What's in a name?



As Big Ben finished tolling 3 pm yesterday, the Speaker began an understated ceremony to rename the Clock Tower. Calling it Elizabeth Tower celebrates the Queen’s Jubilee.  It does not mean we have to abandon the name for the bell, Tobias Ellwood, the MP who originally proposed the change, reassured us. Paul Flynn, however, tweeted: @Paulflynnmp “Act of profound futility in 're-naming' of Big Ben. Could the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal or Empire State Building be re-named? Big Benn better.” And another MP joked “so its Vic and Liz now is it?”, referring to Victoria Tower at the other end of the Palace. Names have social and political significance.



Caught by Olympics fever like the rest of the nation, it seemed utterly appropriate to be interviewing Sir Menzies Campbell on the day that Bolt won the 200m. Sir Menzies ran the same race for GB in 1964. We discussed the differences between sport and politics. You win in sports by seconds or centimetres whereas a politician measures success by votes. Hard work and a fiercely competitive streak are useful to both. Athletes and politicians compete for themselves but also for their team and their nation. They can make our spirits soar. When Mo Farrar won the 10,000m and then the 5,000m last night patriotism no longer felt embarrassing.


So why are politicians so rarely treated as heroes? People often doubt MPs’ altruism, assuming that they have to be either unselfish or ego maniacs. But the truth is more likely to be one of mixed motives, fluctuating as they do for athletes between wanting to win for themselves and wanting their team or country to do well too.


Subscribe to Emma Crewe RSS