Furore over the football almost eclipsed Michael Heseltine’s announcement last week of a plan to revive Manchester’s bomb-damaged city centre. A scheme that might otherwise have made the headlines got very little airtime as England fans mourned their defeat. The nation’s mind was on an international contest very different from the design competition the Deputy Prime Minister was proposing.
So scant was the interest that few details emerged of the Manchester plan and we’re still hazy about the Government’s commitment. What exactly does Heseltine mean when he talks of Government “help” with the finance?
Heseltine’s idea harks back to the early Eighties when urban renewal was king and, as Environment Secretary, he hatched a plan for garden festivals to bring new life to inner city areas. Liverpool was the main focus then and the vote-getting scheme was okay while the festival lasted. But then the inevitable Cabinet reshuffle took Heseltine to defence.
Manchester needs all the help it can get right now and a global trawl for design ideas would be a great start. But if Heseltine really wants to make his mark in the name of design, he might look closer to home and bring his considerable influence to bear on creating a Government design strategy.
It’s well known that effective design management could make a big difference to the Civil Service, saving cash and improving efficiency. It’s the rally cry of our industry leaders. But staunch support is emerging elsewhere – take Alex Pratt’s efforts at the Department of Trade and Industry (see page 12). Despite unswerving commitment though, the activists are only nibbling away at the edges. It needs a champion within to push the cause – and who better than Hezza, whose interest in design and cross-departmental position would make him a powerful ally?
Such a major cultural shift would provide a far better example to business than any number of smaller success stories. But is it glamorous enough to win votes?