Saturday, May 14, 2005

Neither Fish Nor Vowel

So Kenneth Clarke may throw his hat into the ring for the Tory leadership....again.
And have you seen the hats he wears? Not the hats of someone who wants to melt into the background. It will need to be a pretty big ring.

I've always regarded Clarke as an amiable buffoon who made same terrible cock-ups during his ministerial career. In his defence it's always said that he's a paid-up member of the human race, with his liking for beer and cigars and interests outside politics like jazz and flogging cigarettes to Third World countries. This impression is somehat undermined by the discovery that he decided to become an MP at the age of seven. But politics would certainly be more fun with him as Opposition Leader and if the MPs elected him the neanderthal Tories in the shires would be seriously pissed off.

However, I'm not sure it would win the Tories many more votes, partly because of the Speech Factor. A LibDem MP drew attention to this the other day when she said that if they made David Davis leader they would at least have someone who spoke like a normal person. She was right.
Ever since the last toff leader - Alec Douglas-Home - the Tories have had leaders who spoke with the most extraordinary accents.
This is because they've been people from working class or middle class backgrounds who scrambled up the class ladder via grammar school and Oxbridge and adjusted their speech to suit the milieu of the old, traditional ruling class in which they hoped to prosper.
Unfortunately it never quite worked.
Probably the most successful was Ted Heath, the carpenter's son who never married and got crucified by the miners, although even his accent was pretty strange.
The least successful was William Hague because the Yorkshire twang kept breaking through and he sounded like somebody who was being garrotted.
Thatcher went further than most in having her voice lowered by a professional voice coach. But in moments of stress she would lapse into Lincolnshire dialect, most famously when she screamed 'frit' at the Labour benches in the Commons.
Duncan Smith had the least contrived accent but was afflicted by a stress-induced frog in his throat.
Poor Michael Howard was the most mocked for his accent and will probably always be remembered for 'peepil' and 'skoo-ell'.

Ken Clarke's distinctive diction is quite an achievement for someone whose father was a collier electrician in the Nottinghamshire coalfields but it's hardly the voice of the average bloke in the pub that Clarke is supposed to epitomise.
But at least the Tory Boys (and Thatcher) have been consistent in their pretensions.
Unlike Phoney Tony who, in addition to being two-faced like most politicians, has been two-voiced as well, always able to drop his consonants as effortlessly as he dropped the socialist policies on which he first stood for Parliament.


At 9:06 PM, Anonymous Graham said...

Socialist policies,Blair and the rest of the so called Third Way New Labour Tories wouldn't know a socialist policy if if bit them on the arse.

At 9:19 AM, Blogger zaphod said...

I think the whole issue should be decided by hats.
Hats never do any harm and nor do they tell lies.
You can always rely on a hat!

At 2:49 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Graham, one day a resurgent left might bite them on the arse but I wouldn't hold your breath.

Zaphod, I'm secretly jealous of Clarke's hat but I don't have the height or physique to wear one like it.
But remember that baseball hats are a threat to Civilisation as we know it. Apparently. Which is why I'm going to start wearing one. I'm also on the lookout for a hoodie suitable for the middle-aged dude.


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