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A useful rule of thumb in politics is never to utter a phrase which, were you to insert "not" or "don't" into it, would transform it into something a lunatic might say. If a statement's opposite cannot imaginably be said, then the statement itself need not be said either.

When the Shadow Chancellor George Osborne turned up at the Labour think-tank Demos in August, he demonstrated, by way of platitudes designed to win over the Blairites, the modern Conservative Party's platform. "Let me start by laying my own cards on the table," he offered, generously. "My politics are unapologetically progressive." As I have pointed out here before, the opposite of this phrase would not be said. Nor would the opposite of any of his follow-on babble. Try inserting "not" here:

"I am optimistic about the potential of individuals to transform their lives, and
society, for the better."

Or: "I am excited by the huge potential of technological and scientific innovation to enhance opportunity."

In the weeks since Westminster first lay prone in a state of post-expenses shock, it was said that the House might reform itself. The Conservatives put it around that David Cameron's response to the scandal was more "assertive" than Gordon Brown's. What Cameron actually did was just what Brown did — he protected the pickpockets he needed and discarded a few he didn't.

Westminster's first post-expenses test was to select a new Speaker. In an effort to frustrate the Conservatives, Labour supported the egregious Tory expenses-fiddler John Bercow. He proceeded to demonstrate the exciting new era of change by doing what everyone does when they want to demonstrate an exciting new era of change: he dressed down a bit.

The first post-expenses by-election in Norwich North saw the Conservatives boast that they were putting up an entirely new type of politician to represent "change". Chloe Smith may yet do good things, but it appeared as though the Tories were under the misapprehension that women were unheard of in politics. I know the Cameroons would like to forget Margaret Thatcher but that really doesn't mean the rest of us have done so.

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