Philip Gilbert posits that Mrs T was the ultimate punk and asks if its time for a third party?
“Shot by both sides, On the run to the outside of everything…” 1
Several times I have returned to the theme of Brexit leading the country back to the dark days of the 1970’s, difficult years for Britain, both politically and economically.
Time had caught up with us, we had been too complacent for too long, basking in the sunshine of post-war affluence, and indifferent to the fact that our foreign competitors had not only caught up with us – they were leaving us behind.
In 1970 the Conservatives, led by Edward Heath, came to power promising a “quiet revolution” that would turn around the fortunes of Great Britain PLC. The revolution, as it turned out was anything but quiet, with an energy crisis, a financial crash and a second miners’ strike in two years.
our foreign competitors had not only caught up with us – they were leaving us behind
Heath lost the inevitable 1974 election to the Labour party, led by Harold Wilson, who managed to get the country back to work, but it came at a cost, inflation peaked at close to 30% and we had to ask the IMF for a humiliating bailout.
Perhaps fittingly, the decade ended as it begun, with another prime minister being humiliated by the unions in the Winter of Discontent, though this time the victim was the Labour leader Jim Callaghan.
Perhaps this situation was best summed up the statistic that, there was a net outflow of people from the country, emigrants outnumbered immigrants
This may have been encouraged by the PM himself, who was quoted as saying, “Our place in the world is shrinking: our economic comparisons grow worse, long-term political influence depends on economic strength – and that is running out,” he told his colleagues in November 1974. “If I were a young man, I should emigrate.”
But all wasn’t doom and gloom; London, December 1975 saw the birth of a noisy exuberant revolution which gathered pace through 1976, though only for a small minority, final breaking cover in December.
Yes, it was those lovable 4-lads from London, the Sex Pistols, immortalised by the memorable headline, “the filth and the fury”.
If I were a young man, I should emigrate
Now before this begins to induce a coronary on readers, there is a point to this.
Punk wasn’t all swearing, spitting and mohawks, for many, myself included, it changed our whole outlook, gave us a belief that we could be something, achieve things, if we dared to try!
As Jon Savage said, “Punk was for the marginal and the brave. It is summed up by the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen.” The lyric, “There is no future in England’s dreaming”, means, if you want a better future, you have to make it.
Punk’s self-starter-D.I.Y. impulse was its most important consequence, and it was applicable across cultures and times”. It was an anyone can do it if they are prepared to try, it wasn’t where you came from, but what could you bring to the table. Whilst this did not remove the deep and ingrained inequity still prevalent in the country, it gave a voice to people where previously it was often denied.
if you want a better future, you have to make it
In my view the greatest example of punk wasn’t Johnny Rotten is was Margaret Thatcher. Now I do realise that this statement will have likely induced complete heart failure on several readers whilst other laugh in ridicule, but, please, pause and think; a lady leading the Tory party, who then had the temerity to become PM?
Think the unthinkable, It is a wonderful example of anyone can do it if they are prepared to try, it wasn’t where she came from, but she was prepared to bring to the table.
And she really was prepared to bring plenty to the table, love or hate her she had impact; the unions were broken which had to happen, exchange controls which had been instigated during the war were finally lifted, privatisation, share ownership, PEPs, selling of council houses under the “right to buy” scheme, not to mention a war with Argentina.
the greatest example of punk wasn’t Johnny Rotten is was Margaret Thatcher
This was the 80s, the affluent society, Essex Man, often unfairly derided, swapped the Daily Mirror for the Sun, owned a house and had aspirations. Even the City, that last bastion of privilege, was forced to change, one of the best Liffe traders I knew was a former carpet layer, he had two-things, a brain and the ability to use it.
Prior to that of course neither would have mattered, sorry old boy, state school you see…
This is what the country needs now, a leader that leads, that unifies, bringing together a government that speaks for the country and, most importantly, one with a clearly defined policy for Brexit. Is this the Conservatives who are so fraught with internal strife over Brexit that they seemingly cannot unify? Can it be Labour? They do seem to have woken up to Brexit, but at the same time have their own internal problems which, encouraged by Momentum, is seeing constituencies encouraged to deselect sitting MPs.
No, it is the time for a third-option, one that represents voters that are currently disenfranchised.
To illustrate this point, I will use myself as an example. I live in the constituency of Chipping Barnet, which prior to the election of 2017, had been a safe Tory seat for as long as anyone could remember. The following table shows the electoral history of the constituency since 1974:
As can be seen, even when Tony Blair swept to power with a majority of 179 seats in 1997, the incumbent Tory MP held on. But in 2017 it was a very different story, the majority was reduced to a previously unthinkable 353, a disaster! The obvious question is why?
it is the time for a third-option, one that represents voters that are currently disenfranchised
Simple, it was Brexit, the incumbent MP is a Brexiter in a constituency where 58.9% of the electorate voted remain in the referendum, me included.
I regard Brexit as one of, if not the biggest political issue of my lifetime, I simply cannot vote for someone fundamentally opposed to my views on this. In addition, whilst Labour’s promises are seductive, anyone with a calculator knows they don’t add up. Also, he looks like a poor mans Michael Foot, and we don’t need a return to old fashioned socialism, the world has moved on. Net effect, I didn’t vote because there was no one worth voting for.
This point was expanded upon by the Guardian in June this year, when they highlighted a recent study that showed 86 Conservative MPs facing a major electoral challenge in the event of a hard Brexit. 3.5 million people in Britain voted to remain in the EU and then voted Conservatives in last year’s election, of this number:
- Over 1-million live in London and the SE
- Another 800,000 live in either the east of England or the south-west
- 12 of the seats are in Scotland (the government has a total of 13-seats in Scotland)
- Six out of eight of the Conservatives Welsh constituencies,
- more than half of the party’s 20 constituencies in north-west England and
- more than half of its 21 seats in London.
And this discernible dissent amongst voters has a voice, in the east of England, SE and SW, the Conservatives lost more than a third (68 out of 168) of the local byelections it was defending. More than half were lost to the Lib Dems, who are backing a referendum on the final Brexit deal.
It would seem hard-line Conservatives just don’t understand, today (27 Sep. 18) a Tory MP said of the PM, “I was delighted when Theresa May was Prime Minister and I’ve been saying for many, many months to people ‘trust her, she will deliver.
Sadly, she has let me down and has let other people down because she isn’t delivering. The reason why she isn’t delivering is because she has handcuffed herself to this Chequers deal”.
Then they charitably extended the olive branch of friendship, insisting there was still a way for Mrs May to hold on to her seat at Number 10: “There is a chance for Theresa May. What she needs is a ladder to climb down from Chequers and embrace a Canada plus, free trade agreement and that’s what she needs to do and that’s the only thing that can save her”.
Perhaps this is the time when the traditional two-party carve-up is usurped
This brings to mind the wonderful line from the Godfather; “My father made him an offer he couldn’t refuse”……”held a gun to his head, and my father assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract”.
Perhaps this is the time when the traditional two-party carve-up is usurped. As an example of what might be, let us consider what happened in France when, in April 2016, Emanuel Macron, a former government minister, founded an independent political party, En marche.
In May 2017, he became President of France winning 66.1% of the vote. If France and Macron can break the system, why can’t we?
In summary, lets us consider why we are in this current turmoil:
- In 2016, by a margin of 52% to 48%, we voted to leave the EU,
- An immediate casualty was the PM and leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron, a remainer, who resigned
- Theresa May won the resulting leadership election, winning what is proving to be the ultimate poisoned chalice, with a party fragmented between those who want:
- To remain and favour a second referendum,
- Others want a soft-Brexit (Chequers, perhaps),
- Whilst others favour a hard-Brexit (the so-called “Canada” proposal)
- Finally, there is the no-deal Brexit (the bugger-off option).
Put simply, chaos abounds, but out of chaos can come order. We need to be brave enough to embrace the moment, to look for something different, the old system is broken, this is the opportunity for credible change. Or:
“If your time to you Is worth savin’, then you better start swimmin’, or you’ll sink like a stone” 2
OK pop pickers – let’s start with the easier option 2 – half a point if you got Bob Dylan for the second lyric, and feel at liberty to make peace signs and nod along with this for they certainly are a changin’:
However, a full point to all of you that got the post punk anthem 1 by Magazine. Enjoy:
Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s