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John Rentoul

John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.

"The Independent's must-read man" - Daniel Finkelstein

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Deoxyribonucleic acid banned

Posted by John Rentoul
  • Tuesday, 24 February 2009 at 01:22 pm
I enjoyed Chris Mullin's diaries, serialised in The Mail on Sunday at the weekend, as I knew I would. He was a rare minister, with a feel for language and a strong sense of the ridiculous. (I first met him in 1981, when he was chairman of the Vassal ward Labour Party in Vauxhall, and I, as a new member, tried to correct the grammar of some leftist motion; he smiled indulgently and agreed.)

This is his entry for 21 December 1999:

Keith Hill [later Tony Blair's parliamentary private secretary] and I amused ourselves compiling a New Labour lexicon. We came up with the following: pathfinders, beacons, win-win, stakeholders, opportunities as well as challenges, joined-up government, partnership, best value. These words increasingly crop up in official submissions. I am forever deleting them. 'Taking forward' is one of my favourites. It usually means doing nothing.

Which reminds me, as I sit listening to people talking about "going forward" on Radio 5 Live, that I ought to revive my list of current bugbears. Top irritant at the moment is: "in his/her DNA". As in this quotation from Joan Ruddock about her ally Harriet Harman in The Independent on Saturday
"It is not in her DNA to be disloyal."

It is not true; but, worse, it is a ghastly cliché.