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Lansley’s been Spelmaned as Cameron does The Cameron – a new Cabinet language is born

Posted on 5 April 2011 | 9:04am

As health secretary Andrew Lansley stumbles through one of the most humiliating weeks of his career, at least his Cabinet colleague Caroline Spelman can boast her own little place in history as a result. The environment secretary is the first member of the coalition Cabinet to have become a verb … as in ‘Lansley’s just been Spelmaned’. This is not in the same league as saving the planet, I accept, but it is something for a minister who (take your pick) has seemed a touch out of her depth.

That the verb is born as a past participle stems from the fact that it was first used as a part participle when her forestry sell off proposals were put into the past tense before they had got anywhere near the unthought-out, unmandated future she had planned for them.

What with Spelman having been Spelmaned, and now Lansley having been Spelmaned, we can give David Cameron a word all of his own too, a noun this time, a political dance routine no less … ‘The Cameron (noun, a routine in which a Prime Minister performs the following moves – x issue really really matters to me … there are no plans to reform x issue … x issue is in urgent need of reform and without it x issue will die … these are the right reforms for the right time … apologies but my Secretary of State has made a right arse of this … let’s do a U-turn and see if I can salvage a bit of personal listening cred … Jeremy, can you let me see the reshuffle file again …’

Sadly, because The Cameron takes some time to execute, it means that the Spelmaned ministers have to endure scenes of pre-execution such as that endured by Lansley yesterday.

‘A Lansley … noun, Parliamentary pause, a rarely used device ordered by Prime Ministers when policies are in difficulty and ministers responsible are awaiting Spelmanisation … often used as in “doing a Lansley”, in which a difficult process will be temporarily parked under pressure.’

I suppose the entry into language of some of the characters of the government is a kind of coming of age, an understanding that whether we like them or not, we have to accept they are the government.

Clegg … verb, to promise one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. Also used as a noun, a politician who moves from being universally adored to being universally despised in quick order.

Cleggisation … noun, the speedy process of a politician moving from being universally adored to being universally despised, leading to trending on twitter in hopelessly negative terms every time the Cleggised politician appears on TV.

Osborne … noun, a tactical manoeuvre in which politicians of one party use the Cleggisation of politicians of another to push through an ideological agenda for which they have no mandate.

Huhne … verb, to covet the positions of Cleggised and Spelmaned colleagues. Also used as adverb, huhnely, indicating an exaggerated view of one’s own appeal and competence whilst coveting positions of others.

Hague … noun,  a private place where bosses share facilities with staff so as to spare the public purse at a time of severe deficit reduction.

Gove … verb, to build an entire policy upon unfortunate experiences at school. See also physical education, cold showers, Latin.

Willets … noun,  an unfortunate affliction, sometimes defined as being too clever for one’s own good, allowing a ‘Two Brains’ nickname to blind one to the stupidity of statements about the history of women’s equality.

Cable … noun, a media honeypot trap in which Saints make credibility-sapping statements about media magnates.

Pickles … noun, situations Spelmaned ministers land themselves in. Also slang term for token working-class Northerner.

Warsi … noun, feminine, the killing of several birds with one stone when seeking to detoxify a brand.

Thoughts welcome for Mitchell, Paterson, Gillan, Alexander, the Scottish chap – is it Moore or Munro, I forget – Hunt, Maude, Letwin and any others that escape me.

  • Zcoley

    Mitchell….verb, to bide ones time knowing something better will be available shortly, usually following a Spelman

  • Tilly Chalmers

    To alexander is to appear at length on a TV programme decrying previous government’s policy, then connive in a worsening of the same policy when in government oneself. See D Alexander in BBC Scotland documentary about ESA and the Work Capability Assessment, filmed before the election and broadcast after it. Oh, how he waxed lyrical on the plight of his poor harassed constituents. One might almost have believed he meant it.

  • Watoop

    Here’s an easy one:

    Jeremy Hunt … noun, (slang). A perjorative term for a despised individual without morals or conscience. Usage: Murdoch can do whatever he wants thanks to that complete Jeremy Hunt.

  • Carole Kobe

    A Gillan … noun … someone who is utterly stunned to be at the Cabinet table

  • Harry Lamb

    A Letwin is a noun, and closely associated with your definition of a Willets. He is profoundly lacking in political sense. So are most of them. A shower of Letwins

  • James Freeman

    I really enjoyed this … quite cheered me up … and thanks for directing me to the comments about Clegg on twitter … but why aren’t Labour hurting them more? I thought ed’s speech was ok but no greater and John Healey was lame in the commons fro what i saw on thge news

  • Ginger

    Alexander – Noun – a ginger rodent

  • @docmike79

    Huntify (verb) – to spoonerise a name and job title to succinctly describe a political ideology or party.

  • ambrosian

    “to Cameron the washing”: slang verb for putting clothes on the washing line. After the Prime Minister who hung so many ministers out to dry.

  • PJ

    Gillan – noun describing an invasive species reintroduced to an environment in which they were born but having been exposed to an alternative environment have great difficulty in readapting. Possible genetic engineering taken place to modify behaviour to mother hen.

  • I thought a “Letwin” had something to do with a sudden disappearance (usually during an election campaign), following a display of incompetence or – heaven forbid – independent thinking. Letwins seem to be pending for several ministers presently …!

  • Olli Issakainen

    The Tories did not do any research before launching Big Society initiative.
    The Tory-led government has continued in the same vein with disastrous results. Why do not it test its policies before announcing them? Have the Tories not heard of polls and focus groups?
    The Tory-led government must have made the Guinness World Records under the entry Most U-turns.
    But we are still waiting for a U-turn on the economy.
    Mr Osborne´s plan is to make the public debt private again. Public debt will fall by £43bn, but household debt will rise by £245bn!
    The only way economy can now grow is by people borrowing more to stay afloat. But Mr Osborne said last year that personal debt caused the financial crisis!
    The government´s economic policy is not working.
    Nick Clegg recently admitted that the size of the cuts is a political choice. He stated that the £81bn cuts were not forced by bond markets.
    Before the election Vince Cable said that we must not cut government spending too soon and risk plunging a fragile recovery back into recession.
    Cuts without economic growth will not deal with the deficit.

  • Charlie Reynolds

    Alistair Campbell – to write a dodgy dossier?

  • simon

    But no thoughts welcome for any Labour politician, if you don’t mind.

  • Chris lancashire

    Brown… adverb, to slyly tax “that’s a Brown job on the 10p tax rate”
    Balls… verb, to totally muck something up “he’s made a Balls of that”

  • Polski

    Alexander – a noun used to describe a look of shocked embarrassment deliveded whilst thinking “how the hell did I get here?”

  • Carolanngrant

    Alexander: noun, as in Alexander Technique – the ability to stand up straight and look Lib Dem voters in the eye while simultaneously being held in a headlock by a Tory Chancellor…

  • Dave Simons

    Noun – A ‘Chris Lancashire’.

    As in, ‘Did a Chris Lancashire’ – Made a rather repetitive and unqualified one-line insult against bete noire and father of all evil, Gordon Brown.

  • Duncan Phipp-MacIntyre

    Please parse prettily… it will be perfect when they are the past – they are imperfect. It really is back to the future – 80’s again.

  • Yonks

    Brown…verb, to avoid normal work at all costs whilst drawing your salary in full and attending foreign conferences and receiving further pay…..

    Balls….noun, ‘brown’ object constantly emitting strange sounds.

  • Simon Landau

    Letwin – regional dialect verb which describes the process of helping Cleggisation

  • davegillian

    That’s the cabinet well and truly Campbelled! Good work Alastair!

  • RB

    Huhnmane – Chris Huhne’s hairstyle

  • Cowgirl

    Blair … verb, to adopt a policy or set of policies contrary to one’s party’s convictions, for political expediency, with a view to electoral viability. Usage: Look, we’re just going to have Blair on Europe, or it’ll be hanging around our necks forever. The party will do a little shouting but move on in a few months.

    Brown … verb, to act as friction within the system with a view to advancement. Usage: Don’t worry about that control orders thing. Nick won’t Brown it.

    Mandy … verb, to suck up, to ingratiate oneself. Usage: Where’s Jeremy? He’s off to Mandy the City boys a little, he’ll be back in the afternoon.

    Campbell … verb, to exercise over-the-top media damage control. Usage: Why is Her Majesty so cross? Number Ten completely Campbelled over the illegal gardener thing, and now Balmoral is being converted to a detention centre for suspected terrorists.

    Prescott … noun, a left jab. Usage: Haye’s playing it cool, working like the technician he is. Feint… Prescott… Prescott… OW! Where did that right cross come from!? The big Ukrainian’s on the boards!

    Cook … noun, a timely exit. Usage: Yeah, he resigned before the AV referendum debacle. That was a lucky Cook.

  • Robert


    I started trying to read ancient Greek in my mid fifties.

    Wonderfully economical language where twiddling a couple of letters either at the end, middle or start of a word covers all sorts of tongue twisting English forms – especially Greek participles – adjectives formed from verbs.

    Imagine the beauty – no – the pure elegance – of being able to turn “I Spelman” into “The (males) who would have been Spelman(n)ed” by just adding a letter or two in the right place? *

    Economy of language – best reason yet to reintroduce Greek and Latin into our schools.

  • Mabozza Ritchie

    IDS (noun) – a bus pass for layabouts to travel to non-existent jobs. Not to be confused with a Tebbitt (noun) which specifies the bike as the preferred mode of transport to the same destination.

    Spelman (noun) to unintentionally use taxpayers money to pay for a private nanny.

    Byrne (noun) an unwise joke that, when taken literally, allows opponents to give you a complete mullering.

  • NickSmeggHead

    Clegg – Liar
    Cameron – Arrogant Liar
    Hunt – Rich and powerful’s bitch

  • There are two l’s, two t’s and, of course, two brains in Willetts.

  • Heathercjroberts

    Letwin (v. transitive) (n. phr. “doing a letwin”)
    (1.) To privately make pejorative remarks about the working classes, specifically regarding how those from South Yorkshire spend their leisure time.
    E.g. “The snide politician letwinned all night about how he didn’t want people from Sheffield taking any more cheap holidays.”
    Johnson (v. transitive) (p.p adjective “johnsoned”)
    (1.) To publicly out a colleague to the media with full details of his private comment regarding the holidaying rights of the South Yorkshire working classes. e.g. “Say it again and i will johnson you”
    (2.)( p.p adj.) To be outed as a snide by someone you trusted, such as a London Mayor.
    e.g. “Hello…David, we’re in trouble…I think I have just been bloody johnsoned!”

  • Anonymous

    Hunt… noun, an absurdly generous donation (as in, ‘I gave the vicar a hunt under duresse’, ‘the Conservative Party has received innumerable hunts from the City’, etc).

  • Chris lancashire

    Not an insult Dave old bean, just the plain truth.

  • Dave Simons

    Can I briefly digress from political satire? April 6th 2011 is not only the beginning of a new financial year and the date when compulsory retirement at 65 ends, but perhaps more importantly it’s the birthday of our regular blogger, Sarah Dodds! Happy birthday Sarah! Thank you for your posts – I especially liked the one a few weeks back, which began, ‘YOU PATRONISING BASTARD!’ Hope you succeed in your campaign, and just to remind anyone who needs reminding:

    Sorry to use yesterday’s blog – I may have to repeat this if a new one crops up.

  • Quinney

    Cameronism- the ability to have two or more faces at the same time, sometimes known as town hall clockist.
    Example. To be able to tell RAF pilots in Libya that there’s doing a splendid job but also to make them redundant at the same time.

  • Derekpatlowe

    Letwinned – To be carefully examined and given a clean bill of health before disaster strikes (or make up your own definition -easy!)