20 September 2013

On "sluts"

Godfrey Bloom has lost the UKIP whip for referring to women who do not clean behind their fridges as "sluts". Story here (it's not easy to find a report which concentrates simply on this issue, because Bloom seems to be a profligate disaster-monger).

At one level this may seem to be merely a confusion of connotations: Bloom claimed that he used the term "merely" to mean a "lazy housewife" rather than the current usage of "a woman who is indiscriminately generous with her affections". (I quote from memory)

He also claimed that the—apparently predominantly female—audience took it in good part as a joke.

I'm not terribly interested in the political correctness aspect of this debate, just in the mind-boggling ineptitude of this politician.

My argument would be based on Bernstein's language codes. Managing restricted and elaborated language codes is a key skill for a politician—there's always a dangerous gulf between how you speak to your political intimates and to the public. But failing to understand how any word, phrase, or sentiment might "play" with outsiders is simply political incompetence at Level 1.

It may well work as part of the wacky, maverick, protest shtick—but not when you want voters to trust you.

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