UK Politics

2012: A political year in words

Politicians always have plenty to say. Here is the pick of some of the words and phrases that rose to prominence in 2012.

Anaconda Politics can be a slippery business, with many a fanged or strangulating predator waiting to devour one's career. William Hague and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office faced vitriol sharper than a serpent's tooth when it spent £10,000 on the "essential maintenance" of a 20ft stuffed anaconda in its care. Known as Albert, the Guyanese beast has resided at the FO for more than a century.

Ants Unlike late snakes, who bother none but the squeamish, Brits on holiday can be such a pain. Mr Hague criticised those making "ludicrous" demands on consular staff. That's all well and good, Mr Hague, but how does one deal with ants in holiday homes or find out how to say "I love you" in Hungarian otherwise? It's "Szeretlek", by the way.

Image caption Nick Clegg: So sorry he said it twice (at least)

Bully The prime minister, known as Flashman to his critics, hit back at his great tormentor, shadow chancellor Ed Balls. Turning towards the Labour MP, he accused him of being a bully. Harking back to the mauling Mr Balls had suffered from Tory MPs during his reaction to the chancellor's Autumn Statement, he suggested the Tories' public enemy number one didn't like it up 'im. He said that "like bullies all over the world, he can dish it out but he can't take it".

Clegger The great tennis player Andre Agassi complained that much of his youth involved being bombarded by tennis balls fired via machine across the court by a pushy father. Unlike the former world number one, the prime minister positively relishes such an ordeal. According to a biography of Mr Cameron, he has nicknamed his own machine, against whose offerings he takes out his frustrations over weekends at Chequers, the "Clegger". Where did that name come from? It is part of what the PM is said to call "chillaxing".

Disraeli Ed Miliband attempted to procure the services of a leading Tory, perhaps the leading Tory of all time. In his Labour conference speech, he proclaimed Labour the true "one-nation" party, expropriating the slogan first developed by 19th Century Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

Horse From his country home in the picturesque village of Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, it would not take David Cameron that long to ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross. The neighbours would gladly lend him a steed or two, it seems. After some confusion, the PM remembered borrowing a mare named Raisa from News International's Rebekah Brooks prior to the 2010 general election. The former Sun editor "fostered" the ex-Metropolitan Police horse but later returned it. Mr Cameron said he would not return to the saddle "any time soon".

Lasagne When not being accused of bullying, Ed Balls was trying to cook up trouble for his party leader, allegedly. A "plot" was revealed, after Mr Balls and wife Yvette Cooper were reported to have served up lasagne to some fellow Labour MPs. The Italian delicacy, beloved of the cartoon cat Garfield, has a long association with Naples, where they do politics, shall we say, a little differently.

Image caption Crusty critics created a U-turn

LOL OMG, isn't he meant to be, like, the PM? David Cameron turned even more crimson than Ed Miliband alleges is his normal state when the contents of text messages between him and Rebekah Brooks were reavealed. This meant "lots of love", rather than "laugh out loud", she told the Leveson Inquiry.

Man or Mouse? Rambo or rodent? You decide. Former environment minister Tim Yeo urged the PM to man up and back a third runway at Heathrow.

Omnishambles The Gangnam of the political lexicon in 2012? Ed Miliband borrowed the word "omnisahmbles" - meaning all-pervading horlicks - to describe the coalition's approach to policy, especially George Osborne's Budget, which included a...

Pasty tax A popular(ish) Cornish folk song, called There's Something About a Pasty, pays tribute to the many virtues of this delicious foodstuff, available at many outlets. One verse tells would-be detractors: "You can keep your fancy dishes. My one and only wish is to see them pasties marching out in line, line, line." This didn't quite happen when George Osborne set out plans to charge VAT on certain hot takeaway foods previously exempt due to a "loophole". But bakers and buyers united in fury. From Polperro to Penzance there was a clarion call for change, which spread across the country. Mr Osborne performed a U-turn. Products left on the shelf to return to "ambient temperatures" would also be left alone by HM Revenue and Customs.

Plebs Conservative Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell got into rather a lot of hot water over a contretemps with police officers in Downing Street. He insists he did not use the world "plebs" to describe his temporary adversaries. But he still quit the government after many days of terrible publicity. Some doubt was thrown on the police's evidence after a recent Channel 4 doc and Scotland Yard is in the midst of a 30-officer inquiry into what exactly happened.

Predistribution It's the way they tell 'em. This five-syllable rip-snorter was Ed Miliband's attempt to describe Labour's policy regarding the sharing of wealth.

Queues The Olympics were coming and we couldn't cope. Queues were about to overwhelm Heathrow. But then, they didn't.

Image caption London's mayor hung on valiantly but lost his zip

Referendums What do you reckon? Time for a mayor? No, unless you live in Bristol. Shall we leave the EU? Who's to say? Scottish independence, anyone? Let's leave it for a couple of years. The UK population's on-off relationship with referendums continued.

Sorry, (So, so) His poll ratings were going badly, so Nick Clegg did the decent thing and apologised for bits of coalition policy which had disappointed his party. "I'm sorry," he told them, and the nation (whatever proportion of it was watching) repeatedly via a party political broadcast. But the Nixon-like mea culpa was not received with grateful dignity. Soon enough a spoof song using the deputy prime minister's words became a song. It went on to top the efforts of One Direction and U2 in the United States. Mr Clegg's later stadium tour was likened, in its effect, to that of the Beatles in 1964. His top slot at the party to commemorate President Obama's re-election caused some ructions with Bruce Springsteen, but this was later forgotten as the Born in the USA creator admitted losing out to a better artist. Ok, maybe not, but Clegg's song did alright-ish in the charts.

Trapeze Once mocked as the man who had run away from the circus to become an accountant, former PM Sir John Major returned to his roots. He nostalgically praised the work of his vaudevillian parents and their high-wire derring do. Which brings us to...

Zipwire Boris Johnson was flying high (note the pun) in 2012, often referred to as the UK's most popular Tory. The Olympics and Paralympics seemed to validate the efficiency and brilliance of the city he ran. But there was one embarrassing episode. The mayor got stuck as he whizzed across a zipwire for the benefit of the public watching the Games in a London park. Pluckily, the blond-haired one continued to wave Union flags, a show of defiance as he dangled precariously. As metaphors go for the state of the UK as we head in to 2013, it was pretty effective.

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