Cut out those clichés

These are great days for the metaphor, the simile, the humble analogy. There’s nothing quite like a political crisis to inspire the wordsmiths.

And so, without further ado, the New Statesman magazine is proud to announce (cue: drum roll) the winners of the inaugural Figure of Speech Awards in the following categories:

Violent. Andrew Rawnsley, for casting James Purnell as the “lone gunman” in Gordon Brown’s firing squad, imagining a dagger driving “between the Prime Minister’s shoulder blades” and describing mutineers breaking “[Brown’s] fingers” to get him out of No 10. Calm down, Rawnsley!

Unwittingly hilarious. Matthew d’Ancona, for saying that Purnell “displayed the Sideburns of Courage” and depicting Alan Johnson as the “Pearly Dauphin”. (And for Brown as Rasputin.)

Esoteric. Marina Hyde, for comparing Labour’s meltdown to “one of those very early computer games which gave the illusion of interactive fiction”, as well as to “autodestructive art”.

Scientific/dizzying. Our very own James Macintyre, for arguing that not only is Brown defying “political gravity”, but his government is also in “free fall”, which sounds like everything that should be going up is coming down (and vice versa). Help!

Tasteless. Polly Toynbee, for depicting Brown as a plane (in the week of the Air France disaster) “crashing out of the sky”.

Animalistic. Matthew Parris and Quentin Letts, for their likening of Brown to a “wingless albatross” and Peter Mandelson to a “snake that has now almost completely coiled itself round Mr Brown’s windpipe”.

And finally . . . Questionable comparison to a fictional character. Mary Riddell, for comparing Brown to Wile E Coyote, “the cartoon character caught up in a desperate race in which he ends up burnt to a crisp, squashed flat or marooned at the bottom of a canyon”.

At last! New Labour, the cartoon.

This article first appeared in the 15 June 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Tragedy!