The Plebs and the Politicians

Pleb: n. informal, derog. a member of the lower social classes. Origin from Plebeian.

Who said Latin was a dead language? The last few weeks has seen the Conservatives get into a muddle over seemingly archaic words.

First there was chief whip Andrew Mitchell’s ‘alleged’ rant at a police officer in which he is said to have uttered: “Best you learn your f—— place…you don’t run this f—— government…You’re f—— plebs.” And all this because he wasn’t allowed to ride his bike through a certain gate.

If this had been uttered at any other time it would most likely have been viewed as an upper-class Tory demeaning those of a lower class and would have quickly faded from the news cycle. The fact he said it just days after two female police officers were shot dead in Manchester was just plain stupid.

Mitchell of course denies he used the language attributed to him. Fair enough you might think, politicians deny things all the time. But this now means he is calling a police officer a liar; albeit indirectly.

This isn’t the first time Mitchell has been accused of abusing those in less privileged positions. During a trip to Rwanda as part of a project looking at social development in the country, Mitchell and his aides are said to have verbally abused a volunteer student journalist. The volunteer had written a draft article criticising how the project was organised and said Mitchell had sent a text to her father saying: “They [his aides] are threatening her with physical violence and I can’t say I blame them.”

MitchellGate, PlebGate or even GateGate does this case of Prig Latin matter? I don’t know how you’d feel if you voted this man into power, a man who represents you and other constituents, only to utter these phrases at an inappropriate time.

The second case of Latin-Oh! was David Cameron’s appearance on The Late Show where he was quizzed on British history by host David Letterman.

DavCam stumbled on who wrote ‘Rule Britannia’ and what ‘Magna Carta’ literally means. I’m pretty sure there are many people in Britain who couldn’t answer these questions. The main question for now is does it matter?

I like to think those in power should have a wide grasp of knowledge  and be able to comprehend the lasting effects of the policies they put in place. Does knowing that Magna Carta translates to The Great Charter enhance or diminish this ability? Ultimately I’d say no.

Now London Mayor Boris Johnson has defended the PM claiming Mr Cameron knew the answer but didn’t want to appear like a know-it-all. BoJo, who studied classics, said: “I think he was only pretending. I think he knew full well what Magna Carta means.

“It was a brilliant move in order to show his demotic credentials and that he didn’t have Latin bursting out of every orifice.”

Once we get the image of the PM farting in Latin out of our minds, the question becomes did the Prime Minister deliberately get the answer wrong and if so why? Is it linked to PlebGate and ‘Dave’ took one on the chin to try and alter the public perception of the Tory’s as an old boys, Oxford and Eaton club?

Of course there are those who have said that an American politician would have been grilled if they couldn’t answer a question on American history. What would happen if Obama came to Britain and got quizzed on the meaning of ‘E Pluribus Unum’ or who composed the ‘Star Spangled Banner?’ – Personally I think he’d do pretty well but I’ll remember the joke about why is it called Latin America? Urm… because they speak Latin there?

Guest appearances are a side-show of the political process. They’re an attempt to show the human side of politicians. If they’re going to do this then they should at least be honest about what they have said and think about issues. Public perception is an important part of politics and it isn’t the systems that need to have a greater deal of transparency; but the politicians themselves.


News and nerves: Work experience at The Argus

WORK experience is vital for young people to start their careers these days. I’ve certainly had a great time on my first week.

My first day of work experience at The Argus went a little like this: I’d forgotten how to write, irratated those around me and I’d been sued for libel and contempt of court – and all this before I’d woken up #nightmare.

Setting off on my real first day of work experience at The Argus, I had enough butterflies in my stomach to impress any lepidopterist. I was expecting my first day to be relativly slow, who wants to give a work experience student serious work to do? In fact this was quite the opposite. After a friendly welcome chat from news editor Lee Gibbs, I was emailed over lots of press releases to cut down to 100 word panels, which I spent most of my first day doing.

At the end of the day I said my farewells and was told by Lee that he liked my style – which is good because until then I wasn’t aware I had one.

The next day involved more words, this time with pictures; but first, I had a look through a copy of Tueday’s Argus to spot my handiwork. The sense of acheivement I felt on that Tuesday morning felt really good; and it was only Tuesday.

Then came phones. Somewhere in my life I’d developed what can only be described as telephonophobia; not to be confused with phonophobia which is a fear of loud sounds; or mobilephonophobia, a fear of moving sound or sound hanging from the ceiling. Seriously though, the prospect of calling up complete strangers and asking them questions made me a  nervous wreck.

I was inspired by the confidence and professionalism of the reporters working around me. With the added fact that I would never suceed in journalism if I was scared to talk on a phone. It turns out most people are more than willing to talk to you and my phobia is weakening with every call.

A special thank you must be made to Mike Reinstein, the music teacher I had to call to write a feature on. Mike was very supportive and even took the time to call me to say how pleased he was with my article on page 38 of Friday’s Argus (kaching for me). I’d also like to thank Brighton Journalist Works for arranging this fantastic experience and prospect of oppurtunity.

Saturday was extra special. Flicking through The Argus while at retail work and seeing two by-lines for three stories, with an honourable mentoion on another, left me feeling  sense of achievment

My first week has really helped my confidence. I’ve gone from writing 100 word panels to phoning MPs to ask about their expenses claims. I’ve learnt a lot and enjoyed every nerve-shredding minute of picking up a phone. I’m sure I’ve made a few mistakes along the way, and I apologise now if this is the case.

I can’t wait to see what my last week brings.

Fortes fortuna adiuvat – Fortune favours the bold.