If any party gained from the week’s Government debacle it is surely the design community.
The coming together of elements of the former Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills to form the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills creates a more coherent touchpoint for the Design Council within Government and the Civil Service (see News, page 5). Its business, education and skills programmes can, in theory, be more easily integrated within the new department.
But the most encouraging moves involve the personalities highlighted in Gordon Brown’s reshuffle. The elevation of Lord Mandelson in particular, to First Secretary of State and Secretary of BIS, gives the creative industries a well-placed champion. Despite his chequered political career, Mandelson has a strong affinity with design since the early days of Tony Blair’s rule. His four-year stint as EU Commissioner for Trade should have given him a fresh perspective on the pressures facing UK business.
But Mandelson isn’t the only senior politician to fly the flag for design. Former DIUS Secretary John Denham takes over as Communities Secretary, which bodes well for the Designs of the Time initiative being spun out across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly given his close dealings with design activists to date.
The shift of Alan Johnson from the Department of Health, a key collaborator in the Design Bugs Out venture (DW 30 April), to the Home Office in place of Jacqui Smith means bids to address crime through design by Sebastian Conran, the Design Council, Lorraine Gamman and The Sorrell Foundation should get a sympathetic hearing.
We have yet to see what impact Alan Sugar’s role as enterprise advisor will have. His business approach isn’t to everyone’s taste. But, overall, the reshuffle brings hope of greater Government commitment to design and better opportunities in the public sector. Let’s hope the new line-up stays in place long enough to make a difference.