Friday, January 30, 2009

Liberal Use of the Wrong Name

Mike Smithson at is forever complaining about Gordon Brown's irritating tendency to refer to the Liberal Democrats as "the Liberals". Presumably the reason the PM does this is to subcommunicate that they are so small and insignificant a party that it's hardly worth the effort to bother remembering what they're calling themselves this week. It has to be said, though, that Scotland's own Great Helmsman has precisely the same habit, and as far as I can remember has had for the full twenty years the Liberal Democrats have existed under their current name. It was on full display in his Newsnight Scotland interview with Gordon Brewer tonight, as he gave tantalising hints of the potential deal on the Scottish Budget between himself and "the Liberals". In Alex Salmond's case, though, it doesn't appear to be a calculated insulte - he genuinely seems to believe that it's a legitimate shorter form of the name. He uses 'Liberal' and 'Liberal Democrats' interchangeably in a way that Gordon Brown simply doesn't.

Indeed, the SNP more broadly have a long-standing problem with accurately recalling the Lib Dems' current name. In 1991, a party activist addressed conference on the subject of the many and varied shortcomings of "the Democrats" (the Lib Dems' original post-merger name). He even went as far as going down the road of "D is for Deceitful, E is for Egotistical, M is for Mendacious..." (I may not have the words quite right but you get the idea.) By the time he got to "S is for Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (not)" no-one quite had the heart to tell him they had stopped calling themselves the Democrats in September 1989!

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