The language of Parliament is a complicated art to master: statutory instruments, delegated legislation, carry over motions, deferred voting…and since Bellamy’s cafeteria has had its makeover it takes everyone a good five minutes to work out that saucisson with creamed pomme de terre and onion jus is just their sausage and mash made to sound vaguely edible.
MPs are no easier to understand. They half explain instructions they have only thought a quarter of the way through, write with all the elegance and clarity of your average Ewok, and react in the manner of Darth Vader with constipation if somehow you’ve failed to understand their coded and garbled commands.
Help is at hand, however. Below are some common phrases used by Members of Parliament to their staff with their translations, because in the Palace of Westminster things are never quite as they seem.
|They Say||They Mean|
|I’ve just cleared my inbox!||Your inbox is now full.|
|Get the Prime Minister on the phone. Now!||I have a healthy sense of my importance in the political process.|
|Why wasn’t I told about this immediately?||I was told. I forgot. It’s still your fault.|
|I’ve had a BRILLIANT idea!||Run! Run like the wind!|
|Here, I’ve bought you a coffee.||I’ve done something stupid that you’re going to have to clear up.|
|Here, I’ve bought you lunch.||Man, I’ve done something REALLY stupid. I hope you’ve got some waterproof trousers because you’re going to be in it up to the groin.|
|I’m quite flexible about the hours you work.||I’m extremely flexible if you want to stay on two or three hours at the end of the day. However, if you arrive in as much as thirty seconds later than 9am, I’ll have your guts for garters.|
|Send out a press release saying I’m available for comment on today’s events.||I am a media whore.|
|The computer’s lost all my emails!||I can’t tell the difference between an empty Excel spreadsheet and Microsoft Outlook|
|Hello, I’m your local MP.||But you can call me God.|
|Well, I’m not surprised she got promoted; she’s very friendly with Gordon/David/Nick.||I’m as jealous as hell.|
|Are you volunteering to help in my re-election?||I’m volunteering you to help in my re-election. Bang goes the rest of your holiday entitlement!|
|Nobody told me that the letter had gone out…I was told that you hadn’t sent it…constituency office gave me totally the wrong information and said that you’d dropped the ball – I never said that about you. I think you’re great. Fancy a doughnut?||I’m sorry.|
|I’m sorry but you’re going to have to work late tonight.||I’m not sorry.|
|We’ve got a problem.||I’ve caused a problem.|
Of course there are many, many more examples so do email in any suggestions and I’ll post them on this page. Now I have to go because my MP has just walked in with a cup of coffee and a bacon butty for me. I wonder…?
October 2007 update: three more here.
Keep ’em coming; use the Feedback Form. Don’t worry – you won’t be named!
|They Say||They Mean|
|Could you book me a trim at John Simon hair salon this afternoon?||Now I have a Researcher at my beck and call 24 hours a day, I have lost the ability to complete even the most basic task myself.|
|When you have a minute, could you…?||I’m about to ask you to do something that will take the best part of the week. In my world you will be able to do it in five minutes flat and still have time to put the kettle on.|
|I CAN NEVER GET HOLD OF YOU!||You needed to go to the toilet AGAIN? For goodness’ sake – you went on Wednesday.|
|I’ll get my secretary to look into that.||My researcher’s got lady-bits.|
September 2007 update: thanks for these further contributions.
|They Say||They Mean|
|Could you just ring Mr. Bloggs for me?||This man is a real pain in the neck. He rants on for hours in a monotone, I can’t get a word in edgeways, and I can’t listen to him for more than 3 minutes without falling asleep. I don’t understand a word of what he says, so I’ll go out for coffee whilst you take the flack.|
|Is your casework up to date?||I can see you have 300 files on your desk, and I’m just about to add more.|
|Your desk looks tidy.||…but only for the next two minutes because I’m going to dump four piles of my stuff on it.|
|Do you want some help with that?||I’m going to mess your work routine up again.|
|Are you busy?||I can see that you’re busy but I’m going interrupt you at every possible opportunity anyway.|
|I think I’ll do some reading.||I’ve buggered my laptop again.|
|My laptop has died.||I forgot to plug it in and the battery is flat.|
|The file isn’t in the cabinet.||I took it home and it’s probably under the sofa, but I’ll bring it back in a few months.|
|I fancy doing a street surgery.||Although I know you’re snowed under, I have nothing to do, and you don’t imagine I’m going out to face my constituents on my tod do you.|
Updated: 7 October 2007
Oct 2007 update: more here.
Sept 2007 update: Thanks for your extra contributions – click here to see them.