Britain In The 1970s

A decade that is both derided and revered …

Despite all the bad things to be revealed about life in Britain during the 1970s, statistics actually show that living standards were at their best levels for most ordinary families in the decade. This is despite the fact that the years were very difficult for the country, both economically and politically. So what exactly happened in this period? It was a decade which saw four Prime Ministers, industrial unrest, horrendous IRA bombings, dubious fashion styles, a mixture of successful and disastrous motor cars, not to mention the coloured bathroom suites!

After years of Socialist rule, the Conservatives were returned to power under their new leadership of Edward Heath. Like all politicians, he made laughable promises that would effectively reinvent the wheel. This was at a time when Britain was resting on its laurels and enjoying post-war affluence, oblivious to the fact that other nations were becoming both more competitive and innovative. It was Edward Heath who sealed the UK membership of what was then the Common Market of Europe, but he would also reign supreme over a financial crash, a miner’s strike and an ensuing energy crisis. Amidst all this, more people were becoming home owners as lending rules were relaxed. New suburban homes were springing up offering the latest in modern design and that ubiquitous choice of coloured bathroom suite. How many readers will be familiar with the pink and lemon suites, not to mention the then popular avocado?

As is the trend in a buoyant building period, people were also splashing out on trendy 70s-style furnishings. Top of the list was a colour television, which although introduced in the late 1960s, was still very much a luxury item. Popular tv shows included Dad’s Army, The Liver Birds, Pebble Mill At One, and Love Thy Neighbour. Surprisingly, familiar titles such as Coronation Street, Emmerdale, A Question Of Sport, and MasterMind still dominate our schedules nearly 40 years on! It was a time when normal working-class people could afford a few luxuries and the latest trend in toys for their children. How many remember the Raleigh Chopper bicycle and the ludicrous space hopper?

Another trend to take off in the 1970s was the package holiday abroad. The number of people flying off to Spain or similar increased by a staggering 200% as a fortnight in the sun became affordable to the masses. This did nothing for the domestic economy which was already suffering as a result of non-competitiveness. The decade also saw the Silver Jubilee of HM The Queen in 1977 and way back in February 1971,  our currency was finally decimalised. Gone were the 240 old pennies to the pound, to be replaced by 100 new pennies to the pound. Inevitably, people were suspicious that prices would rise as a result but in truth this was not generally the case although high inflation would soon contribute to higher prices.

In order to try and combat inflation, Edward Heath introduced a stringent incomes policy leading to a devastating miners’ strike. He went to the country in 1974 and lost the election to the former Labour PM Harold Wilson who managed to get the country back to work but inflation reached a staggering 30% and unemployment peaked at over a million. Eventually he resigned his leadership of his party and was succeeded by James Callaghan who failed to get unions to limit pay increases to 5% resulting in yet another bout of crippling strikes … the period from 1978-79 now known as The Winter of Discontent. Such was the state of the country at the time that more people actually emigrated than entered the country. Even Callaghan had previously voiced disdain at the state of our nation with our dominance in the world shrinking and the country lacking economic strength. Not surprisingly, the 1979 election returned power to the Conservative party under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher who became the first, and to date, only woman Prime Minister of Britain. This was to herald a new era and decade, itself renowned for many dubious and life-affecting changes.

So the 1970s was a period of great political instability here in Britain. We had major union uprising, long power cuts and reduced working weeks, diabolical destruction of innocent lives, a huge surge in credit card debt as people were tempted by the latest household products, absurd fashion sense … the mini skirt, flared trousers, platform-soled shoes … and without doubt a major decline in moral standards, However, despite everything, some people look back on the decade with a weird affection. This will undoubtedly be the reaction of many no matter which is their defining decade.

A second article will look more closely at some of the other changes in the decade.

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RIP Common Sense

An Obituary printed in The Times … how very true!!

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were lost in bureaucratic red tape long ago. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

Knowing when to come in out of the rain
Why the early bird catches the worm
Life isn’t always fair
Maybe it was my fault

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion. Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live after a woman failed to realise that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by:
his parents, Truth and Trust
his wife, Discretion
his daughter, Responsibility
and his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 5 stepbrothers:
I Know My Rights
I Want It Now
Someone Else Is To Blame
I’m A Victim
Pay Me For Doing Nothing.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realised he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority of society today and do nothing!

A Pigging Dilemma

A light-hearted view on the nonsense of agricultural grants and Government bureaucracy!

Dear Secretary of State

My friend, who is currently farming, recently received a cheque for £3000 from the Rural Payments Agency for not rearing pigs. I would now like to join the ‘not rearing pigs’ business.

IPiggy 2n your opinion, what is the best kind of farm on which not to rear pigs, and what is the best breed of pigs not to rear? I want to be sure I approach this endeavour in keeping with all government policies, as dictated by the Common Agricultural Policy.

I would prefer not to rear bacon pigs, but if this is not the type you want not rearing, I will just as gladly not rear porkers. Are there any advantages in not rearing rare breeds such as Saddlebacks or Gloucester Old Spots, or are there too many people already not rearing these? As I see it, the hardest part of this programme will be keeping an accurate record of how many pigs I haven’t reared. Are there any Government or Local Authority courses on this? My friend is very satisfied with this business. He had been rearing pigs for forty years or so, and the most he ever made on them was £1422 in 1973. That is, until this year… when he received a cheque for not rearing any.

Piggy 1If I get £3000 for not rearing fifty pigs, will I get £6000 for not rearing a hundred? I plan to operate on a small scale at first, restricting the business to about 4000 pigs not raised, which will mean about £240,000 for the first year. As I become more expert in not rearing pigs, I plan to be more ambitious, perhaps increasing to about 40,000 pigs not reared in my second year, for which I should expect about £2.4m from your department. Incidentally, I wonder if I would be eligible to receive tradable carbon credits for all these pigs not producing harmful and polluting methane gas?  Another point: these pigs that I plan not to rear will not eat 2000 tonnes of cereals. I understand that you also pay farmers for not growing crops. Will I qualify for payments for not growing cereals to not feed the pigs I don’t rear?

I am also considering the ‘not milking cows’ business, so please send any information you have on that too. In view of the above, you will realise that I will be totally unemployed, and will therefore qualify for unemployment benefits.

I shall, of course, be voting for your party at the next general election!

Yours truly

A FARMER