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Were the 1970s as bad as the Tories claim?

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Were the 1970s as bad as the Tories claim?

Post by Ivan on Fri Oct 02, 2015 11:08 pm

History is written by the victors.” (Winston Churchill)

The Tories love to tell us, as if it’s an indisputable fact, that the 1970s were terrible years; the right-wing historian Dominic Sandbrook calls them “the gloomiest decade in modern British history”. He says that “shorn of its empire, Britain now cut a very miserable figure on the world stage. For at least two decades we had been falling behind our rivals, and now the contrast was painful to see…..our major cities seemed shabby and seedy, our newspapers were full of strikes and walkouts, almost every week seemed to bring some new atrocity in Northern Ireland…..foreign papers talked of Britain as ‘the sick man of Europe’.” Tim Farron, the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, paints a similar picture: “The 1970s bring back dreadful memories of a weak economy, hopeless state management of that economy, gross inefficiency and poor quality in public services, of rising prices and rising unemployment. Add this to disastrous and paralysing industrial relations and you have a toxic brew”.

It’s true that the quadrupling of oil prices almost overnight in late 1973 rendered much of Britain’s manufacturing uncompetitive and caused high inflation, which was arguably the biggest problem of the decade. It’s also true that the early 1970s brought an explosion of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, followed by a heavy-handed and brutal clampdown by the British army, and that by 1974 the violence had spread to the mainland. Pub bombings in Guildford, Woolwich and Birmingham in October and November of that year killed a total of 27 people. It’s quite correct that the Labour government sought an IMF loan in 1976 (much of which was never used) as it struggled to cope with the inflationary pressures it had inherited from the Tories in 1974. There was indeed a global economic downturn, but Britain was not ‘the sick man of Europe’ but just another economy struggling to cope with the situation.

Kiran Moodley writes that “several months of strikes in 1978 and 1979 have become the symbol of a whole decade of British politics. One of Thatcher’s greatest legacies is a rewriting of the nation’s memory that makes the 1970s appear so monumentally dire that if she hadn’t have come along, Britain would have been the Greece of the 1980s. Unfortunately, the ‘winter of discontent’ has created a fog over our collective memory of the 1970s, aided and abetted by Thatcherite propaganda that continues today from journalists and politicians who find it easier to reach for a generalisation than a history book.”

A responsible history book would tell a different story. One Tory council, Westminster, did stop collecting its refuse as a political ploy, and there was one part of Liverpool where the dead weren’t buried as quickly as they should have been. However, in most situations, the trade unions, often in the face of difficult managers, attempted to avoid strikes. During the 1970s, accidents and certified illnesses accounted for about 320 million lost days a year, thirty times more than those caused by industrial disputes.

The 1970s saw no street disturbances to compare with the major riots and picket line violence of the 1980s. Young people would usually go straight into paid employment from school or university. Graduates had a huge advantage that they lack now: they left university free of debt, having had their fees and upkeep paid from local authority grants. Many people from working class backgrounds were getting on the property ladder, since there was not such a disparity between property valuations and wages. In early 1974, the average UK house cost £10,000, or five times the average annual income of a male employee. In September 2015, the average house price was over £204,000, nearly eight times average earnings. If you couldn't afford to buy a property, council housing was available, while rents in private accommodation were controlled.

Chancellor Denis Healey reduced public expenditure from 44.9% of GDP in 1974 to 42.8% in 1979, and inflation slumped from 24% in 1975 to 8% in 1978. VAT was 8%, prescriptions only cost 20p an item (they rose to £1 in Thatcher’s first year in office), the state pension increased by 20% in real terms between 1974 and 1979, and benefits for the disabled and infirm were introduced. New employment legislation strengthened equal pay provisions and provided job security and maternity leave for pregnant women.

The journalist Owen Jones has written how “the UK was one of the most equal Western European countries before the Thatcherite project began; it's now one of the most unequal”. The Gini coefficient cited the UK as at its most equal in terms of wealth and income around 1976. We also had the lowest levels of poverty in Europe and amongst the highest rates of social mobility. Britain's standard of living rose by 6.4% in one year (1978) to reach its highest ever level. Bernard Nossiter, a Washington Post journalist, argued in his 1978 book ‘Britain - The Future That Works’, that Britain, unlike the USA, had created a contented society which had managed to get the balance right between work, leisure and remuneration.

In October 1978, Labour won a parliamentary by-election with an increased majority, no small achievement for a party which had been in power for more than four years. Sadly, the propaganda value of a few months of strikes during the following winter enabled Thatcher to come to power in May 1979 and set about imposing the neoliberal agenda which has plagued the UK ever since. If we are ever going to break free from it, we must destroy the myths put forward by Thatcherite ideologues. We need people to understand that the British economy performed far better 40 years ago than is commonly believed, that the mixed economy model didn't fail, and that the 1970s was a much better decade than anything we’ve seen since.

He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” (George Orwell)

Sources used:-

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22076886

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/07/tim-farrons-beveridge-memorial-lecture-full-text

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/why-the-warnings-about-a-return-to-the-1970s-we-were-living-the-good-life-then-8859532.html

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/04/thatcher%E2%80%99s-greatest-legacy-rewriting-seventies

http://www.theweek.co.uk/politics/23545/seventies-were-great-dont-believe-myth-thatcherism  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Labour_Party_(UK)
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Re: Were the 1970s as bad as the Tories claim?

Post by oftenwrong on Sat Oct 03, 2015 11:46 am

The first Thatcher government took over in May 1979 just as Britain's economic situation was being transformed by revenues from North Sea Oil.  It ensured the Tories' re-election in June 1983.

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Re: Were the 1970s as bad as the Tories claim?

Post by Ivan on Mon Nov 02, 2015 10:52 pm

I was collecting up leaves in my front garden a few days ago when a car stopped and the driver went to the house opposite and read its gas and electricity meters. Then he drove away again. I assume the occupants of that house are the only people in the road to get their domestic fuel from the energy company for which that man works. I couldn’t help but think how, back in the 1970s, before gas and electricity were privatised, one person would read all the gas meters in a road and another would read all the electricity meters. What a wasteful and inefficient system we have now!

Anyone with at least half a brain doesn’t believe the Tory mantra that “everything is better in private hands”. Nothing discredited that nonsense better than the security arrangements for the 2012 Olympics. In March of that year, a Whitehall official said: "The Olympics is a tremendous opportunity to showcase what the private sector can do in the security space". G4S was the main security contractor for the event, but when it failed to provide enough security guards, an extra 1,200 military personnel (on top of the 13,500 troops already defending London) – in other words, the public sector – were drafted in to cover the inefficiencies of a private company.

For much of the last 200 years, it’s fair to say that the ‘extremists’ of one age (for example, those who wanted universal education or votes for women) were in time accepted as having ‘moderate’ ideas. Now things are going the other way. People such as Jeremy Corbyn, who think that the railways and utilities should be returned to public ownership, are portrayed as ‘extremists’ for advocating policies which were accepted even by many Tories during the social democratic consensus between 1945 and 1979. As the playwright Alan Bennett commented: "Since the 1980s, one has only had to stand still to become a radical.”
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Re: Were the 1970s as bad as the Tories claim?

Post by Ivan on Sun Apr 03, 2016 9:37 am

If this apparently Damascene conversion had appeared on 1 April rather than today, I’m not sure that I’d have believed it, especially as it comes from 'The Daily Mail':-

Privatisation! Free trade! Shares for all! The great con that ruined Britain

From an article by Peter Hitchens:-

I am so sorry now that I fell for the great Thatcher-Reagan promise. I believed all that stuff about privatisation and free trade and the unrestrained market. I think I may even have been taken in by the prophecies of a great share-owning democracy. I thought that private British Telecom would be automatically better than crabby old Post Office Telephones.

Sure, some things have got cheaper, and the coffee and the restaurants are better – but the essentials of life are harder to find than ever: a solid, modest home big enough to house a small family in a peaceful, orderly landscape; good local schools open to all who need them; reasonably paid secure work for this generation and the next; competent government and wise laws. These have become luxuries, unattainable for millions who once took them for granted.

The new broom swept, and it swept pretty clean. Car assembly lines, railway workshops, glassworks engineering plants, chocolate factories vanished or shrank to nothing. Why are the few factories that do exist almost always foreign-owned, their fate decided far away by people who don’t much care about this country? And why is our current-account deficit with the rest of the world the worst it’s ever been in peacetime, and nearly as bad as it was during the Great War that bankrupted this country a century ago? And now the remains of our steel industry are vanishing, not because nothing can be done (any determined government could save it if it really wanted to) but because we’re all still worshipping that free-market dogma that captivated us 30 years ago.


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-3520932/PETER-HITCHENS-Privatisation-Free-trade-Shares-great-ruined-Britain.html
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Re: Were the 1970s as bad as the Tories claim?

Post by oftenwrong on Sun Apr 03, 2016 10:46 pm

The Tory administration is not currently getting the uncritical support it once enjoyed from our National newspapers. Gideon's sums in particular don't seem to add up, at a time in which the £GBP is falling against major currencies.

Shades of Tory Chancellors past.



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Re: Were the 1970s as bad as the Tories claim?

Post by Ivan on Fri Dec 30, 2016 11:02 pm

An extract from ‘Injustice’ by Danny Dorling, Policy Press, 2015, page 67:-

In Britain, half of all schoolchildren were attending non-selective secondary schools by 1973; again, educational inequalities fell fastest when income inequalities became most narrow. These were crucial years where issues of equality between rich and poor were being fought over worldwide as well as between local schools. Internationally, poorer countries that controlled the supply of oil worked together to raise the price of oil dramatically in that same turbulent year (during the October Yom Kippur war). International inequalities in wealth fell to their lowest recorded levels; worldwide inequalities in health reached a minimum a few years later. Within Britain and the US, such health and wealth inequalities had reached their lowest recorded levels a little earlier, around the start of the 1970s. This was a wonderful time for people in affluent countries, who had never had it so good. Wages had never been as high; even the US minimum wage was at what would later turn out to be its historic maximum.

Before the jobs went at the end of the decade, before insecurity rose, it was a great time to be ordinary, or to be average, or even above average, but the early 1970s were a disconcerting time if you were affluent. Inflation was high; if you were well off enough to have savings, then those savings were being eroded. People began to realise that their children were not going to be as cushioned as they were by so much relative wealth, by going to different schools
.”
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Re: Were the 1970s as bad as the Tories claim?

Post by Ivan on Tue Oct 03, 2017 11:26 am

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Re: Were the 1970s as bad as the Tories claim?

Post by oftenwrong on Tue Oct 03, 2017 2:20 pm

Now we understand why Housebuilders vote the way they do.
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Re: Were the 1970s as bad as the Tories claim?

Post by boatlady on Tue Oct 03, 2017 5:20 pm

bought my first home in 1977 on the proceeds of one entry-level unqualified residential worker salary (about £1700 pa) - it was cheaper than renting equivalent space, even though it needed a bit of updating.
Less than 5 years later, sold it for double the money - I note Thatcher became PM in 1979 - any link d'ya think?
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Re: Were the 1970s as bad as the Tories claim?

Post by oftenwrong on Tue Oct 03, 2017 7:43 pm

At a stroke, Thatcher's "Right-to-buy" added thousands of properties to the open market, and simultaneously enabled Mortgage Lenders to prosper.

Cunning. Shame that Blair didn't think it necessary to correct.
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Re: Were the 1970s as bad as the Tories claim?

Post by Ivan on Sat Nov 18, 2017 9:15 am

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Re: Were the 1970s as bad as the Tories claim?

Post by oftenwrong on Sat Nov 18, 2017 11:29 pm

Inflation is the real enemy. In 1970 you could buy a decent family home for £3,000.

If you had put £20,000 under the mattress when the Credit Crunch hit us in 2008, it would now buy less than £15,000-worth of goods. If there is anything you really need right now, and have the money - just buy it, because it will definitely cost more next year.
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Re: Were the 1970s as bad as the Tories claim?

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