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Blair and the 1960s


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#1 John Simkin

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Posted 21 July 2004 - 05:08 PM

It was no real surprise that Thatcher Mark II should eventually get round to blaming the 1960s for the country’s problems. Thatcher did that because it was a decade that was mainly governed by the Labour Party. Blair, given his politics, did it for the same reason.

What is it that Blair dislikes about the Britain under Old Labour (1964-1970)? According to Blair it is all tied up to the “1960s liberal consensus on law and order”. As someone who was a political activist in the 1960s (Blair was at his elite public school at the time dreaming of a career in rock music) I don’t remember this liberal consensus. In fact in the early 1960s Britain was a very conservative place. It was a time when people were hanged for crimes they did not commit (capital punishment was not banned until 1965), homosexuals were placed in prison for expressing love towards a fellow human being, people were unable to get good jobs because of the colour of their skin, women were paid less for doing the same job (they still are but the gap now is narrower), the theatre, cinema and television were heavily censored (sex and politics), divorce was only available to the rich, abortion was illegal and family planning advice for single people was difficult to obtain.

These changes were pushed through because of a significant number of young people made a lot of noise. They were mainly university educated but not all (none of my friends were). This group included several members of the present and recent government (Jack Straw, Charles Clarke, Peter Hain, Tessa Jowell, Gordon Brown, Paul Boating, Nick Raynsford, Frank Field, Patricia Hewitt, Harriet Harman). Not Tony Blair of course, he was still busy trying to make it in rock music and was not interested in politics. He remained this way until just after he was recruited by MI5.

Those revolutionaries Harold Wilson and Roy Jenkins made these changes possible. According to Blair, this was the start of the trouble as it was a period that created the “self-absorbed, irresponsible, selfish me-generation”. Nothing could be further from the truth. This came much later. The political activists of the 1960s were driven on by their concern for others. Most (although not me) came from comfortable middle class backgrounds who genuinely cared about those less fortunate than themselves.

Blair claims that the 1960s “spawned a group of young people who were brought up without parental discipline, without proper role models and without any sense of responsibility”. Well that might have been the way Blair was brought up but bears no resemblance to my home life. He seems to have forgotten that these parents who he is talking about were not even born in the 1960s. They were brought up in the 1980s. They are the consequences of Thatcherism, not Wilsonism.

#2 Andy Walker

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Posted 21 July 2004 - 07:25 PM

This is very interesting. There aren't many statements that make me fall off my chair (I'm a sturdily built chap), but the idea of Harold Wilson and Roy Jenkins as "revolutionaries" certainly did the trick :lol:
Picking myself up and on closer analysis, when compared to the nasty right wing agenda now pedalled by "New Labour" then I suppose that Wilson and Jenkins can be seen in this light. Things really have got as bad as all that.

The "selfish me generation" is of course the inevitable consequence of Thatcherism and the 1980's- "there is no such things as society" and all that deeply dangerous crap.
To blame today's complicated social problems on past parental "liberal" attitudes is crass in the extreme. It is also however convenient for a government with no serious intention of attempting to solve these problems. Crime for instance has an established close correlation to poverty. A government which wishes to maintain and perpetuate social inequalities must therefore look for a nice bit of spin which will appeal to the average Daily Mail reader to make it appear, at least to the guillable voters, that they are doing something about crime.

Interestingly the desire to individualise social problems rather than look to structural causes is also evident in this governments approach to education. Standards are to be raised by beating the teachers and schools with initiatives and inspections rather than by redistributing wealth and making society more equal. Is it really that difficult to work out that the worst performing schools tend to be situated in inner city areas of high poverty and deprivation? When inevitably government policy fails it is easy for the government to fall back on falsely blaming and demonising individuals such as single mothers, the 1960's generation. truculent and lazy teachers, incompetent parents and other spurious scapegoats.




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