2010: A political year in words


Politicians always have plenty to say. BBC political reporter Justin Parkinson looks at some of the words that rose to prominence in 2010.

Agree In the true spirit of coalition, how nice it is to start our little compendium with a bit of seasonal conciliation. During the televised prime ministerial debates, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was deemed by the press to be quite a hit. Even Gordon Brown and David Cameron uttered the phrase "I agree with Nick" several times. Lib Dem supporters liked it so much they printed T-shirts bearing the slogan.

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Viva New Labour: Corby turned to Las Vegas as the PM and the King both paid a visit

Bigotgate If Gordon Brown thought he had a tough task on his hands when the campaign began, the forces of hell - or Wapping, at least - were unleashed against him after he was recorded referring to Labour supporter Gillian Duffy as a "bigoted woman" following a conversation about immigration. The PM went to Mrs Duffy's house to apologise. The word nadir does not do it justice.

Breeding Tory peer-to-be Howard Flight put his foot in it when he argued that changes to child benefit would make life harder for those on middle incomes, while encouraging the poor to "breed".

Brokeback Coalition It was the tale of two cowboys who came together while taking a break from work in the wilds of Wyoming, but could never live together. It takes quite a leap of imagination to substitute the characters played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in the film Brokeback Mountain for the Lib Dem and Tory leaderships. But this was what some Conservative MPs - unhappy at the coalition arrangement - did. Business Secretary Vince Cable later clarified the nature of the government, describing it as a "civil partnership" rather than a marriage.

Cleggmania How quickly fashion passes. For a few days in spring he was the darling of the chattering classes, including students, but Nick Clegg ends the year a folk devil for opponents of higher fees.

Coup It was the putsch that petered out in the perishing cold of January. Former cabinet ministers Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt made a last-ditch attempt to snuff out Gordon Brown's leadership before the PM finally went to the country. Their colleagues were less than impressed and Mr Brown fought on for another four months.

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David Cameron felt a little embarrassed when his past indiscretions were revealed

Debates Live from Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham, the glitz and glamour of the election campaign became a peak-time TV event. Will the debates ever happen again?

Dwarf Commons Speaker John Bercow announced himself "entirely untroubled" after health minister Simon Burns called him a "stupid, sanctimonious dwarf". Mr Burns later apologised for his remarks - but only to dwarves.

Elvis He'd had a weekly audience with the Queen since 2007, but that did not prepare Gordon Brown for one of his more surreal election campaign moments. The PM was confronted by the King himself - oh OK, it was an Elvis impersonator - while at an event in Corby. A bewigged crooner treated Mr Brown to renditions of A Little Less Conversation and Suspicious Minds. Was he trying to say something? A few weeks later it was the PM who left the building.

Garden After a bruising battle which resulted in no party winning the election, the Tories finally agreed with the Lib Dems to govern in coalition. The new PM and deputy PM were unveiled to the world at a Mills and Boon-ish press conference in the garden of 10 Downing Street. As sunlight filtered through the trees, David Cameron and Nick Clegg stood side-by-side on the lawn and spelled out their mutual admiration. When asked about his previous description of Mr Clegg as a "joke", Mr Cameron pulled a face worthy of a Richard Curtis film.

Geeks Labour MP Diane Abbott was less than complimentary about her four male rivals for the Labour leadership, describing them as "geeks in suits". She is now a shadow health minister under Ed Miliband.

Junior (partner) Mr Cameron described the UK as, if not subservient, at least a tad submissive when it came to relations with the United States.

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Super furry political animals: Danny Alexander was likened to a rodent

Memoirs "Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me," Gordon Brown, by now a former PM, might have thundered as book after book came out, with ex-ministers cashing in on their new-found freedom. First Lord Mandelson questioned his presentational skills. Then Tony Blair accused him of having "zero" emotional intelligence. Mr Brown had the last laugh though, when he brought out his own volume, focusing on dealing with the economic crisis. Mentions of Blair? One. Mentions of Mandelson? A big, fat, dismissive zero.

Milk Coalition leaders bridled - curdled, even - when a leaked letter from health minister Anne Milton suggested free nursery milk for under-fives could be scrapped (snatched?) in England. The idea was dropped quicker than you can say gold top.

Nutters Nick Clegg's participation in the TV debates was not all a smooth journey into the nation's hearts. The Lib Dem leader alleged at one point that David Cameron had allied himself in Europe with ''nutters, anti-Semites, people who deny climate change exists and homophobes''. He later apologised for stigmatising those with mental health issues.

Never had it so good Government enterprise adviser Lord Young invoked the spirit of Harold Macmillan in pouring doubt on all these stories of "so-called" recession and economic hardship. He went soon afterwards.

Queues The public has given up on apathy. With a close contest in the reckoning for the first time in 18 years, election turnout was up. Such was the frenzy that hundreds of people waiting outside were prevented from voting when polling stations closed.

Reckless By name and by nature? Tory MP Mark Reckless decided not to take part in a vote on the Budget after deeming it inappropriate, considering the amount he had consumed at a parliamentary drinks bash. He promised never to make the same "mistake" again while in the Palace of Westminster.

Rodent (ginger) In late medieval times, rats were blamed for the plague. A bit unfair, as they were only unwitting carriers of the contagion. Labour's deputy leader, Harriet Harman, resuscitated this brand of abuse when she accused a "ginger rodent" of conniving with the Conservatives to make unnecessary cuts. So were hamsters or guinea pigs now the fall guys for politicans? No, it turned out she was referring to the red-headed Lib Dem Treasury minister Danny Alexander.

Spam Wonderful Spam. Glorious Spam. Not so, thought Tory MP Dominic Raab. He asked for his email link to be removed from Parliament's website after complaining that campaigners had "deluged" him with cloned messages.

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Would they still be smiling if there was a twine shortage?

Spoonerism It sounds like such a nice word. A silly mixing-up of consonants, raising a titter among the cognoscenti. But when Today presenter Jim Naughtie mispronounced Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt's surname the result was - as old-time comedians used to say - a little "blue".

Toxic The American chanteuse Britney Spears once sang: "With a taste of poison paradise, I'm addicted to you. Don't you know that you're toxic?" Lib Dem MP Tim Farron gave an unlikely echo of the sentiment when he described the party's Conservative coalition partners as "toxic" holders of "ugly" opinions.

Twine There was trouble when newly elected Tory MP Rory Stewart said areas of his Penrith and the Border constituency were "pretty primitive", with some folk "holding up their trousers with bits of twine". He later clarified the comments, calling them a criticism of local poverty rather than of local people.

Wellderly A neologism to rank with the likes of "staycation" and "brunch". Harriet Harman said it, presumably referring to those of an age but without an ailment.

Zahawi (Nadhim) For many years the A-Z list of Commons members ended with Tories Tim Yeo and Sir George Young. But the good people of Stratford-on-Avon have done us a huge favour by returning Nadhim Zahawi, thereby giving us a word to conclude our compendium. A very happy 2011.

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