Over at Labour Uncut (yes I do read the left wing blogs – sometimes to have a laugh, but also to see how the other half thinks or attempts to think), Jim Murphy who is Labour MP for East Renfrewshire and shadow secretary of state for defence has come up with a great scheme to get his name in the papers and make out like Labour is the party that looks after the armed services. Like many other such schemes and ideas, it sounds great until you think about it, something those in authority don’t tend to do.
He wants to have streets named after those who died in conflict. He calls them heroes. And he wants them to be remembered.
There are so many things wrong with his attempt at grandstanding. Skipping quickly over the simple fact that he is imposing this even though families of the “heros” might not want it, or the residents of the streets might not want it, or the tax payers in the council don’t want their money spent on political publicity acts, there are also other real life factors that complicate it and make it an impossible job and something that will quickly degenerate into a laughing stock.
In real life not everyone is a hero just because they died in some conflict is some dusty corner of the world. Some are killed by their own side, others are killed when not on active duty. But calling these people who died heroes denigrates those who actually do heroic acts like saving the lives of their comrades whilst under fire.
In real life the families of those who died might want to keep things private because they don’t like to have a public display of their grief. In real life, some of the people killed might not have whiter than white pasts. In real life some of those who die might not have names that are suitable for naming a street.
So after all these factors, what else could go wrong. Well, I heard Jim Murphy on Radio 4 on my way back home after work give his reasons why it was a good idea. As to why he came up with this gimmick, he said that they had done this in America and that it worked. As a counter argument the Beeb got someone in America on the line. I bet Jim was expecting someone to agree with him. In fact, the American bloke pretty much ripped into Jim’s claims and said that such schemes have become a laughing stock in America. Straight off the American bloke said that they don’t name their streets, they co-name them because they don’t force people to use these alternative names. It would become a bureaucratic nightmare with streets changing names requiring everyone on the street to update their address with the authorities. Here in the UK you could end up being sent to prison for not telling the DVLA of your new address even though you haven’t actually moved house and probably not even aware that you street changed name.
The American bloke also said that because politicians got involved in deciding who was a “hero” there was the danger that they wouldn’t be able to say no to requests. No politician or councillor would refuse a request because it would lose them votes. And they will get requests for heroes to have streets named after them even though they might not have died in conflict. In real life there will be exceptional people who commit great acts of bravery saving the lives of others whilst losing their own. So already there are exceptions. And because there are exceptions there will be requests for more, some of whom might not actually have died. Would a politician refuse such requests when the public consider these to be real heroes. So you eventually end up with the case in New York where living people have streets named after them because they are local heroes. Not real heroes, but those who do the equivalent of being a lollipop lady for 50 years.
Jim Murphy’s reply to this was they we have a different view on heroes to Americans. Yeh, right.
Jim said that if these were the reasons not to name streets then there is probably not many things politicians could do because someone would come up reasons why it wouldn’t be a good thing. Politicians would be pretty much useless. Well, duh! That’s the whole point of why politicians should never ever do things – because they always and without fail get it wrong. They’ll be things like laws that make it illegal, they’ll be Murphy’s (not Jim) law, they’ll be the law of unintended consequences, and so on. So yes, it should be a very high barrier for any scheme devised by a politician before it gets implemented.