Thursday, 3 May 2012

TV Review: The 1970s with Dominic Sandbrook

The 1970s with Dominic Sandbrook: another romp through the decade, now the time of strikes at a moments notice, and the vulnerability of Leland to around 40 different unions.

Some of the strikes at that time were about trivia - mice droppings on the factor floor, then after the cleaners had been, the floor was too shiny, so the strikers stayed out. I'm surprised he didn't show a clip from Carry on At Your Convenience, which captured this situation so well, when the shop steward gets the men out for trivial matters.

It was an exercise of sheer power, of the newly found ability of the unions to bring management to heel, and soon became not a means of getting rights, but a means of being the biggest bully in the playground. The end result was shoddy cars, which fell apart. James Callaghan test drove one, and the new electric window button promptly dropped the window in his lap! The problem was that this kind of random militancy over trivia would give the Unions a bad name, so that shop stewards like "Red Robbo" at British Leyland were actually laying the ground for Margaret Thatcher's anti-Union legislation.

Speaking of heels, the Sex Discrimination Law also came into the UK in this period. There was still a fight to make sure it worked, and in terms of equal pay, the situation is still probably not true parity. But it did mean that women could not be discriminated against and demeaned in such a way as before. Notable, a woman journalist fought a case and won in a Fleet Street pub where there was an unwritten rule that only men could order at the bar; women were expected to wait in a dark and dingy corner for someone to come and take their order!

In Guernsey it took until 2006 until a Sex Discrimination Law was passed, and the Jersey government is so far behind that it has yet to get round to passing the "draft discrimination law" despite the fact that this has been hanging around for over a decade - since 1999! All kinds of other anti-discrimination measures have been thrown into the pot of the Jersey law, and as a result it has been sitting there, stewing away, and going nowhere slowly. If Guernsey managed it, why on earth can't Jersey? What is the matter with the States of Jersey? In July 2011, the Council of Ministers under Senator Le Sueur said that Jersey will have its first anti-discrimination law by the end of 2012, but the reader will look in vain to see it listed on the propositions tabled for later in the year.

Football hooliganism came to the fore next. I always wondered why it erupted as it did, but according to Sandbrook, it seems to have been due to many older and middle aged men taking off to do DIY, gardening and all manner of hobbies rather than watching football; hence the younger generation coming up had no continuity, no older figures to keep them in order. Once it started, then it went into a vicious spiral out of control, and got steadily worse. It seems reminiscent of the changes that occurred after the First World War, where there was a generation gap caused by missing fathers, although this time, it was more interesting leisure pursuits that meant fathers were not there. This can be seen mirrored in the rising interest in allotments, and the home gardening shown in programs like "The Good Life", and the rise of the fortunes of B&Q.

I missed a few things along the way: there was no mention of that protest movement by naked people - streakers - running across football pitches, which is certainly one of the oddest forms of protest. They'd be escorted off, with their private parts hidden beneath a policeman's helmet - one of the most comic images of the time. Did it every take off in any other country? Apparently, according to my American friend, it did happen in the USA as well. The female equivalent began when a young woman decided to expose her breasts at a football match, and again this seems to have been both in UK and USA.

Sandbrook also mentions the IMF crisis when Healey was desperate to get bail-out loans from the IMF to rescue the UK economy. But he didn't mention the figures were wrong, overstated, and Healey need not have borrowed so much, and could have had less austerity measures. By that time, North Sea oil would have boosted the economy back into growth, as indeed it did shortly after, getting Margaret Thatcher out of the same kind of economic black hole. In that respect, Andrew Marr's programme on post-war Britain was better, as it could tease out the threads into the next decade, and fixing on the 1970s does mean a certain straight-jacket on how far one can comment.

But it's an interesting look at the decade, even if this hour was perhaps slightly more episodic than the others in how it looked at aspects of the 1970s.

No comments: