The Bickerstaffe Record

Being Labour

It’s all in the name

06.30.09 | Comment?

There’s so much to say about the Building Britain’s Future document, available here, that it’ll take me a while to pull it altogether. 

In the meantime, I think this from George at the Cambridge University Labour Club blog is a pretty decent summary critique of both style and substance;  the bit about housing allocations policy as a route to discrimination is particularly perceptive.

Bu the best I can do for the moment is question the choice of title.  Building Britain’s Future is just soooo New Labour anodyne; it’s just one of a range of dullspeak permutations that could have been chosen: Building Britain for the Future, Building a Better Britain, Britain’s Future: a big building, Buidling: Britain’s Future, Building for the Future Britain, The Future Britain and its Buildings, and so on and so on.

Which is a real shame, because the working draft had a much better title: ‘A National Plan’.

‘National Plan’ as title would have been a real statement of purpose, an proud acknowledgement that the state might actually do something pro-active for its citizens in a time of recessionary difficulty, and an act of differentiation from what the Conservatives might offer.  I would have liked to see such rhetorical boldness, even if some of the substance still lacks.

But in the end, it was thought the title might be considered too ‘Stalinist’!

Who, pray, would have linked it with Stalinism. Yes, certainly one or two of the right wing commentators would have made the link, but they would have looked silly to do so. 

But the general public does not spend its time despearately seeking to link government planning documents with murderous Soviet regimes of 60 years ago, and ‘a national plan’ would have been read at face value – as a plan for what the government is going to do.

In the end, the cop out over the title is, sadly, reflective of a wider pandering to the popular press; of the fear of looking just a bit too socialist even when some elements of socialism are back on the agenda (e.g. housebuilding); of a misplaced fear of offending supposed ‘middle Enlgand’ sensibilities, which have no basis in reality, which in the end leads to an anodyne self-censorship in how the government presents itself, and allows the opportunity to be and sound different to slip away again.

What a shame.

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