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 .