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Paper Monitor

10:48 UK time, Tuesday, 28 September 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

What, exactly, is a psychodrama? To read a UK newspaper, you would think the expression is compulsory in articles about Labour's leadership.

Of course, there was a time when this therapeutic term was used to characterise the relationship between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Now, of course, the sibling rivalry at the top of the Labour party allows every political commentator to add an impressive-sounding four-syllable word to their op-eds.

Consulting the broadsheets, Paper Monitor observes Steve Richards in the Independent warning of "another bizarre and sad psychodrama".

"Never mind the psychodrama, this is now a party with a serious identity crisis," declares Rachel Sylvester in the Times.

The Guardian goes one better and quotes Miliband the younger on its front page declaring that there is "no psychodrama" at the top of the party.

Indeed, the only broadsheet to eschew the term is the Daily Telegraph, perhaps because its readers prefer to describe Labour politicians in more concise language.

How did this phrase become so familiar? Paper Monitor consults the cuttings library and identifies its initial use (at least, in a Labour party context) in a September 2001 Observer review by the playwright David Hare of The Rivals: The Intimate Story of a Political Marriage by James Naughtie, which detailed the Blair/Brown relationship.

But the phrase appears to have really caught on in 2004, when the Observer's Andrew Rawnsley talked of "the endlessly twisting psychodrama that can be New Labour". The imitators queued up thereafter.

But what does the word mean? Paper Monitor consults the online Oxford Dictionaries and discovers that it can be "a form of psychotherapy in which patients act out events from their past" or "a play, film, or novel in which psychological elements are the main interest".

Not, then, as Paper Monitor assumed, a situation whereby one individual gets a job and the other launches a massive, protracted sulk in response.

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