Politicians and annoying phrases - a running commentary

The political world sometimes has a vocabulary all of its own, throwing up phrases no-one would ever use in day-to-day conversation.

It was Rob Williams who started me thinking about the most annoying phrases in political life, often made all the more annoying by frequent repetition.

Rob's own list of annoying phrases is headed by a statement from First Minister Carwyn Jones that he has asked for a meeting with a UK Minister.

My own list is currently topped by the phrase "running commentary", not in the Steve Cram sense but as used by spin doctors down the ages to avoid commenting on a piece of potentially embarrasing news.

It is presented as justification in itself for not answering questions. Downing Street, under various custodians, has used this phrase for the best part of a decade - on stories as varied as Leo Blair's vaccinations to the News of the World scandal.

Today, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said he wouldn't be providing a running commentary on Rupert Murdoch's attempts to take over that part of BSkyB his company does not yet own.

David Cameron himself, as a former spin doctor, is known to be slightly embarrassed by the over-use of the phrase and has jokingly promised to ban it.

It would be wonderful to arrive at a briefing to be met with an official promise: "Sit down, I want to give you a running commentary on this".

Sadly it seems no more likely than a politician emerging from a meeting to declare it "negative and destructive" rather than "positive and constructive".

Once upon a time, keynote speeches were made once a year by political leaders. Now, if you believe their spin doctors, almost every speech from every politician, however humble, demands the adjective "keynote".

My own list of top five annoying phrases would be completed by "best practice" and "fit for purpose", two phrases that politicians use increasingly to diminishing effect.

My list, of course, is far from exhaustive. Send me your own nominations and I'll do my best to provide a running commentary on them.