Now and again, the previous Labour Government was accused of being some sort of Orwellian Thought Police by political opponents. I couldn't help but smile, therefore, when I attended a seminar recently in the North East, where senior civil servants were making presentations.
The event was technically very good, and I went along because of my portfolio interest - in my long and wearisome experience, events aimed at middle management professionals tend to deliver significantly more insight into difficult issues than those 'dumbed down' for councillors.
Anyway, the keynote speech was given by a senior civil servant, who explained apologetically at the start that he couldn't use the "R" word. Privately, I was bemused. The "R" word? Recession? Realignment? Rolph?. But you know how it is - I felt an idiot tapping the shoulder of the person next to me to ask what on earth the speaker was talking about.
Sure enough, on a couple of occaions, the officer stopped himself during the presentation and apologised, and soon all became clear - the "R" word is "Region" or "Regional".
I appreciate that the Tory bit of the ConDem Govermnent has a major problem about regions and regionalism (arising from their europhobia - but that's another blogpost). To actively ban civil servants from even using the word 'region' however, strikes me as lunacy, and the sort of 'thought crime' that Labour was often (unjustly) pilliored for.
This is all of a piece with the fact that it would seem that policy in the area concerned is virtually non-existent 2 months after the election. Banning civil servants from using perfectly good bits of the English language, however, would appear to be a replacement for policy development in the wacky world of our ConDem Government.