It has been a busy start to the year for Dave Noone, the previously little-known backbench MP who seems certain to become a pivotal figure in national affairs during 2002. For Dave has just been asked to head up a new government task-force whose brief will be to spread love, explore love options and generally raise love awareness throughout the country.
The man whom the tabloids are already calling the "Love Tsar" spent yesterday contacting columnists with a view to getting positive copy for one of New Labour's most ambitious projects.
"It was the Archbishop of Canterbury who set the ball rolling," the Love Tsar told me, phoning from his new Millbank office. "In his New Year's message, the bishop referred to 'the power of love'. He said that love was 'not a weak word, but something of a immense power, standing at the heart of all that is most precious and true.' The Prime Minister was particularly moved by the message – things that are precious and true have always been important to him, as has immense power – and, within minutes he was on the phone to me, mapping out plans for a new initiative."
I suggested to Dave Noone that there was nothing particularly new in the power of love message. One thinks of Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, Huey Lewis and the News.
The Love Tsar laughed appreciatively. "Trust the media to go for the most trivial aspect of the subject. No, this is love in the big sense. It is biblical – yet multi-faith, of course. The way Tony sees it, the Government has done pretty well running with usefully abstract ideas – community values, religious tolerance, social inclusiveness and so on – but we somehow seem to have missed out on the mother of them all."
What form would the Government's initiative be taking?
"We're going to hit the ground loving – put love in place, on the ground, in local communities, where it really matters. It can be tough love, love in a cold climate, a hunk-a-hunk of burning love. What matters is that New Labour is not only committed to the basic principle of love but will be taking day-to-day, practical steps to spread it around among the ordinary people who matter so much to us."
Will there be a Ministry of Love Affairs?
"No, but there will be a task-force," said Dave. "We'll get a whole lot of high-profile, feelgood personalities – Gary Lineker, Carol Vorderman, Geri Halliwell, David Jason – and have them photographed together for the press and TV."
I put it to the Love Tsar that there was more than a hint of spin to this campaign – that cynics might see it as a way of diverting attention away from the Government's failings.
"Not at all. We'll be looking at institutions – hospitals schools, railway companies – and putting in place love league tables so the public have access to basic information about their local services. As for individuals, we'll be asking the simple question, 'Do you believe in love?' Those who answer 'Yes' should support the Government. Those unwilling to join the love train, on the other hand, will have to face the consequences."
That sounded a touch authoritarian, I suggested.
"Not at all. As a government, we believe in individual choice. So, if you are prepared to reach appropriate love targets, that's fine. If you are not, then life may become rather more difficult when we pass our Love (Non-Affection Capital Charge) Bill in the next Parliament."
I asked Dave whether there would be any government investment in the new project.
"Of course. I've already briefed an advertising agency to come up with a slogan – 'Let the feeling grow' is my favourite at the moment. Posters showing Tony, surrounded by kids from all ethnic backgrounds, maybe in a children's ward, will be up on hoardings soon. We're encouraging the BBC to put on a big charity night, with loads of famous people handing out awards to plucky ordinary people – nurses, teachers, have-a-go heroes etc – whose love quotients have been notable during the year."
So this was not, in any way, an attempt to divert attention away from investment in public services, then.
"With a bit of luck,'" laughed the Love Tsar. "That was a joke by the way. We're great believers in humour in this government. In fact, we're hoping to appoint a Humour Tsar very shortly."Reuse content