This is a tale of two Lewises. One, Lewis Silkin, was the minister for town and country planning in Labour’s post-war government. Stevenage, the country’s first new town built in 1946, was his baby. He envisioned it becoming a “gay and bright place” that would take the community-minded “spirit of the slums” and place it in the middle of the countryside with wonderful amenities and good municipal houses with gardens front and back.
The other is Lewis Hamilton, Formula One champion and Stevenage’s most famous son, who misspoke during the Sports Personality of the Year awards last year. In an unscripted moment, he said: “It really was a dream for us all as a family to do something different. For us to get out of the slums.” He immediately corrected himself and later apologised.
Somewhere up there Silkin stared down mouth agape, while back in Stevenage many looked on askance. Stevenage has no slums. That was the whole point. But it has seen better days.