Control orders, tax exiles and extraordinary rendition: political vocabulary as messaging

“Control orders” could be called “secret detention directives”. “Tax exiles” could be called “tax fugitives”. “Extraordinary rendition” could be called “government-sponsored kidnapping”.

In all three cases a fairly benign phrase has been adopted by both sides of the debate, despite the phrase very much favouring one. Having a bit of order doesn’t instinctively sound too bad. Exile even has a whiff of the honourably martyr about it. And “extraordinary”? Well, that’s usually a good thing, isn’t it? Especially if we’re talking about “rendition”, i.e. a word that is well outside common usage.

Does it matter? Not if an issue is at the centre of public attention. But when an issue only gets brief interest from the public, or minimal media coverage that gets little beyond naming the issue and quoting two different politicians disagreeing, then yes it does – as it frames the way in which people judge the issue.

That, of course, is one of the reasons why the Yes campaign for the forthcoming referendum on the alternative vote is Yes To Fairer Votes rather than Yes To An Acronym You’ve Not Heard Of.

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  • So, Stephen, are you seriously suggesting that FPTP is faier than AV?

    Many here will of course say that there are many fairer systems than AV, especially PR in its various guises. However, FPTP is surely so horrendously unfair that pretty much anything is better, and AV most certainly is.

    I’d also say that on a constiutuency level, AV has the potential to making a real difference, as candidates need to reach out to a much larger proportion of voters.

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