Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Why we are back in 1974 in reverse

At the weekend I wrote two rather special blogs about my Dad. Saturdays was listing the ten things I miss about him and Sundays was concerning his war record and how he was shot down and made it back to the UK. As I was pondering these later on Sunday, he was born in 1917 and I realised that he was the same age in 1974 as I am now (57 years old). At the time I was twelve. It got me thinking about the challenges and political situation of the times. The parallels are quite incredible, but so many things have become a mirror image. There were two elections in 1974, a spring and an autumn one. The first resulted in a hung parliament, which required an Autumn election to sort the mess out. The Labour party won, largely by promising a referendum on membership of the EEC. Strangely this is Labour party policy today, but it seems to hardly get a mention. The right wing press was full of stories of how the Unions would run/ruin the country if Labour were re-elected (some things will never change).

My Father was a supporter of the concept of European Union. He was a former WWII bomber pilot, and had been stationed in Foggia in Italy in 1944, so he'd seen first hand the devastation across Europe of war. Ted Heath was Leader of the Tories, unlike Boris, he was a passionate European, with Labour being far more sceptical, however I suspect that just like Boris, that scepticism is for public consumption.

As I write this, I am hearing that the Labour Party has had a cyber attack. Although the source isn't known as I write this, there has been repeated claims of Russian influence. In 1974, there were similar rumours, although now it seems Russia favours the leave supporting Tories, wheras in the 1970's it was the Labour Party that were suspected of collusion.

Another interesting parallel is what is happening in the USA. 1974 saw the first inklings of the Watergate scandal, that would result in the impeachment of Republican President Nixon. As we all know, Donald Trump is facing similar problems from Congress.

Then there is the foreign policy. In 1974, Nixon was desperately trying to extricate the USA from the mess of its own creation in Vietnam. Today Trump faces similar problems in Syria, sadly I suspect that the problems will prove far more messy in the long term than Vietnam.

There are some other interesting parallels. In sport, Manchester United were relegated in 1974. Whilst the finances of football make such a thing highly unlikely today, they have been, in effect, relegated from the top flight, as they are no longer regulars in the Champions League. As in 1974, City are the top team in Manchester, United having suffered a series of unsuccessful managers following the end of the glorious Busby era.

As for music, 1974 is the glam rock era. One of the interesting things about Glam Rock for me was that was the first music genre to really be TV friendly. When Bolan and Bowie stormed our living rooms via Top of The Pops, the old ways of relentless gigging to bolster album sales suddenly seemed old hat. A hit single on TOTP was the way forward. Now TOTP is gone, but we find our superstars on The Voice and X Factor reality shows. Strangely Vinyl is back on the high street! I suspect that many are bought to put on the mantle piece and are never played.

There are a few other rather strange parallels. Take education. This always seems to go in phases. In the 1970's the consensus was that Comprehensive Education was the way to go. Margaret Thatcher was a particular champion of this. Grammer Schools were forced to change or merge to produce mega comprehensives. I was attending Finchley Catholic High School, which had been created out of a merger between Finchley Grammar School and Chaloner (a small Catholic private school). The shock to the schools establishment meant that it almost ceased to function as a viable educational establishment. My year had the worst ever results, before the Head was sacked and a long period of adaption and retrenchment was begun. The Labour party has similar plans, aiming to completely abolish private schooling. At the same time The Tories are doing everything to take the axe to Thatchers baby, the Comprehensive system. Once again, these changes throw schools into turmoil and pupils education will suffer, as mine did. It seems that the Tories have looked at 1974 and decided to put the UK into reverse gear!

Another worrying parallel is the Middle East. In 1974 there was a war between the Arab nations and Israel. This year has seen a Turkish invasion of Syria.  It is a tragedy that 45 years after that conflict, the region is more dangerous than ever.

The final similarity I will list is one that will probably mean nothing to anyone but me. When I was twelve, I bought a small Philips radio, that I could listen to when I went to bed. It was perhaps my best friend for a couple of years. The Radio Station that I fell in love with was BBC Radio London. Regular readers will know that I am still a big fan of the station. My favourite show was Robbie Vincents late night London. It was a show where, as a 12 year old, London was brought to life. It started as a show called "The Crisis Show", because during the miners strike, TV transmissions were shut down and only the radio was broadcast. After the crisis passed, I became a firm fan, until I discovered punk rock and switched allegiance in 1977 to John Peel. Today, I am back on BBC radio London with the Robert Elms show! It's in the morning, rather than late at night, but it is the place to keep in touch with London.
Please join us on Friday 13th December at 8pm at The Midland Hotel, Hendon, for the Barnet Eye Community awards and annual Xmas party. We are also looking for nominations for our community awards, click here for details. Free admission

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