Saturday, 23 April 2016

386 1979 General Election

First  viewed  : April  1979

Once  the  Easter  holidays  were  over  we  were  into  a  general  election  campaign  in  earnest. It  seemed  like  a  long  time  since  the  last  one, Jim  Callaghan  managing  to  keep  his  government  going  to  near  term   despite  losing  his  parliamentary  majority  some  time  back. There  was  no  sense  during  the  campaign  of  just  how  epochal  this  particular  election  was  going  to  be.

I  was  more  engaged  this  time  round  without  being  fully  committed  one  way  or  the  other, unlike  my  parents  who  needed  the  Conservatives'  promised  Assisted  Places  scheme  to  keep  my  sister  at  her   independent  grammar  school. However  my  Dad  was  agonising  over  his  vote  because  our  Labour  MP  Joel  Barnett  ( he  of  Scottish  funding  formula  fame ) had  been  very  helpful  in  securing  his  early  retirement  from  teaching  and  he  may  have  abstained   because  of  that.

I  remember  Barnett  and  the  council  candidate  David  Moffat  ( who  later  had  a  small  part  in  the  John  Stalker  affair )  coming  into  the   shelter  in  Littleborough  Square   where  I  was  waiting  for  the  bus  to  Rochdale  and  him  shaking  everybody's  hand  but  mine. I  obviously  wasn't  old  enough  to  vote  but  it  wouldn't  have  hurt  him. I  liked  his  politics  and  people  who  knew  him  said  he  was  a  nice  guy  but  that  always  rankled  a  bit.

I  watched  some  of  the  party political  broadcasts   this  time  round  including  the  famous  Saatchi  and  Saatchi  one   emphasising  Labour's  high  unemployment  figures. It  was  a  valid  political  point; they  just  left  out  the  bit  about  doubling  them  once  they  got  into  power. I  also  saw  the  Liberal  one  presented  by  neighbouring  MP  Cyril  Smith  in  what  was  a  very  difficult  election  for  them  after  the  Jeremy  Thorpe  scandal.

Saatchi  and  Saatchi  did  bring  a  new  professionalism  to  political  campaigning  which  helped  the  Conservatives  steal  a  march  on  their  opponents  but  it  was  really  the  Winter  of  Discontent  that  did  for  Labour, the  electorate  giving  the  Tories  a  clear  mandate  to  tackle  the  unions. Margaret  Thatcher  went  to  Downing  Street  and  made  one  of  the  most  inappropriate   political  speeches  of  all  time  when  she  promised  to  act  as  St  Francis  of  Assisi. Yeah,  right.

  The  most  prominent   losers  were  Thorpe  whose  constituents  decided  that  a  man  about  to  stand  trial  for  conspiracy  to  murder  wasn't  the  best  person  to  represent  them  , the  SNP  who  lost  most  of  their  seats  after  siding  with  the  Tories  in  the  vote  of  confidence  to put  Callaghan  out  and  Labour's  education  secretary  Shirley  Williams  who  was  surprisingly  turfed   out  at  Stevenage .    

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