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Showing posts from April, 2013

Reflections on the Thatcher era

I sat through the extended BBC news bulletin on the death of Margaret Thatcher and can’t say I really learnt anything much I didn’t already know. One of the problems with such huge figures is that their lives have already been so analysed and picked over that there is nothing much left to say when they finally pop their clogs.

For me, the announcement of the Iron Lady’s demise actually provokes surprisingly little emotion. If I do feel anything, it’s probably at a personal, sentimental level. It’s about the people I knew and the places I visited as a left-wing teenage activist in the 1980s. Memories of a time in which in which Thatcher was dominant and omnipresent. A malign force which banded us together. There was a great camaraderie among activists involved in organisations such as CND and Anti-Apartheid, although on occasions it seemed like the camaraderie of the damned. Maggie really did go on and on and those years passed excruciatingly slowly.

The first demonstration I ever we…

Welfare, Philpott and the dangers for Labour

I remember going on a media training course well over 20 years ago, run by a lady who was a hard-bitten Fleet Street hack of the old school. The kind of person who could type 40 wpm with two fingers, while chain-smoking Silk Cut. She started by explaining that there were only three things that qualified a story as news: sex, death and conflict. How salient her observation seems to be in the light of the extraordinary case of Mick Philpott – ‘Shameless Mick’ as he’s branded by The Daily Mail – whose conviction for the manslaughter has thrown up a generous helping of all her three criteria.

Philpott would have been big news at the best of times. But these aren’t the best of times in the UK. On the week his trial concluded, the government introduced cuts in welfare benefits which are going to leave a lot of people poorer. Amid the polarised debate, the trial set another sinister fire raging in pubs, workplaces and social networking sites. Just how far was Philpott’s lifestyle symptomati…