Language is often the first thing that suffers during an election campaign, writes Anthony Ashbolt. We are, as the first week of election campaigning draws to a close, in a period that George Orwell might have called “election-speak”. Language is used in increasingly magical ways. When Humpty Dumpty noted that words meant what he wanted them to mean, he might have had political campaigns in mind. Language is very often the first thing that suffers during such contests and along with that genuine meaning departs rapidly. Until last week the Gonski (or now Better Schools) proposals were anathema to the Coalition. Then suddenly the Opposition was supposedly at one with the Government on education funding. American political pundits call this flip-flopping but to us it the standard fare of politics.