According to Theresa May, and much of the broadcast and print media that support her, Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party have in the last three weeks or so (through the policies they have announced and the much discussed leaked and actual Manifesto) 'taken us back 40 years' to the 1970's. As many people have pointed out there was much about the seventies to applaud. In addition to many cultural references on which there will likely be much difference of opinion, #GreatThingsFromThe1970s has prompted much political discussion. Here are just a few I found:
Nationalised transport. Bus fare was 5p, then 9p, then privatised and went up to 32p almost overnight #GreatThingsFromThe1970s
We had secure jobs + free education. Our NHS was in good shape. Work life balance was much better.We could breathe #GreatThingsFromThe1970s
#GreatThingsFromThe1970s Universities were places of learning and research not simply businesses
#GreatThingsFromThe1970s People could afford houses. People looked forward to careers not the gig market
Given that the focus of Labour's policies is on making things better for the 95%, not least in terms of our health, education, security and income, the critique is clearly yet another attempt to smear and to scare. Not everyone is taken in. See for example this series of letters in The Guardian - ‘Finally, a Labour Manifesto to Really Get Behind’- . Just a couple of snippets, do read the letters in full:
. . . .predictable claims from the right that Jeremy Corbyn wants to take the country back to the 1970s, forgetting to mention that this was a time when corporations and high earners contributed a fairer share to the public purse and we had a functioning welfare state and regulated public utilities providing essential services.
For traditional Labour voters like me – someone who has not voted Labour since the Iraq war – this suddenly sounds like why I joined the Labour party, became a Labour councillor and voted Labour in the first place.
And although the BBC manages daily to find anti-Corbyn, lifelong Labour voters lamenting the fact that they can't vote Labour anymore, there is much evidence on social media of longtime Tories turning left and others who have never voted before being energised by what Jeremy Corbyn's Labour are offering.
The criticism of Labour as taking us backwards is ironic from a Prime Minister and a party that has a record of doing just this both in terms of attitudes and actions. It was after all Margaret Thatcher (PM 1979-1990) and her government who wanted us to return to 'Victorian Values' (a time notorious for poverty, disease, domestic abuse and other hugely significant inequalities). Thatcher's legacy continues in that there remains a powerful misconception that the 'have nots' are to blame for their own misfortunes and that there are those that 'deserve' help and those that do not. Thus, the blame lies with the individual and not the unjust society in which they/we live. And the woman who would continue as Prime Minister for another five years, and who assures us that only under her is the country safe, herself has attitudes that many would consider outdated, divisive and cruel (from her support of grammar schools to fox hunting), and furthermore presides over a government with a sorry record. An example or two. First,in terms of health and illness:
Second, the economy (unbelievably an area the Conservatives claim as a particular strength of theirs):
With all of this in mind. Read the Labour Party Manifesto here:
OR view the policies in brief here (provided by Eoin Clarke @LabourEoin)
If all of this is indeed 'taking us back' to the 1970's: BRING IT ON for what we need right now is change.
Changes David Bowie (released 1971)
Perhaps I'll pass on the yellow loons this time around though.
SO: What's History Got to Do With It?
Answer: A LOT
For more by this author visit Gayle Letherby's blog