I caught the tail-end of John Humphrys doing a pointlessly antagonistic interview this morning. The interviewee said something along the lines of, 'We intend to make cuts–'
'Hope,' Humphrys interrupted. 'Not "intend". There's a difference.'
Yes, there is a difference. But I don't think it's the one John means. Just conceivably he was saying, 'You might not get in, so let's couch this conversation in the conditional,' which might follow logically, though it would be an utterly facile and pointless thing to say - I mean, we all get that elections are conditional events - but from the rest of the interview, I don't think that is what Humphrys was getting at.
I think Humphrys was trying to say that this guy might not be able to achieve what he says he wants to achieve. But that didn't follow from his clever-clever comment. It's not like he simply said, 'You're lying, you're not going to try.' He conceded the 'hope', and how can that hope be disentangled from the intention to try, and how can that be disentangled from simple 'intention'? It's a schoolboy-debating trick - something the shape of forensic rhetoric which, unpacked, has no content at all.*
Why am I shouting this into a void? By which I mean, 'Why am I shouting this to a load of blog readers who, if they listen to the Today Programme, are almost certainly already incensed by John Humphrys's hectoring style and better than me at dissecting it?' It is because sometimes John Humphrys makes me want to shout into the void.
*Do correct me if I have made a massive logical error here, by the way. I am capable of this.