Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Cliches

The Guardian has been running a correspondence in its letters page, people out-clicheing each other for what seems like, ooh, a year and a day. Trouble is, you can't keep up. Cliches are now entirely the province of journalism, and journalists' job is to keep one jump ahead of the zeitgeist: so journo A coins a killing phrase on day 1; day 2, journo 2 schticks it into an article or leader; day 3, it's a brand-new cutting-edge cliche. Day 4, it's in a letter to the Guardian.

But, a letter today suggested that the latest one might be 'I did nothing wrong'. Now that's wrong. The correct formulation is 'I did nothing against the rules'. And that's an important distinction, albeit one with an increasingly (decreasingly?) small difference. Notions of what is right or wrong are blurring into notions of what is legal or illegal. Which brings me neatly to Lord Ashcroft.

I had an enlightening conversation the other evening with a fairly eminent and well-informed person who was able, from direct experience, to confirm my impression that the Lord had had it set up, in 1999, in such a way that the tax regime would be totally legal, would conform in any superficially apparent way to the undertakings given to Hague, and wouldn't questioned (or even noticed) for, let's say, ten years - "which of course gave him ten years' worth of tax, whatever", as my friend put it.

Anyway, WTF. What goes around comes around - and a week's a long time, as the saying goes.

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