Reality versus clichés


Access for All: IET No 800008 working from Oxford to London Paddington passes under a temporary footbridge at Taplow on 8 October 2018. Work was underway with the aim of making the station step-free for coming Elizabeth Line services. Ken Brunt

A regular feature of Daily Telegraph editorials railing against the iniquities of British Rail was the claim that the railways were run for the benefit of the unions. This always struck us as perverse. If indeed you were seeking to improve the lot of your members, would a union leader tolerate an industry with round-the-clock shift working for drivers? Or where the need to run trains from early morning to late at night meant that track maintenance could be carried out only in the wee small hours and major work over bank holidays and weekends? This is only one example of the linguistic downward-spiral described by George Orwell in his essay ‘Politics and the English language’. ‘Language becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier to have foolish thoughts.’

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