Writing in the Guardian this week, sketch writer Simon Hoggart claimed that Labour MP Paul Flynn had invented a new word. He wrote: “11.55: Paul Flynn coins new word for what the coalition has created: “An ineptocracy of greed.” Won’t catch on.”
Unfortunately for Mr Hoggart, he was wrong on two counts. Firstly, Mr Flynn didn’t coin the word. And secondly, it already has.
Ineptocracy has been around very fleetingly for at least 10 years, but seems to have picked up a head of steam towards the end of 2011 and is now starting to increase in usage both in blogs and on Twitter.
It is not yet in any official dictionaries but is being defined by users as “A system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.” Other, simpler definitions, suggest it is simply a ruling government which is incompetent.
It is certainly gaining traction in the United States, and Googling “ineptocracy obama” yields quite a number of results, suggesting that opponents are beginning to fix on the word as a way of encapsulating their negativity towards his presidency.
Mr Flynn is possibly the first person to be using the word in the UK, and always in relation to the Coalition. As well as his mention this week, he also write a blog last October called Building the Ineptocracy, but it seems he was responding to the growing usage of it from across the Atlantic and wanted to see if he could tie the current UK Government into it.
So will ineptocracy stick? There are factors against that. On a prosaic level, it is difficult to say and even to spell. I find I keep stopping to think about it as I type this piece. The fact that it doesn’t easily trip off tongue or keyboard may limit its growth. It may also be limited because it sounds quite specialised and a word owned by political writers and experts.
But I can see it growing as a shorthand way for bloggers and commentators to describe what they see as failed governments, so I can see ineptocracy gaining some official dictionary recognition later this year. And if a campaigning politician should pick up on it and throw it into a speech, then that validation will be very rapid indeed.