'Political language—and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists—is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.'
So wrote George Orwell in ‘Politics and the English Language.’ The essay rips modern prose up and down, stripping away its euphemisms and sodden metaphors to reveal the secret behind every newspaper: that political rhetoric (even the most blustering, swelling, or purple-passaged) usually means nothing at all.
Orwell published the essay in 1946, but he might as well have dashed it off last year. True, we’ve progressed from typewriters to computers, but we’re still marketing the same threadbare prose, recycling the same vacuous metaphors, and smothering truth with the same tired nouns and verbs.
That’s why the Cambridge University Conservative Association is excited to announce our newest venture: the Torch, an updated, upgraded version of the CUCA blog with a healthy interest in words. We’ll continue our traditional opinion journalism, but we’re also eager to launch a Cambridge Column with articles touching on the affairs of this marvellous institution. At the Torch, we’re committed to lively writing, vivid ideas, and (most crucially) the belief that sentences should mean something. And I think the name accurately expresses these commitments. It suggests light beaming through darkness—a nice thing to aim at in journalism—and it evokes the famous ‘freedom torch’ of the Tories. (That was an accident, but a happy one.) We can’t promise perfect prose, of course. Not even Orwell could achieve that. But we’ll certainly do our best.
Over the coming days and weeks, I look forward to sharing a series of excellent articles written by our members, and I hope to receive contributions from many of you. As this Easter term begins, let’s open our laptops and type our hearts out—and (as Orwell put it) ‘send some worn-out and useless phrase…into the dustbin where it belongs.’