3 April 2010

To govern in poetry (No. 2)

In the wet days of February, as distinct from the wet days of April, I issued a poetic plea for a more vivified, whimsical government: “Its time, my friends, to renew our tired administration, to govern in poetry. The Literary Group’s efforts have served as a pilot study - let’s roll out the proposal across governmental work. Feel free to send your poetical suggestions to your MSPs, government ministers, clerks of the Parliamentary committees. Any sod in the administration foolish enough to make their e-mail address publicly available.”

Via the good offices of the redoubtable Love and Garbage, my attention has been drawn to the Consultation Paper on Long Leases, which some soul has liberally peppered with introductory quotes. This lyrical insurrectionist against the plodding proseries of the governmental style is no doubt a loyal reader of Lallands Peat Worrier, acting on my rousing exhortation to quote, shamelessly to poeticise, unnecessarily to embroider, and in all things introduce a good deal more life-affirming rampant flummery into our public life.

Admittedly, the start isn’t terrifically promising – “We have the honour to submit to the Scottish Ministers our Report on Conversion of Long Leases. Scottish Law Commission, November 2006” – proceeding on to “A lease or “tack” is a contract whereby "the use and possession of lands, houses or other heritable subjects are given to the tenant for a return, known as rent or lordship, in money or goods”. Guthrie Report, 1952”, tarrying a while over real burdens - but soon succeeds on to more sprightly sayings. “Even a bad day of fishing is better than a good day of work”, a witty epigram of that most prolific of authors, Anonymous, leads us into the section on the preservation of landlords’ rights in relation to fishing and game. A poetic matter if ever there was one. We then are informed that “Money makes the world go around”, attributed to Liza Minnelli. Presumably the writer of Cabaret would be rather irritated by this ascription. She is only the actress, dear. The telling Stamp Duty Land Tax section brings us: “Taxes, after all, are dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organised society” sprung from the mind of Franklin D. Roosevelt. We conclude with the heart-wrung melancholy of “Parting is such sweet sorrow” as Juliet piped up, in Romeo and Juliet. No mention is made of Shakespeare, mind. Along with the Minnelli reference, one wonders if the author has drunk a good deal too much of the wilful suspension of disbelief. However! Don’t lets quibble too vociferously or chastening. While I might have made different selections, one ought to encourage merry habits of this sort, however embarrassingly nascent the first faltering attempts.

A quick digital thumb through other recent Scottish Government publications seems to reveal that the author of the paper remains but a single literate spy in public service. It will not be long till we come in battalions, I’m sure, as our sixth column of style gathers recruits, our advance skirmishers slyly slipping in a crumb of Keats here, a breath of Tennyson there. One thing is clear - the Poetic Government Movement is on the march!

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