Watching PJ ‘O Rourke on a recent Newsnight unexpectedly coming out for Hillary Clinton – or, more to the point, adamantly against Trump – he memorably described her as being “wrong on almost everything…but within the normal parameters of ‘wrong’.”
It amused me at the time, but there was something nagging away in the background – it reminded me of something, but I couldn’t think what it was. And then I stumbled across it – some thoughts I’d had during the latter stages of the Brexit ‘debate’:
Michael Gove’s “I think the British people have had enough of experts” must surely be one of the great political soundbites of our day.
Ok, so it’s come in for a lot of flak. And not only from experts. But I can think of no recent expression which so exemplifies the power of words to encapsulate and express not just an idea, but a unifying gut instinct.
As such it reminds us of arguably the most fundamental truth of communication. That it’s a two way process.
However egregious, however disingenuous (I can think of no other politician of modern times with so high a regard for education and expertise than self-made Mr Gove), there’s no denying its power to encapsulate and exploit a pre-existing mood – to have ten million people unite as one in saying (mostly to themselves, probably, but what else really counts?) “That’s right!”
Being able to crystallise what people feel, saying what they would say themselves if only they had the power to do it, is surely one mark of a consummate politician.
In short, an expert.
Few people, of course, understand the power of words – or deploy them with such deft precision – better than PJ.