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Political jargon of the week: Campaign trail

ALMKE, GERMANY - AUGUST 01:  Scouts hiking through a woodland on August 1, 2010 in Almke near Wolfsburg, Germany. About 5000 young scouts from Germany, Russia, Belgium, Suisse, USA and Italy aged 12 to 20 participate in a camp. Since 1973, the German VCP-Christian Guides and Pathfinders organisation, offers an International historic boys and girls scout meeting during the summer holidays. On a 25 hectare field include 1370 tens, a tent church and a tent theater. The Federal camp is held every four years.  (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

At City A.M., we’ve long been fighting the evil misuses of language. But to mark election season, we’ve decided to venture out of the comfort of corporatopia and into the political wilderness. After all, if there’s anything we know about politicians, it’s that they’d rather say anything than what they actually mean. This week: the campaign trail.

What does it mean?

The series of high-vis ventures and pint-raising pit stops embarked on by political candidates to woo the public. There is no actual trail, and often no actual strategy, but this is orienteering of the hearts and minds – so anything goes.

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Candidates don’t typically camp on these ventures into the deep dark wilderness (places beyond Westminster), but they may very well indulge in some bucolic frolics (think Ed Davey joyously paddleboarding through the Lake District earlier this week or Theresa May reminiscing about naughtily frolicking through fields of what during her own campaign trail in 2017).

Who uses it?

Previously a military term, it wasn’t until the 1700s when the ‘campaign’ became political, thanks to its adoption by British politicos. A century later and the Texans tacked on the trail with notable pity, as first cited in The Galveston Daily News in 1884: “Then says he to me, very suddenly, ‘say Sam, I’ve been on the campaign trail all day and am dead broke; can’t you ask me in to take something warm?”.  Since then our political cowboys haven’t been able to get enough.

Could be confused with…

  • A Boy Scouts Adventure

  • A carefully considered and forethought strategy

Should we be worried?

Undoubtedly. The ‘campaign trail’ makes out like our politicians are grand adventurers, Indiana Joneses of democracy trailblazing through unknown lands, when in reality they’re having tea and cake in a constituency they’ve just learned existed.

Political ick rating: 5/10

The term is dishonest, but it’s not half as bad as most of the tripe that comes out of the mouths of our dearly elected.