader to critically assess the information put in front of them. Thus the 8 second sound bite of the TV and the "short snappy" head and sub head of the newspaper distorted the information available and resulted in a mis-reading of the actuality being reported.

So it has been with the representation of the leadership and policies of the National Party. Since the unseating of Don Brash the spin doctors have been dressing John Key in clothes borrowed from past successful Labour campaigns.
The one that generated the initial media fascination with Key was the visit to "struggle" street and the "adoption" of a young Polynesian girl as an introduction to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Here the National Party was borrowing the cloak of Norm Kirk whose working class credentials were considerably more credible than any pretended by the National Party leadership.

When Norm Kirk walked onto the Treaty Grounds with the young Maori boy he did it from instinct, from his own sense of right and acknowledgment of the connection between himself and the people. For the National Party the occasion had to be manufactured with Key positioning himself as "champion of those on struggle street" and then, amid a flurry of press releases and spin, taking the daughter of a street resident to Waitangi to emulate the iconography of Kirk's instinctive and natural action. The media loved it because the journalists covering the "media event" lacked the historical memory that would have triggered warning lights in the eyes of experienced reporters.

If one compares the two situations one can see the difference in style, in attitude, in relationship and understanding of occasion between Kirk, the working class man of the people, and Key, the pretender.
As the posed photo-opportunity on the bridge to Waitangi, the carefully chosen T-shirt with its "culturally sensitive" icon and the deliberately "casual" clothing all demonstrate the influence of the Public Relations / Advertising agency spin doctor on the situation.
Soon after the frenzy of Waitangi Key was filmed for a TV interview springing up the steps of Parliament Buildings in emulation of the Bob Harvey inspired 1969 campaign film of Norm Kirk presenting himself as the leader of the Labour Party.
For anyone with a long political memory the spin doctoring was obvious. Here was Key and his political dressers raiding the wardrobe to clothe their man and, by association, give him the clothes that would "soften" the image of the money-man, the financial mover and shaker who had been in the employ of the speculators who had profited during the "free-market" buccaneering days of Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson.
The political cynicism and crass manipulation of the National Party spin doctors was evident and to become more and more obvious as the campaign to make their leader and their policies appear palatable evolved.
The pretender was to pick and choose his new clothes as the occasion suited.... at some point the clothes would prove not to be a good fit and the insincerity of the campaign would be revealed.