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Thought-provoking survey of the turning point in Britain's post-war history
on 18 August 2009
I finished this a few weeks ago, and I've waited a while before writing the review. As they say in therapy circles, it brought up a lot of stuff for me. I grew up in the 1970s and this was the period when I formed my political outlook.
This is a good overview, but I'm not sure how balanced it is; at the time of reading it felt fair, but on reflection I'm not so sure. Like a lot of commentators the author is keen to point out Tony Benn's character flaws (the silliness with his "Who's Who" entry) but less keen to do the same with others - Thatcher's physical makeover and voice coaching. Incidentally, his dips into popular culture are enjoyable but very partial, and how come he didn't notice the resemblance between Thatcher and Margot Leadbetter from 'The Good Life'?
There's very little social/household history - even when there was power, our homes were colder, darker and had much less stuff in them. These were the days before ATMs, PCs, mobiles, VCRS, etc - maybe that's why street activism seemed so appealing.
It's a salutory reminder of how far away the 1970s are - in both good and bad ways. Then, casual racism was more or less the order of the day, and attitudes towards woman (let alone gays) were very different in ways that can only seem primitive now. On the other hand real wages were much higher, housing was much cheaper, working hours were much shorter, and there was still and sense that another way of organising society was possible; that was part of the appeal of Tony Benn. It's interesting that there is no discussion of his (failed) workers' co-ops.
Definitely worth a read, if not an uncritical one.