Seldom can a government planning circular have excited such fury.
Yet somehow planning circular 1/94, issued presumably in all
innocence by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, scaled the
heights of tabloid hysteria. No surprise that the circular
concerned a minority group, this time gypsies and travellers, whose
interests it was trying to uphold in a minimal way. The Sun and the
Daily Mail were in their element, the latter speaking of towns
“blighted by travellers”.
It was a reprise of the tabloid line on asylum seekers, which has
succeeded in whipping up prejudice across middle England, often in
places that never see an asylum seeker from one year to the next.
Fear of the stranger has much to do with it, rationality very
little. The planning circular merely attempts to repair some of the
damage done by the Conservative government in 1994 when it
abolished councils’ duty to provide sites for travellers. It can
only improve the current chaotic arrangements, to the advantage
both of travellers and their host communities. None of which was
apparent in the Sun and the Daily Mail, whose frequent targeting of
minorities ought to be a fit subject of study for the Press