The Labour leader Ed Milliband was on the lunchtime news just now, speaking from the party conference. Because it was a prepared speech, his cultured English was punctuated by entirely gratuitous and hugely annoying glottal stops. Now I’m not averse to this regional variation, it being common from my childhood in the ghettoes of Guildford. But those of who went to Grammar School soon lost it with most of the rest of the patois. When I use it (not infrequently) it is part of a complete linguistic package, not grafted willy nilly on to Received Pronounciation. Milliband forgets to do it when he’s answering questions.
Tony Blair (or maybe his speechwriter) started the habit (but only in public) at the onset of New Labour, in settings where he wished to show he was one of the common people. He wasn’t, of course – not only did he not come from the Surrey slums, but he went to public school and St John’s College, Oxford. Not only was he instrumental in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, but in the mass-destruction of the English language. Ed Milliband’s doing it now and, I noticed on the news, even the minor Labour politician wheeled into the studio to comment.
Others have noticed this strange phenomenon in British politics. I’m just surprised at how few assassination attempts have resulted. The end result, for those of you overseas people who’ve not seen it, may be this.