On Tuesday I posted some wise words Dan Walsh had written about the Labour manifesto on Facebook and last night I sat up late trying to find something from my own experience that I could draw on to support my plea to ordinary working people – just like me – not to make the mistake that too many of our contemporaries made when they were faced with an equally stark choice in 1979 – when they made an appallingly wrong one.
Of course the turkeys who voted for Christmas in May ’79, didn’t realise how stark the choice was; the posters Saatchis came up with for Thatcher said “Labour isn’t working”, which implied that they were going to do something about unemployment but failed to mention that what they were going to do was to double it in the space of five years – which is precisely how long Johnson will have to do his worst if too many of the people that he so obviously looks down on are mug enough to make the mistake that they and or their parents and grandparents made forty years ago.
Thatcher never said, “Vote for me and I’ll decimate the industry that has seen your family’s circumstances improve – albeit ever so slightly and with the occasional stutter – year on year and then leave you on the dole long enough that you’ll beg for a call centre job on a fraction of what you had been earning”; and when he’s not ducking interviews and difficult questions, or hiding in fridges, Johnson never says, “Once we’ve got the EU and all of its troublesome employment and human rights out of the way we can get down to seriously screwing the lot of you” but it doesn’t take a crystal ball to know what the likely outcome is, just a long clear memory.
You’ll need clear and certain memories mind you, because even if you were there at the time, in the forty years that have passed since 1979 you’ll have been exposed to untold propaganda in the press and on the TV and radio telling you how appalling and intolerable life was in the ‘70s.
Just before I gave up last night I read a comment from my friend Andy where he scoffed at “The ‘remember the good old days’ argument”, but it was a follow on comment I saw today that crystallised the issue. In response to another friend he’d said, “Well I remember the 1970s that JC looks back to, before Thatcher, and it was crap. The nationalised railways and utilities were rubbish. The trains were filthy and unreliable. You had to go on a waiting list to get a phone. Nationalised airlines were overpriced. We made crap cars…”
And that’s when it finally it finally clicked; having attended Dulwich College followed by Caius, Cambridge, Andy had never enjoyed the perspective of an ordinary working lad in the mid ’70s who was in awe at his good fortune to have been born at a time when the gap between richest and poorest was getting narrower all the time and the future was looking shiny. The things Andy was complaining about were the ’70s equivalent of the ‘First World Problems’ spoiled millenniums complain about today.
At least half of my friends’ parents didn’t have a phone and not because of the waiting list, but simply because the couldn’t afford one (it might seem like rosy nostalgia to recall calling a girlfriend at an assigned time in a public phone box, but it did the job and the power cuts during the three day week provided plentiful opportunities for heavier petting!); fewer still owned a car, or flew anywhere on holiday, they’d happily pile into reasonably priced second class train carriages with their packed lunches and travel to the coast somewhere – so they didn’t even care how rubbish the buffet was.
Andy is a lovely warm, friendly, generous chap; it’s not his fault that he has a very distorted idea of the country he grew up in, we’re all a product of the families and postcodes we were raised in; it just happens to be a matter of fact that the overwhelming majority of people in significant positions in the media, are far more likely to have come from the sort of background Andy had, than the much larger pool that the rest of us sink or swim in and consequently their take on the world can hardly be expected to reflect the true memories of the people they tend to patronise.
So if you haven’t already voted and you honestly believe that Thatcher was the best thing that ever happened to this country, then cast you ballot for the Conservatives, you’re unlikely to be disappointed – in fact if you were impressed with the Iron Lady’s ruthlessness, you’re guaranteed to be absolutely blown away if Johnson, Rees-Mogg, Gove and Co are ever given their head.
If however you still have access to memories of a better more optimistic life and you’d prefer party with a leader who genuinely cares about the many rather than the few, there can only be one place to place your X.