There were those who laughed or sneered at the length of the white paper produced by the Scottish government for the 2014 referendum. It may have been 700 pages long, but it meant that if you wanted to have a discussion – with an ally or an opponent – you could, once you had found the relevant section, be sure that you were talking about the same evidence or commitments. The campaigns in last year's EU referendum went to the other extreme and there were no authoritative clarifying documents. When a politician made a statement which was deemed outrageous by the media or the electorate, his allies could just describe it as a personal preference rather than a campaign objective.
The UK government may have been forced into producing a white paper before they enter negotiations over Article 50 but clarity does not seem to be their priority. Kenneth Roy
reminds us of Orwell's advice to readers to be 'alert to grandiose words devoid of precision or obvious meaning'. This is the style of a white paper which seeks to mollify everyone but clarifies nothing.
The conclusion of Mrs May's white paper talks about building a United Kingdom, as a result of the referendum, which is 'secure, prosperous and tolerant' as well as being 'a magnet for international talent and a home for the pioneers and innovators who will shape the world ahead'. Having spent some time in hospital recently under the care of many healthcare professionals from the EU, I became aware that they had their own reading of the referendum's message. Those who were willing to talk with me about Brexit felt insecure about their contracts; there were fears of mass expulsions of EU nationals and concerns about why the May government did not simply issue a decree to provide security of residence to EU nationals already living here. I thought to myself that there might even be a case for using the royal prerogative.
I have also become aware, as a result of my previous employment in higher education, of some academic researchers, including spouses of UK nationals, who had sought to clarify their right to residency here; they had found through the application process that they had fewer rights than they had before last June's referendum and sometimes they had been advised to make arrangements to leave the country. These have been standard letters which indicate that the Home Office is not fully on board with the plan to make the UK 'a magnet for international talent'. The banality of this bureaucratic xenophobia feels to some of us like a covert coup, using the results of the referendum as a justification for policies of expulsion and discrimination which were not included in the question last June.
As always, Kenneth Roy's article
makes interesting and thought-provoking reading. I too had an English teacher many years ago who wouldn't allow sentences beginning with the words 'so', 'and' or 'because'. She was equally adamant not to start a sentence with 'but', obviously more so than Miss Brotherstone, given the start of some of Kenneth Roy's sentences.
It's not just the written word which is suffering, the spoken word too is changing. A particular irritation is the increasing use of the word 'Look' when an individual is trying to make a point. Am I correct in saying it was Tony Blair who started that? Whoever it was, it should cease immediately. Even a BBC journalist in his reports recently has been known to use it and it sounds no better in a news report than it does when used by a politician.
By the way, am I allowed to start a sentence with the word 'Even'?
Yes. – Ed.
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