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JUST A PHRASE WE'RE GOING THROUGH

14-11-2007

Beware cliche - mongers - and yes, that includes you Mr Stirrer! Andy Goff is on a wordy warpath to destroy a couple of well worn but meaningless phrases.

There are two currently popular phrses which are guaranteed to make my nose bleed uncontrollably.

One is "postcode lottery"; the implication being that because services - health, environmental, educational - are financed or managed in different ways in different areas then sections of society are turned into losers just because of where they live. Little mention is made of those who are "winners" on this basis.

Before we had postcodes - they were introduced in 1959 - people just lived in places with names. Now we are all victims of a system which was designed to make the delivery of letters easier.

If the thing which is important to you is not available in the place where you live then the option to move is available. This takes the "lottery" element out of the equation.

I'd like to live by the sea, but sadly the B13 post code area has no shoreline. I used to live in BN1, within five miles of the sea, but I moved. Am I a victim of the postcode lottery? I read recently that Torquay has, apparently, the best maternity provision in the country. Having a baby? Move to Torquay. It's also near the sea!

But I digress. My other nose-bleed phrase is "the special relationship". There has been a lot of this mentioned lately. Gordon Brown has been at great pains to ally himself with our friends across the pond who object to him having Lord Malloch-Brown in his team.

I heard an American on the radio recently say the US Government would never presume to give instructions about who should be in a position of influence in the UK Government - but they would rather Malloch-Brown wasn't one of them. Remember what happened to Jack Straw after he said it was inconceivable that Britain would back military action against Iran? He was moved.

The "special relationship" is only special to the media, politicians and business in Britain. For the Americans it is purely a business relationship. Since the Cold War we have acted as their fixed aircraft carrier off the coast of Europe, we have bought their weapons of mass destruction - over which they maintain control - and we have had investment relationships, some good and some not so good.

Over the years we have given up much in the way we freely act independently.

This is NOT an anti-American rant. I have been to the country many times and found it wonderful and the people breathtakingly friendly, albeit refreshingly naïve. No. This is an attempt to put some perspective on government spin.

If we moan about the French we are not accused of being anti-French and if we loathe the regime in Burma we are not being anti-Burmese. So why, if we dare to criticise American actions or policy, are we labelled anti-American?

Put simply, people have friends. Nations have interests.

Whichever way we look at it we should consign the 'Special Relationship' to the anvil of truth and recognise our friends for what they are - competitors in a global, er, postcode lottery.

Is there such a thing as a Postcode Lottery?

Or the Special Relationship?

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