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Brown's New Year Message

30 December 2007

Anthony Barnett (London, OK): There is good stuff in Brown's New Year calling card on education especially and the environment, along with a sensible warning about the economy and a ridiculous silence on Europe, as if the ratification of the EU Treaty was a non-event not to be looked forward to. But I was very struck by the overall tone. Here are some extracts, see what you think (with interruptions that I can't resist). It opens with the Prime Minister's promise of:

important legislation making long-term changes in energy, climate change, health, pensions, planning, housing, education and transport, 2008 will be a year of measurable changes in public services.

Funny, I thought constitutional reform was the top of his bill. It is not here at all. But note the ominous inclusion of "planning".

So we will not shirk but see through changes and reforms in the vital areas for our future - secure energy, pensions, transport, welfare, education, health and national security.

"Security" prioritised and still no constitutional reform. Then, at last:

We will strengthen the democracy and unity of our country. Our priority at all times, our guiding purpose: One Britain of security and opportunity for all the British people.

This is a new twist. "Democracy and Unity" - excuse the capitals. But democracy is about living with disunity. And twist on twist, we have a double helix: the guiding purpose is "One Britain of security...". This is not the air of liberty, choice, freedom, let alone socialism!

And through the publication of our national security strategy we will set out the scale of both the challenges we face and our response at home and overseas to counter the terror threat.

In effect this places democratic reform as a subordinate clause of the anti-terror programme.

We have other promises to keep, from neighbourhood policing in every community to the renewal of our democracy and the revival of confidence in our political process. We will define a new citizenship of rights and responsibilities - and establish a new points system as a condition of living and working in Britain.

Here "renewal of our democracy" is an aspect of reviving confidence in our political process  (implied the existing not a reformed one) while citizenship is linked to a points system for living in Britain.

And in 2008, with firm conviction and resolve, we will make the case for the United Kingdom - standing up for the cause of the Union and against secession, showing people in all parts of the country that for so many of the challenges our country faces - from climate change to terrorism - there are no Wales-only, Scotland-only or England-only solutions.

Hold on, the Union is now resting on an anti-terrorist programme. Does it follow that those who want an English parliament, which is defined by Brown as threatening the Union, will be seen as aiding and comforting the terrorist threat?

All these policies reflect our shared vision of a new Britain rooted in enduring traditions and values.

Really? I have a feeling that this is a royal "our". Meaning a definition of traditions and values that 'we' the Prime Minister are resolved and convinced should be shared by everyone.

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