I recently read George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language, an essay on how politicians manipulate their words and the common theme running in most political speeches.

One of the first things that Orwell rightly points out is the ‘staleness of imagery’ in political language: in pretty much every speech (see both the Labour and Conservative Party Conferences), the same old metaphors and similes are used. The repetition (or overuse) of these phrases results in a lack of meaning being conveyed and the potential power of what a politician is saying is totally disregarded.

Another particularly interesting point in the essay is how language in politics is often mechanical and non-human. For example, a politician like Chancellor Phillip Hammond may discuss “the fruit of British genius being harvested here in Britain as we move into a fourth industrial revolution” – which, to the average person, means absolutely nothing. That’s what got me thinking.


Orwell wrote Politics and the English Language in 1947 and in 2016, many things still ring true. I have been thinking about the language of some of our most high-profile politicians: Donald Trump and Nigel Farage. Both men are rolling in controversy – particularly Republican Presidential nominee Trump – yet they still get votes.

Their so-called anti-establishment views are the reason but I just don’t buy that. It’s their language that makes them stand out and entices voters. It’s the way in which Nigel Farage can speak his mind in a non-PC way (when asked about who we should let into Britain, he responded with this: “people without HIV”) and the way in which Donald Trump can can confidently say he’s “calling for a complete and total shutdown on Muslims entering the country until we figure out what the hell is going on.”

Although this insulting and vile non-PC way of using language appears to be winning, there are other ways. Neither Trump or Farage invent new imagery – they just use words that the ordinary person does and avoid the complex political jargon used by their contemporaries like Hillary Clinton and David Cameron. The real way to use language in politics if you want to win without playing dirty is to make your language as simple as possible, as interesting and thought-provoking as you can and most importantly, make it honest. Orwell is right to point this out and it’s a shame there’s no one in politics who will listen to it.