Sunday, 25 November 2007

No more narratives

Cliches are very odd things. They crop up without warning and then for months, sometimes years, torment and irritate us to distraction and beyond.

Recent candidates are 'minded' as in 'The minister is minded to approve the scheme'; 'tipping point' as in 'Could this be Labour's tipping point?'; and John Reid's infamous 'not fit for purpose.' There are plenty of others of course. NuLab is particularly wowed by its use of 'world-class', as in 'world-class services', which is their way of saying utterly useless; and 'delivering excellence', which is another way of saying utterly useless.

But the newest candidate, and in some ways the most irritatingly vacuous of all, deemed by its users to bestow a cool authority when in reality it is merely intensely tiresome, is 'narrative'.

God, I can scarcely begin to say how much I HATE IT!

Here are four examples. And now I am going to go away and be sick.

Brown needs a story, a narrative, a red thread to embroider a picture of the society he wants.
Polly Toynbee
, Guardian

Labour's best narrative is the story of its family revolution, with Sure Start for babies, universal childcare, after-school and breakfast clubs, domestic-violence laws, tax credits and the children's trust fund.
Polly Toynbee Guardian

What makes it additionally damaging is that it fits into a pattern, it can be located in a narrative of government failure.
Andrew Rawnsley, Independent on Sunday

John Major was unable to come up with a narrative of his own, not that it would have done him much good if he had.
Bruce Anderson, Independent


Nigel Sedgwick said...

Well complained.

Narrative, in this context, is another word for fairy tale. It is commonly used where there is inadequate evidence and/or logical argument therefrom for a real case.

Best regards

Mark Wadsworth said...

Funnily enough, the man who coined the "not fit for purpose" phrase was Lord Turner in the context of his pensions review, several months ahead of John Reid.

Voynod said...

I am sorry to hear you have issues around cliches.