How I got on first name terms with Jeremy Corbyn

When words fail you, perhaps you ought not write a blog for the Department of Words.

Or as the philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, said: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one should remain silent.”

Speechless as I am, I will press on.

What struck me speechless was an email I received from an organisation in which I have, at various times, placed some trust, if not hope.

When Jeremy Corbyn was campaigning to be leader of the Labour party (the first time round), I paid £3 to join as an affiliate and voted for him. After all, Things Can’t Get Any Worse, as the old D:ream Labour anthem went.

From the second I parted with my £3, I received a regular stream of emails from the party. They emailed me throughout the general election campaign. They continued emailing me on a variety of issues, invited me to soirées (tempting), sought my support on marches and emailed me at every opportunity to build on the interest I had shown. Fair enough. They were in Corbyn’s own words “harnessing the advances of new technology to organise political campaigning like we’ve never seen before.”

Then, when the biggest issue of 21st century British political history arose i.e. Brexit, they went and spoiled it all by saying something stupid. Here’s how they harnessed the advances of new technology to open their pitch…..

Screen Shot 2017-01-27 at 10.54.46Yes, there I was. In an age of targeted, data driven, digital communications, having my most fervent social and political views sought, being addressed as “Firstname” under the subject heading “What about you?”

Who me? Firstname? Yeah, we really want to know what you think, Firstname. Your views matter, Firstname. And then further down the email they suggested I, Firstname, donate another twenty quid to party funds.

Screen Shot 2017-01-27 at 11.00.36

I only wish I had gone to those soirées. (“Prosecco, Firstname?”) Or the Christmas party at the home of my MP. (“Compliments of the season, Firstname, mince pie?”) Oh, the introductions (“Jeremy, Firstname. Firstname, Jeremy.”)

Sorry. Considering I said I was speechless, I am going on. But it is the basics of communication. Get the name right. Know your target audience as well as possible. Or you only make life harder for your message and your brand.

It reminds me of my 25 years as a Tottenham Hotspur season ticket holder. 25 seasons @ around £350 each plus merchandise and catering. All to watch false dawns rise and fade. Every year THFC greeted me with a letter that began Dear Sir or Madam Welcome to another season at White Hart Lane. After a quarter of a century of a customer relationship, you might think they would have tried a little harder. Try my name. Say my name, say my name. They might have got more than £8,750 out of me.

I won’t even speak whereof they continued to put David Ginola on the season ticket three years after he’d left for another team. I forgive Spurs. You expect farce and incompetence from football now and then. But not from people who would run the country.



Year of the no clams

I’ll get my coat.
A bit of wee came out.
Did I say that out loud?
That went well.
I can’t even.

This poem was written using “clams”.

Not the happy flappy molluscs, but clams in the TV writers’ sense, meaning tired, overused bits of sitcom dialogue.

Even if they don’t make you groan, clams are bad because they remind you of the writer’s clammy hand. (My guess at the word’s origin.)

Here’s a long list of recent clams compiled by the staff of Comedy Central’s Workaholics:

Clam whiteboard 1 (courtesy John Quaintance)

Clam whiteboard 2 (originally posted by John Quaintance)

Can you not?
I can explain!
Let’s not and say we did.
I didn’t not ___.
Wait for it…
Just threw up in my mouth.
Good talk.
And by ___ I mean ___.
Check please!
Shut the front door!
Lady boner.
I think that came out wrong.
Uh… define ___.
No? Just me.
Why are we whispering?
That went well…
Stay classy.
I’m a hot mess!
That’s not a thing.
It’s science.
Bacon anything.
Real talk.
Nailed it.
Awesome sauce.
Thanks… I guess.
Little help?
Laughy McLaugherson.
___ dot com.
Oh helllll naw!
Epic fail
Did I just say that out loud?
Douchenozzle. Douche anything.
Soooo, that just happened.
Squad goals.
I just peed a little.
Too soon?
Spoiler alert.
Um… in English please.
Note to self.
Life hack.
Best. ___. Ever. Or worst. ___. Ever.
It’s giving me all the feels.
Garbage people.
That happened one time!
Well played.
I’m right here!
Hard pass.
Are you having a stroke?
Go sports!
We have fun.
Who hurt you?
I absorbed my twin in the womb.
I’ll take ___ for $500, Alex.
Thanks Obama.
That’s why we can’t have nice things.
I think we’re done here.
Wait, what?
Shots fired.
You assclown.
Debbie Downer.
I can’t unsee that.
That just happened.
I could tell you but I’d have to kill you.
See what I did there?
I’ll show myself out.
Here’s the line, here’s you.
___ on steroids/crack.
Swipe right.
White people problems.


A few of these wouldn’t be so bad by themselves. If given a twist they might even be funny.

But doesn’t reading them all in one place make you cringe? It does me. What a lot of lazy comedy and copying had to happen for all these lines to become so familiar.

Advertising: a hotbed of clams

Advertising has clams, too, and they’re just as bad. I don’t mean jokes, but lexical combinations we’ve all heard too often. Maybe once clever, they’ve now become patter that suggests our custom isn’t worth careful or original thought.

So, as a public service, I’ve started writing a list of advertising clams. (This was quick to do by the way – sadly, I’m full of them.)

End line/headline clams
The power of ___
Tomorrow’s ___ today
___ matters
The ___ people
Welcome to the ___
__ the possible (or anything with ‘possible’ as a noun)
There is an easier way to ___
One ___ that won’t ___
Big on ___, small on ___
Our __, your ___
Be more you (or anything with ‘you’ as an adjective’)
___ has arrived
___ has landed
The new ___
___ is the new ___
From ___ to ___
What will you ___?
What’s your ___?
Open the door to ___
Discover ___
Rethink ___
Rediscover __
There’s a ___ for that
Unleash ___
Release your inner ___
Taste the ___
Experience the ___
We all ___
It’s [fake language] for ___
The ___ you want, the ___ you need
Are you ___-ready?

Body copy/selly clams
But wait
Don’t take our word for it
In today’s ___
In an increasingly ___
The world is getting more ___
You and your family/business
The big picture
Game changing
We live and breathe ___
Today and tomorrow
We go the extra mile
At ___, we ___
We know ___
We believe ___
That’s why ___
We never rest
Our mission is to
We see a world where
Why not ___
No wonder ___
Act now
These days
The answer is clear
Now there’s a solution
Ticks all the boxes
In other words
You could say
But remember
Don’t forget

Again, euurk.

Not every entry on this list is awful on its own. But together, they make up a bland, regurgitated soup that people have no choice but to swim in.

So for 2017, I earnestly invite you to join me in cutting down on copy clams wherever possible. Okay, it’s not the moral crusade of our times but it costs nothing. And it would be rude to the audience not to try.

Here is a picture of a copywriter considering a selection of clams. If he’s a pro, he’ll soon move on in search of fresher catch.

Man with clams