ISMISM New concepts for the Nineties No. 8: consettism

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Consett n 1. a town in Co Durham, N England, pop 33,433 (1981), now nearer 24,000 and where only 6 per cent of school-leavers find jobs; 2. an embarrassing gaffe which reveals a lack of up-to-date knowledge; a nostalgia, sometimes unconscious, for the days of full employment.

consett v to reveal, usually unwittingly, that one lives in the past. Orig: late C20, usually attributed to K Clarke, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, a now largely forgotten figure, who waxed lyrical about the town's unsuccessful steel works as if unaware that it had been axed 15 years earlier by his own government, with 3,000 job losses.

Also, to make a consetted effort, to underscore with added emphasis, cf Clarke (above) to the effect that the said steel works were "one of the best in Europe". Also, consett grand, a blunder of even greater magnitude, adding insult to injury, as when Clarke (above) two weeks later praised Consett's Blue Ridge nappy factory - "one of the major centres in Western Europe for disposable baby nappies" - which, it transpired, closed down four years earlier.

And see to act in consett, an ambiguous phrase which can refer to: 1. the activities of the hapless civil servant who supplied the minister with the erroneous information; 2. colleagues within the Consettative Party (qv) forced to take consetted action to limit the damage of the original consett; such colleagues may be said to have been consetted.

consett pitch n 1. a football ground in Co Durham mythically surrounded by unemployed men in flat caps with whippets and eating Phileas Fogg tortilla chips; 2. the degree of sharpness or flatness adopted by musicians when playing together so that all the instruments may be in accord, cf "singing from the same hymn-sheet"; consett pitch is "slightly higher than the ordinary pitch for brilliance and effect" (Grove). It is also somewhat shriller in England than in other countries.

consettina n 1. a small hexagonal instrument which emits wind, causing metallic reeds to vibrate in accordance with keys operated entirely independently of the player's brain; 2. a combination of two of the key political consetts of the latter half of the C20: consett (see above) and tina (obsolete), an acronym for There Is No Alternative, a catchphrase of a Poujadist politician of the period, M Thatcher. An anachronism.

Hence consettism: the tendency to retreat into the past, a subconscious desire to take refuge from the modern world in faint memories of a (non- existent) golden age; usually an augury of electoral defeat.