Monday 27 January 2014

Past Politics And Identities

When I became eligible to vote in the days before saturation modern media politics was the press and any voluntary action of interest.  The BBC did not do much beyond basic reporting and there was no local radio and advertising was basic and skimpy.

But there was wide interest.  Political parties locally and nationally had much larger memberships and I recall an Attlee election meeting which drew several thousand in the audience who listened.  It was a very different world and a people with different basic attitudes.

For my part and most others what had happened two decades or more before and who was involved was history.  We were interested in the now and the future.  Could the Socialists deliver their promised land?  Could the Tories manage greater freedoms and allow decent social security and housing?  Could either of them reclaim the UK as a great trading power with a real world presence?

Arguing the whys and wherefores of the gold standard, The General Strike of 1926 and the wisdom or not and attitudes of Ramsay Macdonald, Lloyd George or Stanley Baldwin was both pointless and stupid.  Times had changed, the economy had changed radically and the future was going to be very different with all the technological and scientific advances.

By 2015 it will have been 25 years since Mrs. Thatcher left power, a full generation ago.  You need to be over 40 to have any actual memory and over 50 to have an effective political memory of her time in office.  The recent releases of 1983 documents look almost antique and the language is of a different order. 

The internet had not yet been created and the Cold War had ended only months before.  Yet we have people going on about Thatcherism and the events of her time.  Whether or not she got some things right or some things wrong is about as relevant to the present as old copies of the "Punch" magazine, in which a couple of times I had items.

Mrs. Thatcher was keen on the concept of "British Identity".  One reason may have been that she was aware that this was then and before something of an elusive concept.  Certainly when she first began in politics the main London media at the time did have a lot to say about Britishness.  My memory of that period is that the idea was vague, too much to do with Empire and world power and if anything our most immediate concerns were local.

You were British because you were British and might wave the flag and hope for Olympic medals etc. and were supposed to be proud of great projects, many of which never really worked or got off the ground. It was the increasing gap between media message and local realities that led to the growing detachment of the 1960's and cynicism of the 1970's.  I stopped buying British cars they were badly made, unreliable and expensive to run.

Quite what British "identity" we are supposed to have now is a real question.  The train on Saturday into London had about 400 people on board.  Excluding children around half are not eligible to vote and of the other half there were few over 40.  Quite what "identities" they might have is a question.  Very few, I think, would say "British" despite some being of that classification in the Census.

As a statistical sample this was not a good one.  But the more you look around the more you have an older element in the electorate who will either vote as they have always done or not at all. Some of them might say they have a "British" identity but this might be the default option.  As for the younger elements among the voters it is likely to be down to narrow personal financial interest.  What "identity" they might have is likely to be one created for them as a marketing defined segment.

Among many of the electorate it is likely that the General Election will be the equivalent of one of many Awards ceremonies, but this one is for which of the unattractive, unreliable collection of second raters and has been's is worth bothering to vote for.

The signs are that for many, especially the younger voters, it will not be worth bothering at all to vote for thickies who do nothing else but argue about ancient history and things that no longer exist.

We are in the picture above.


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