Political discourse in this country has surely never been more infested with clichés. No-one "resigns": they "fall on their swords". Issues aren’t put aside, they are "kicked into the long grass" or "put on the back burner". No-one has a record unless it’s a "track" record. Every outlook is bleak. Every mistake is either "crass" or, more likely, an own goal. All pursuit is hot. No reaction is without its knee-jerk.  Sometimes the cliché is reversed through ignorance of its origin: those who "shot themselves in the foot" were not blundering, but deliberately wounding themselves to avoid being sent to the trenches; Canute never supposed that he could make the tide retreat by ordering it to do so, but demonstrated to his sycophantic courtiers that he couldn’t make the waves obey him. However, complaints like these can be relied on, like admonitions addressed to Mr Rumsfeld, to "fall on deaf ears". And please don’t bother to point out to me that earlier in these jottings I wrote that Jo Moore had "escaped virtually scot-free": I admit that it’s a cliché, but I couldn’t think of a more economical way of saying it.

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