Shovels at the ready

In an effort to get Britain moving again, the Coalition Government has announced a new series of building projects. And to show just how imminent they really are, the press has been describing six as ‘shovel-ready’.

From what I can see, this is the first time that this particular phrase has crossed the Atlantic. Shovel-ready, basically meaning that building can start immediately, seems to have emerged at the end of 2008 in a Barack Obama interview. So it’s a phrase you can believe in.

Now I am no building expert, but given the enormity of modern building projects, a shovel seems quite the least of it. Breeze block-ready, concrete mixer-reader, giant crane-ready – these would have carried the same meaning and also been more evocative of what was actually going to happen.

To give the Government its due, it doesn’t seem that Nick Clegg, who was promoting the policy, has actually used the phrase ‘shovel-ready’ in speeches or interviews. It’s probably a good job. If he had, some of his opponents might have wanted to know what he was shovelling.