Shooting the elephants

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Never mind the would-be MPs, the media and, last but by every means least, voters, this election has been nothing but good for elephants. Forget what the Worldwide Fraud for Nature, WISPA or Greedpeace may tell you, your friendly Elephantidae, both elephas and loxodonta have been thriving and rampaging through an election comment near you.
First there was LibDem Vince Cable, who reckoned the UK deficit was “the elephant in the room”, not mentioned in either of his opponents’ manifestos.
Soon, everyone was at it. “Televised debate made history, but what about the herd of elephants in the room?” queried the Telegraph, in much the same sort of tone that might be adopted by an upset housewife haranguing her out-till-all-hours-last-night husband the morning after.

For the Daily Mail, immigration was the elephant, unless it was EUro-madness – often it was both – or, following Gordo’s gaffe, “bigotgate”.

Over at the Guardian and Observer, advertising commentator Steven Henry opined”As Vince Cable said early on, the deficit is the elephant in the room. What he didn’t say was that immigration is the elephant in the room next door.”

Norman Tebbit, in his blog over at, has been a keen herder of elephants, finding them not only in the room, but on the roof, in the airports, in the streets, the landing fields etc etc.

Peter Preston perhaps deserved the morning-after-the-night-before harangue, claiming to see “…the last remnants of this crumbling government glare balefully at the 42-inch elephant in their election room.”
I don’t think I’m exaggerating if I say this particular cliche has been stretched as far as it might usefully be. “The elephant in the room” may once, when it was freshly minted, have been a lively metaphor which surprised and delighted by conjuring up an unlikely and startling image while conveying an apt meaning.

It is, In George Orwell’s term in the great Politics and the English Language, a dying metaphor, having been thrashed within an inch of its life by journalists, bloggers, politicians, academics and others who live by words.

And it’s taken some time dying. I first noticed its ubiquity in the media more than two years ago, and emailed Ian Hislop at Private Eye about it, suggesting a reader-submitted column along the lines of “Solutions”. He never got back about it. (Maybe Private Eye did eventually pick up on it. I wouldn’t know _ I stopped reading the Eye when I heard Hislop say that all he knew about global warming was what George Monbiot told him because Moonbat seemed to know what he was talking about.)

Why do all these people, many of whom I can’t believe would allow even as lowly a creature as a stick insect to wallow in such agony, prolong the noble elephant in its pitiful death throes?

Surely it’s time to take another example from Orwell and Shoot the Elephants. It would be the kindest thing to do to them. And us.

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