WORDS : Solidarity

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The Independent Online
LABOUR'S new Clause IV has been charged with wordiness, even of jargonising; in particular, its sonorous phrase "a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect" has come in for criticism. This is unfair. Professor Bernard Crick wrote in the Guardian that Tony Blair and his co-draftsmen had put "solidarity" to appease the feminists, otherwise they would have made it "fraternity", as in the rallying cry of revolutionary France. But that was not the echo Mr Blair was after, any more than the grand old English brotherhood with its reminder of generations of Labour Party conferences and TUCs. What was needed was something that would awake loyal sentiments in the maximum number of breasts, even if they nursed slightly divergent ideas of what it meant.

Solidarity was just the ticket. Old Socialists would glow with the memory of battles waged by the workers against an exploitative capitalist class. But others would think, not of confrontation between one section of society and another, but of that broader sense of the word which it had when we got it from the French, and which preoccupied French political reformers 100 years ago when people were having second thoughts about the philosophy of the Revolution. La solidarit, said President Loubet in 1900, was "the great common inspiration of the day". Its motto was "every man his neighbour's debtor", one of Loubet's ministers claiming for it "the secret for the material and moral grandeur of society". Mr Blair himself could not have put it better.

A correspondent in the Independent complained: "All I could see was a string of jargon phrases". Jargon is deplorable when it is designed to divide those who understand it from those who do not. But Mr Blair's aim was not to divide but to unite. Has he done a fudge? If so, he is hardly alone among politicians.

Nicholas Bagnall

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