Friday, June 29, 2007

Dominic Sandbrook rewrites history

As I've mentioned many times before, the standard New Labour/Thatcherite rewrite of history divides the post-war period in two periods: 1945-79, years of creeping socialism and decline, culminating in Britain's designation as 'The Sick Man of Europe' and 1979- the present day, the years of 'recovery', during which Britian was transformed into a 'modern' dynamic 'market' economy.
In the same way that neo-cons see the need to hype up the 'crimes' of even the 'softest' of post-war European communist regimes, such as Kadar's Hungary of the 1970s and 80s, neo-liberals constantly try to trash the P.T. (pre-Thatcher) years and paint a very different picture from that experienced by people living in Britain at the time.

Here's Dominic Sandbrook writing in the London Evening Standard:

"When he (Harold Wilson) retired in 1976, Britain was a dingy, miserable place"

Really Dominic? How then do you explain that 1976 was recently designated Britain's happiest post-war year by a respected economics think-tank which ranked years according to a number of quality of life variables?
(My own take on the state of Britain in 1976 can be read here)

Sandbrook continues with this classic line:
"Of course Blair cannot take all the credit (for Britain's 'transformation').....Without Thatcher's controversial reforms, Britain might look a lot more like France today. "

In other words Britain might look like a country with a world class, affordable and publicly owned public transport system, and one which still maintains a manufacturing base. A country that has avoided Britain's huge disparities in wealth and which is so appallingly run that hundreds of thousands of British people have second homes there, if they haven't emigrated there already. Oh, what a tragedy it would be, Mr Sandbrook, if Britain did indeed "look a lot more like France"!


Anonymous said...

The things I most remember from 1976 were having to share my bathwater with the rest of my family due to the prolonged drought, and the birth of the punk movement.

Neither memory suggests a collective purr of national contentment.

Neil Clark said...

I always thought the growth of punk had more to do with disillusion with over-produced inaccessible 'super rock' bands and the way the music industry was going generally, rather than a protest against the prevailing left-of-centre keynesian mixed economy consensus. I can't recall too many punk bands singing about the virtues of privatisation or tax cuts for the rich....
But as a member of the Pistols, sid, you're in a better position to tell us what you were getting so agitated about....
perhaps it was the hot weather?

Ken said...

I was 20 in 1976 and the thing that I remember most about the year was how long and hot it was - a summer that went on forever.

It was before the Callaghan regime took over, so things were ticking along nicely. Management knew their place, with only the odd strike needed to sort them out.

Things would change the following year, but let's remember the good times.

A sad thought: when we are dead the nonsense that Sanbrook et al writes will be the accepted wisdom. Well it is not true.

Neil Clark said...

Dominic Sandbrook was two in 1976. It's clear he knows exactly what the country was like then....

Anonymous said...

. . . and Neil Clark was 10, so he is clueless too. It was a dreadful and politically corrupt time.

And the new economics forum (sic) a respected think tank? In a pig's arse.

Neil Clark said...

Sure, someone who was 2 in 1976 is far better placed to pass comment on the year than someone who was 10, or, in the case of The Exile, 20.
"It was a dreadful and politically corrupt time"- would you care to elaborate? Regarding political corruption I don't think anyone can compete with New Labour except possibly Lloyd George's post WW1 govt. Never heard of 'cash for honours' Andrew?
And what's your problem with NEF?
Does your dislike of them stem from the fact that unlike the ASI they don't come up with barmy ideas like privatising Britain's railways?

Ken said...


This has inspired a posting at my place - thanks.

An idea, off the top of my head. If we don't recapture the popular memory we will lose out.

What about a working class memory page? To take these memories and preserve them?

Anonymous said...

Exile is just nostalgic for the days when the work-shy could sponge off the welfare state and not give a damn about the country falling into bankruptcy.

And on the subject of punk: every remember Chelsea, songs like "Right To Work", the expression "dole queue rock", etc, etc.

All this post reveals is the rapid approach of Neil Clark's middle age. Give him a few more decades and he'll be waxing lyrical about the good old 1990s. If there was ever a safe bet, that is surely one.

Matthew Lock said...

1976 doesn't sound that great economically:

"On 4 March 1976 the value of the British pound against the US dollar began to slide in international markets. The slide turned into a rout and triggered a traumatic economic and political crisis. By September confidence in the pound had collapsed; the Labour Government under Prime Minister James Callaghan was forced to turn for help to the International Monetary Fund, a familiar option for Third World countries but unusual for a developed Western economy.
In April 1975 "The Wall Street Journal" advised investors to get out of sterling under the headline "Good-bye Great Britain". The US Government in particular feared economic crisis would drive Britain into a left-wing siege economy, endangering Nato and the EEC."

Matthew Lock said...

Another reference for how bad things were in the 1976:

"Britain's mid-1970s economic crisis was so bad that it could have led to the loss of its nuclear weapons system in a "siege economy", papers reveal"

Sosialisten said...

Endangering Nato and the EEC? That's only a bad thing if you love war and the neoliberal centralisation of power i the European Union.

And what's so great about nuclear weapons?