What’s in a name?
David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s post-election ‘relaunch’ of their mostly civil partnership shifted from rose garden to Essex tractor factory last month in an attempt to show themselves less Romeo and Juliet, smitten with the scent of power, than men at work. But the relaunch signalled neither a new name nor a new way of doing things, so Shakespeare was probably right: names matter not and the coalition smells just as unpleasant as it did before the May elections. Meanwhile, across the North Sea Angela Merkel and François Hollande have been making their own vows, with commentators busying themselves conjuring up nametags for this new union. For the moment the ‘first pan-European thinktank’, the European Council on Foreign Relations, is content to name its latest report After Merkozy, but wags elsewhere have seized on the more succinct, but somewhat ruder, ‘Merde’ (think about it). Let’s hope the new alliance does not drop the rest of Europe in it.
All this by continental roundabout way of coming to heavyweight thinktank IPPR’s new journal Juncture, itself genuinely renamed and renewed from its old manifestation of ppr. Editors Guy Lodge and Will Paxton spell out its mission statement as contributing ‘towards an alternative and progressive account of the future’ in a world standing at a historical crossroads. And, what with the coalition sending us back into negative growth, IPPR is now more than within its rights, as it does in Juncture, to relabel the double-dip as the ‘Great Recession’.
World crisis notwithstanding, the libertarian Adam Smith Institute was proud to announce recently: ‘US banking luminary John Allison – who is unafraid to speak frankly about the grim reality of the financial crisis – delivers the ASI’s prestigeous[sic] Ayn Rand Lecture.’ It intones: ‘While others blame bankers’ bonuses or credit derivatives, Allison believes the root problem is that banking is not capitalist enough’. Yet more capitalism red (or blue?) in tooth and claw is the answer, apparently. The editors of Juncture made clear their intent to ‘fashion an alternative political project’ in the post-crash era, but the ASI’s really would be something else.
Talking of blue, Demos has published a new report named Iron Ladies, a collection of essays by seven women Tory MPs elected in 2010. One, Claire Perry, sets up a straw (wo)man almost immediately in her chapter by claiming, ‘First, “women” are not, as the Labour party seems to think, all the same. This is terribly feminist old-school thinking that might have made sense to me when I was my college women’s representative, spending hours discussing the merits of being called “Womb-en” and putting up Reclaim the Night posters.’ Quite who in the Labour party Perry believes actually think women are ‘all the same’ is not clear. On the next page she points out that women make up 80 per cent of the lowest-paid public sector employees – so while they are clearly not all the same it is at least implicitly clear from this that some government decisions may affect women more than men.
Tory sister-in-arms and fellow twenty-tenner Elizabeth Truss was not a contributor to Iron Ladies but did recently write a paper for CentreForum, ‘the liberal thinktank’, called Affordable Quality: New Approaches to Childcare. It recommends the UK adopt a childcare system akin to that of the Netherlands to drive down costs for families, making greater use of childminders and allowing nurseries to win academy status. Albeit in a liberal setting, Truss, the former deputy director of Reform, now joins Progress (whose Purple Book called for universal childcare as part of a new welfare settlement) and IPPR in urging action on an issue which now consumes over one-quarter of the average family’s income. One would think it only a matter of time before the government acts. But then the coalition’s ‘relaunch’ and its subsequent Queen’s speech failed to move either on this or on the other half of the ‘care crunch’: adult social care. The crisis, or crunch, or whatever name you give it, rumbles on.
Adam Smith Institute, Angela Merkel, coalition government, David Cameron, Demos, Francois Hollande, ippr, Nick Clegg, Security Council, thinktanks