Progressive politics needs progressive language

dee thomasDee Thomas, a Labour Party member since May 2015, says one of the ways we can demonstrate our values is in our choice of language.

 

Perhaps for too long in the UK we have continued to use terms in speech or in titles that have always been used historically but are now irrelevant, and sometimes damaging, in the modern world. Language and words have, since language began, been instrumental in persuasive argument, and we shouldn’t underestimate the power of language to frame our policy ideas and our message.

One example that topically springs to mind is the term “junior doctor”. Whilst just about descriptive of a new doctor fresh out of medical school and in the first two years of obligatory foundation training, the term junior doctor is both derogatory and demeaning when applied to a practitioner with several years of front line service and experience behind them.

Many of our so called “junior doctors” will be saving lives on a daily basis and must surely resent the title “junior” being applied to them as they go about their daily work.

Many of our so called “junior doctors” will be just a year or so away from promotion to consultant. Many of them will lead vital teams in our hospitals. What is so wrong with calling them doctors?

I believe that Labour across the UK has a duty to change this and to set itself apart from other parties, by recognising that many of the concerns expressed by the BMA relate to morale, and that a simple change of language could have at least some positive impact on the morale of these key workers.

The gravest danger to our health service – apart from Jeremy Hunt – is that long serving, experienced people will seek other careers or leave the country. These are not people lacking transferable skills and they are to my knowledge the only professional people who must endure the label of being “ junior” for about ten years after qualification.

Labour needs some strong messages about how people will be treated under a future Labour government and small, simple changes like this seem to me to be a jolly good start.

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25 thoughts on “Progressive politics needs progressive language

  1. “Dee Thomas, a Labour Party member since May 2015, says one of the ways we can demonstrate our values is in our choice of language.”

    Parti national écossais mauvaise

    There you go a vote winner.

  2. “Labour needs some strong messages about how people will be treated under a future Labour government and small, simple changes like this seem to me to be a jolly good start.”

    We’re going to put up your taxes and keep your pay frozen.

    That’s about as strong as it can gets dear.

    1. Whereas to thousands of public sector workers – teachers, council employees etc. – the SNP’s message is: we’re going to put you out of a job and decimate the public services you rely on, but you’ll get a tax cut so that’s all fine. Oh, except you’ll be out of a job. Sorry.

        1. They aren’t manifesto pledges, they are what John Swinney is doing to council workers right now by backing Tory cuts instead of opposing austerity like he promised to.

          1. How can John Swinney do anything to council workers when there is a tier of Local Government in place who oversee and Govern locally with regards to public service workers Duncan?

          2. At our local high school all supply teachers cut, existing staff having to cover lessons not in their subject, education is a mess under the SNP ad has to be properly funded.

      1. Do you think Labour should rule out making any spending cuts at all if they win in May Duncan?

        I applaud Labour’s plans to properly fund local services through raising council tax and income tax but my fear is that doesn’t go far enough.

        I’m not convinced a 1p tax rise will recover the reductions to the block grant in the next few years and will still require cuts to other parts of the budget.

        To properly fund services without making any cuts at all would surely require a larger income tax rise, possibly 3-4p?

        I could be wrong though, I haven’t seen the exact figures.

        1. That’s a fair point Drew. Labours record in Government has them not only cutting public services while increasing taxation but also selling them off completely.

          They think we’re so gullible to believe they will solve the problems only they recognise by raising our taxation when we know they want to sell off all public services including the NHS.

          1. In fairness to Labour Mike, Labour’s fiscal record in government was pretty good.

            They achieved 3 budget surpluses during Blair and Brown’s time in office. When you consider the UK has only made 6 budget surpluses in the last 40 years, this puts them up there as one of the most fiscally credible UK governments in the last half a century.

            Where I think Labour in Scotland and the SNP fall down is neither have a real credible plan to reduce Scotland’s fiscal deficit which is around £9-10 billion at present.

            Labour have at least acknowledged you can’t keep cutting public services, you need to raise tax.

            Scotland spending more than it raises in tax revenue causes 2 problems:

            1) The overall UK deficit remains higher therefore costing all taxpayers individually having to pay off debt interest out of their taxation
            2) If Scotland can’t pay it’s own way then taxpayers in England suffer deeper cuts to services because the UK government has pledged to maintain higher levels of spending in Scotland through the Barnett formula

            In electoral terms, that causes the biggest problem for Labour trying to get back into government because taxpayers in England perceive them to be in favour of maintaining higher public spending in Scotland at the expense of English taxpayers and overall not committed to tackling the deficit.

  3. OK, so what do you suggest? And have you asked any junior doctors about this?

    A few suggestions: Don’t assume that there is a language policy problem without doing a bit of research among those who would be affected by it. Don’t tell us about a language policy problem without proposing solutions. Don’t assume you can change the world by tinkering with language.

  4. A rose is a rose is a rose.
    A rose by any other name…

    Unless it’s a red rose.

  5. At our local high school all supply teachers cut, existing staff having to cover lessons not in their subject, education is a mess under the SNP ad has to be properly funded.

    What a stupid piece of rhetorical pish. Education in Scotland is not in a mess. Its the best education system in Europe and is a world beater.

    Recruitment and staffing however are the responsibility of local authorities not central Government so if you have any gripes in that direction look to the Labour councils who have the worst record on that score not only in Scotland but across the UK.

      1. “Where I think Labour in Scotland and the SNP fall down is neither have a real credible plan to reduce Scotland’s fiscal deficit which is around £9-10 billion at present.”

        The SNPs plan to get rid of the problem that causes this fiscal deficit is to rid us of Westminster Government.

        The source of the budget cutting is the Westminster Parliament and its ideologically criminally corrupt establishment Government.

        Independence is a chance to implement a better way away from criminal ideologically imposed corruption.

        Labour shout “Crises” “Crises” “Crises” and yet tell us we’re “Better Together” with the institution that causes all of it.

        Again in case you haven’t noticed yet we have been constantly at war since 1945. The second war that was to end all wars

        Wars that Scotland had no reason to be a part of and wouldn’t have been had we been Independent of the corruption of Westminster. That costs not only money but lives futures families and our entire social structure.

        And its not just the warmongering. Its the domestic corruption of the UK State electoral system which actually allows minority Government to rule as a majority Government.

        The country doesn’t want Tory Government it never democratically votes Tory yet we’ve had nothing but Tories since 1997!

        Look at Norway That’s where Scotland should be and would have been without the corruption of Westminster and its never ending resource stealing in favour of London and the SE of England.

        But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

      2. Scotland spending more than it raises in tax revenue causes 2 problems:

        That is a stupid bare faced lie!

        Scotland raises around 56 billion which it sends to the UK treasury. Its own public spending is limited by the budget it gets back via Barnett which at present is 24 billion to be reduced by at least 4 billion if the fiscal framework sham ever gets implemented.

        That’s a surplus to the UK treasury of 32 billion which its supposed to take Scotlands reserved commitments from.

        I.e Warmongering Trident renewal The House of Lords etc etc.

        That’s our “Pooling and sharing”.

  6. “They achieved 3 budget surpluses during Blair and Brown’s time in office.”

    Newsflash Drew we always get budget surpluses because we have very little left in the way of public service to spend it on thanks to Thatcher Major Blair and Brown.

    You don’t actually believe all this pish about there not being enough money for public services in the UK? Seriously?

    We are the most heavily taxed society on Earth.

    They can afford to upgrade Trident warmonger in 4 countries throw an Olympics games in London put up a viable proposal for the World cup while bailing out nearly every bank in the land.

    The austerity agenda is targeted ideologically its not actually necessary at all. That’s the criminality of the UK establishment at work.

    Didn’t Labour in Scotland return a couple of billion in budget Surplus to London when instructed by their English leadership to do so? Wouldn’t it be prudent to believe they would do that every time they controlled both Parliaments?

    1. Hi Mike. Here is a good article explaining the UK’s record of failing to balance the fiscal budget going back in the post-war era http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/how-unusual-is-it-for-the-british-government-to-run-a-budget-surplus-10309178.html

      Correcting my original point, the UK has only made 7 budget surpluses since 1978, 4 by Blair and Brown.

      You can indeed argue about the spending priorities in terms of choices but the fact remains for the majority of years, the UK Government, mostly spends more than it earns in tax revenues and has to borrow the difference.

      Hence the large overall debt of around £1.5 trillion.

  7. Overall I have no problem with the title “junior” doctor being dumped in the bin and the common sense title of doctor being applied.

    But when you are discussing the use of correct language perhaps you would like to explain unionist use of the word “seperation” rather than “independence”, during and ongoing from the referendum ??? was that not a scare tactic by the better-together project fear campaign.

    1. Good point Davy and lets not forget Labour accusing over half the Scottish population of being “Blood and Soil” Nationalists.

      Whole articles on why the desire to reform our own full National Parliament from the overbearing criminal corrupt clutches of Westminster is testament to “Blood and Soil” Nationalist xenophobia.

      The language of Pure “Project Fear” and the ONLY language Labour knows.

  8. “Perhaps for too long in the UK we have continued to use terms in speech or in titles that have always been used historically but are now irrelevant,”

    This article is all about a job title junior doctor why dont junior doctors get the donkeys who represent them to meet with management and get it changed. The best example of the correct use of language is in relation to members of the Scottish Labour section and it is the term Red Tory stooge very apt indeed.

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