Progressive politics needs progressive language
Dee Thomas, a Labour Party member since May 2015, says one of the ways we can demonstrate our values is in our choice of language.
Perhaps for too long in the UK we have continued to use terms in speech or in titles that have always been used historically but are now irrelevant, and sometimes damaging, in the modern world. Language and words have, since language began, been instrumental in persuasive argument, and we shouldn’t underestimate the power of language to frame our policy ideas and our message.
One example that topically springs to mind is the term “junior doctor”. Whilst just about descriptive of a new doctor fresh out of medical school and in the first two years of obligatory foundation training, the term junior doctor is both derogatory and demeaning when applied to a practitioner with several years of front line service and experience behind them.
Many of our so called “junior doctors” will be saving lives on a daily basis and must surely resent the title “junior” being applied to them as they go about their daily work.
Many of our so called “junior doctors” will be just a year or so away from promotion to consultant. Many of them will lead vital teams in our hospitals. What is so wrong with calling them doctors?
I believe that Labour across the UK has a duty to change this and to set itself apart from other parties, by recognising that many of the concerns expressed by the BMA relate to morale, and that a simple change of language could have at least some positive impact on the morale of these key workers.
The gravest danger to our health service – apart from Jeremy Hunt – is that long serving, experienced people will seek other careers or leave the country. These are not people lacking transferable skills and they are to my knowledge the only professional people who must endure the label of being “ junior” for about ten years after qualification.
Labour needs some strong messages about how people will be treated under a future Labour government and small, simple changes like this seem to me to be a jolly good start.