Throw the book at foul misuse of language

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If you are minded (and I don’t suppose you are) to give Sir Jeremy Heywood, Secretary to the Cabinet, a present, a copy of Sir Ernest Gowers’ Plain Words would fit the bill.

For Heywood, the top civil servant speaks a language that only he and a few others who run this country’s scandalously self-protecting Establishment can understand.

Rightly or wrongly, this man has been blamed for the five-year (and still counting) delay in the publication of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War. And in a masterly display of obfuscation, he says things like, “Our stovepiping talent matrix has been horizon scanning”.

And then he has the downright cheek to tell a committee of MPs: “I don’t think there is any great obstacle with the language.” Is he trying to protect witnesses who may be in for a roasting in this report? That is an easy assumption to make. Is he trying to impress us because he regards us as ignorant country yokels?

The National Health Service rightly demands that their employees in key positions should be able to speak English.

On the present evidence, Heywood would not qualify even for a job as the meanest orderly in a health centre.

Gowers’ splendid book was first published in 1954 and has never been out of print since then. Indeed, Heywood could purchase his own copy. I suspect, though, like so many of those operating in and around the Westminster sphere, he would charge it to expenses and compel the taxpayer to pick up the tab.

You may be exasperated by that chump Lord (John) Prescott, his mangling of the English language, his incomprehensible speeches and short fuse , but he has at least one virtue to commend him.

And that is his loyalty to the Labour Party leader. He is determined to try to ensure - often in vain - the party does not slide into an internal civil war as the general election approaches.

But he is standing by the beleaguered Ed Miliband, who has been branded as “useless” by more than one prominent Labour supporter.

Prescott has robustly denounced these people as “Tory collaborators” - which, however, does not seem to have shut them up.

In the past, Prescott valiantly, but in vain, tried to heal the rift between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. But that chasm was far too wide for even Prescott to deal with.