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UK plc

July 23, 2012

I’ve just read an article by the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt in which he refers to our beloved land by the ghastly term UK plc. Does anyone know the origin of this sickening phrase? It’s not the first time I’ve heard it – some idiot was using on the radio a few days ago, with exactly the same unctuous, pleased-with-self, aren’t-I-clever-for-using-this-up-to-the-minute-phrase-combining-ideology-and-economic-realism-with-a-little-bit-of-a-sense-of-humour tone. Can’t you just hear the smugness dripping out of it? This country isn’t a limited company; nations are not supposed to be limited companies; God forbid we should ever become one (though with the way the Olympics are being run perhaps that day isn’t too far off). I hope all my readers will join with me in objecting to and mercilessly ridiculing this phrase whenever they hear it. UK plc, forsooth! Piss off. 

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  1. Peter Howell permalink

    In the mid-80s there was primitive macro-economic policy simulation game for the BBC B home computer called, I think, ‘UK Ltd.’ or ‘GB Ltd.’. I’d think that the phrase derives from an analogy in classical economics of nations to a household or company; Adam Smith frequently uses this analogy in The Wealth of Nations, even though Hume had argued that the kind of protectionism suggested by that analogy was fundamentally wrong. It was one of the main purposes of Keynes’ General Theory to refute this neoclassical analogy; state spending funded by sovereign debt in a recession, far from ‘crowding out’ investment and bankrupting a state, actually adds to national wealth, as it stimulates investment and increases the tax-take. But presumably Hunt was defending state spending on the ‘Lympics, a new Labour project of course, so perhaps he doesn’t fully understand the term.

  2. Peter Howell permalink

    On the other hand, ‘economics’ as well as ‘ecology’ are partly derived from the Greek for household, ‘oikos’, so perhaps ‘UK PLC’ isn’t so inappropriate.

    Just remembered that the Pet Shop Boys satirised the term in their 1996 single, called ‘Single’:

    I come to the Community from UK plc,
    Arriving at the hotel there are faxes greeting me.

    Think ‘Community’ means European Community here, but let’s hope the Boys are hesitating on or suggesting a quibble with the use of the term.

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