Magazine article Public Finance

More Than Symbolic Shifts

Magazine article Public Finance

More Than Symbolic Shifts

Article excerpt

I spent much of the Christmas holiday rowing with my family about blue passports. I've only ever had a burgundy one, my father recalls his blue one fondly, I thought they were black etc.

Maybe these things matter. A new, blue, post-Brexit British passport will be a tangible and visible sign that the country has changed.

Signs and symbols are important. Theresa May's early spring clean of the cabinet was notable more for its symbolic rather than its personnel shifts.

The new cabinet looks much like the old one - Jonathan Werran picks out how the big public sector portfolios are affected on page 16 - what has changed is the branding. DCLG is dead; long live the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. This mouthful of a ministry is apparently meant to recall the housebuilding momentum of the Macmillan years in a bid to impress the young (as one wag commented on Twitter, millennials talk of little else).

Over at the Department of Health, the words "social care" have been added to the name and to Jeremy Hunt's title as secretary of state. Not only did he refuse a job move (allegedly), he talked himself into a better job title.

It's easy to be flippant, but such changes are significant and help government signal its priorities. It's certainly heartening that two of our most intractable policy problems - how we house the young and care for the old - now have cabinet ranking, if only symbolically. It would be good if 2018 could bring meaningful progress in these areas. …

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