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Updated on April 16, 2012


Regular readers will have previously followed my life trail through the decades of my own life from 1940 to current times, relating to both my own microcosmic life set against the macrocosm of world events over the period. It was only this weekend that I realised that personal recollections, whilst obviously relevant are bound to be flawed for one is basically too close to the wood to see the trees in relation to the factors that affected and ultimately shaped the society and indeed the world we all inhabit.

The reason for the revelation was based on a political study of the 1970"s, which I found both interesting and revealing. To people like me, born as World War Two got fully underway and who have seen subsequently such progress on so many fronts, many of which in my teenage years of the 1950"s were then pure science fiction. A cartoon Detective, called Dick Tracey had a wrist watch which was a phone with a screen so he could both talk to someone and see them. Impossible then, but apparently almost mundane now.

As the 60"s followed, they became the now most vaunted decade, when youth took great steps to the type of independence they see today. Now we are told that if we can remember the 60"s then we were not really there. I remember them. However, when it comes to the 1970"s, things seem less clear to me. No longer a boy but a father to 2 sons, the 70"s were a turbulent decade for me personally and maybe that is why I have overlooked the amazing events that rocked political life and society to the very core.

Charles Dickens, in A Tale of Two Cities, reflected on the best and worst of times. He could have been foretelling the 1970"s. Let me explain. A review of a new study of the political strife in the UK this weekend, provided triggers to my memory of the tumultuous decade. Being caught up in so much personal upheaval, I either discounted or failed to notice the major effects going on around me ,or simply ploughed on regardless ,stuck in my own personal furrow. Now, thanks to a new book by Dominic Sandbrook and a top review by Ian Morris, I have been able to stand back and see clearly the wood from the trees as regards the major aspects that shaped the way UK is today.


In THE 1970"s, the very fabric of life in Britain as we knew it began to crumble with Government , if not oblivious at least unable to deal with it. The Prime Minister of the Labour Government was an amiable TV promoted windbag called James Callaghan. Sandbook focuses on half the decade {1974 /79} and quite rightly draws comparisons with the Dickens novel set in 1789. At that time, though embroiled in conflict and intrigue with the French {has it ever been any different}, the UK was doing just fine at home. So in the 1970"s we were all bombarded by the TV telling us that we should all have kitchens and lifestyles like Film Stars and all the other trappings now available to the "ORDINARY MAN AND HIS WIFE".

No wonder then, that as this type of propaganda reached incessantly into the living room that, as a nation we saw the second half of the 70"s bring to the fore a society wherein protest, anger and radicalisation were de rigeur almost . No section of society was immune, workers in industry, pensioners, trendy left wing radicals all gave vent to there personal protests as they demanded more, and then more, and then even more.

Sandbrook notes a couple of revealing quotes from Prime Minister Callaghan as everything cascaded downwards, for apart from the wide social protests the country was also beset by inflation levels up to 25%. Police demanding pay rises of over 100% and Tax levels of up to 98% with the coffers bare in the Treasury. There were also other "minor" issues like the IRA and their bombs across the UK to make things more difficult.Set against this backdrop, Callaghan, the leader to whom the country looked at times of great concern, apparently offered his opinion that were he a younger man he would "emigrate" and that he was seriously wondering if "life in these islands will break down". Not the most inspiring PM we have ever had was Jim !

Mind you, the strife continuing to build around him, he had a point. The Chancellor had to rush cap in hand to the IMF to seek a bail out just as his own Labour Party were voting him off their Executive Committee. The winter of discontent saw the streets of the capital back in Dickensian times as bags of rubbish rotted in the streets and the Hospitals turned away the sick. Who would be a Prime Minister in that scenario. Certainly, no sane or ambitious bloke. Ever adroit, the Conservatives elected a woman as their leader, no doubt hoping that the problem would destroy her and when it was again safe they could appoint a decent chap with no more hassle from the feminists. Thus, the country voted, Margaret Thatcher became PM and all went according to plan, that is till the Lady showed the Churchillian qualities of leadership needed in straightened times. Like Churchill though before her, those qualities were to work against her a decade on when the UK had entered less choppy waters.

The 1970"s were indeed the best and worst of times for UK and exemplify that Government often completely fails to get to grips with the problem and that most political leaders have feet of clay beneath their carefully honed speech making. Jim Callaghan then, David Cameron now, and despite being very different in nature, nurture and political persuasion, I would not follow either round the corner, never mind into battle with any great expectations. As Dickens said "it was {is} the best of times, the worst of times".


As Shakespeare said "A PLAGUE ON ALL THEIR HOUSES ! Then again, what is the alternative?


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