26 July 2009

The Premise of the Question

According to the BBC, Alistair Darling believes that Labour "can and will win" the next election.

However, he did slip up ever so slightly. And I'm not talking about the trial separation that he and reality appear to have begun.

Andrew Marr asked him: "Even under Gordon Brown?"

Darling replied, "Yes, absolutely."

Now, let's take a look at that sentence. Let's take a look at the word "even".

There's an incredulity about the word "even". It either means that something took place (or will take place) under unlikely circumstances, or that far more has happened (or will happen) than previously assumed. "Even" conveys a sense of surpassed expectations. What Marr was implying, therefore, is that Brown makes victory less likely, that he makes it harder for Labour to win.

And Darling walked right into that.

If he'd said "especially under Gordon Brown", there would have been no problem. Well, there would, as it would have meant that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had voiced an intention to stand in the constituency of Planet Zog North at the next election, but he wouldn't have accepted the underlying premise of Marr's question: that Brown is a millstone around Labour's neck, that he lowers the expectations of a Labour win next year.

But Darling didn't pick up on that.

Oh, dear.


Jeff said...

Doesn't the "absolutely" counter the "even"?

If Alastair had just said 'yes' then perhaps you'd have a point but I reckon sayihg "absolutely" suggests a mockery that winning with Gordon could ever be considered questionable.

I wouldn't say it was a slip up. Those that do see it that way, I would argue, were never going to vote for Labour anyway...

Stuart Winton said...

I suppose it could be construed either way, but it's certainly not implausible that by "absolutely" he was saying, by implication, "absolutely [under Gordon Brown]", which is essentially the same as saying "especially under Gordon Brown".

Which is in effect what Jeff said. I think!!

Jeff said...

That is absolutely what I said, even.

Caron said...

Not that I think this makes the slightest bit of difference cos I don't detect many Labour voters in this part of the blogosphere, but I tend to agree with Will. Darling could have been more emphatic about sweeping that trap out of the way.

Not a confident performance at all.