what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Friday, April 9, 2010

language and control

Saw yesterday my first nesting storks – at Moiecu – despite the recent snow. It was one of my first impressions of central Europe 20 years ago when I drove into Slovakia and Hungary in May.
Before yesterday’s trip for provisions, I had about 5 hours on the internet – uploading my blog and then surfing for the review of the English inspection system which I noticed was missing from my E-library. I remembered having originally come across this review (and its Scottish equialent) when doing a bibliographical search for the Bulgarian project in 2007 on the whole EC compliance process (a huge academic field!!). I eventually traced it – it was the Hampton report of 2005. For some time there had been concern in the UK about the “audit explosion” (40,000 inspectors it was reckoned). Even the academics got into the act – and produced studies. Hampton had been invited by Gordon Brown to look at the whole system as part of the deregulation theme. His report recommended restructuring about 31 bodies down to seven (an interesting theme for post-communist countries).
The Labour Government accepted the report in its entirety – but I couldn’t find any paper on what has actually happened – with what lessons.
As I’m writing this, I have “Romanian Cultural” radio in the background. At midday they do jazz – and right now they’re playing comedy hall songs from the 1930s – eg Lancashire’s inimitable Gracie Fields - let’s see whether they play Harry Lauder or Will Fyfe!! In the meantime I’m thoroughly enjoying the “flappers’” songs – with a mixture of impeccable and regional accents. I suspect that this is the sort of stuff that my mother rather enjoyed – before her married days in the Scottish manse – about which, incidentally, there was a nice little piece in Scottish Review - http://www.scottishreview.net/CMartin233.html

I thought that the Parliamentary Select Committee (under the impressive chair of Tony Wright – with his collection of other mavericks such as Paul Flynn (with whom I once shared a car from Bucharest to a Sinaia workshop)- might have looked at this theme. Apparently not – but I did discover a marvellous report they issued late last year on government and public service language. Time was when the issue was only the obfuscated language of official forms and reports – but now it has become the managerial terms in which many politicians talk. The chairman’s welcome for a couple of journalists and a representative of the Plain English campaign who were giving evidence was couched in highly appropriate terms - Perhaps I could say, by way of introduction, welcome to our stakeholders. We look forward to our engagement, as we roll out our dialogue on a level playing field, so that, going forward in the public domain, we have a win-win step change that is fit for purpose across the piece (!!)
Please have a look at the report – and some of the evidence they were given (written and oral) at - http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/public_administration_select_committee/pascmindyourlang.cfm
The written evidence give excellent examples of meaningless language (much, it must be said, taken from project management) Paul Flynn submits an extract from the House of Commons Business Plan which concerns planning for “business resilience” and “risk management” within the House (that is to say how well the House is protected from a terrorist or other attack and how it could continue after such an attack). It's priceless.

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