Once punk had started politics was on the agenda big time but this was the politics of the truculent teenager. It seemed the mainstream parties had nothing to offer us and, in fact, seemed to be totally disinterested with the ‘youth vote’. Jim Callaghan was the labour prime minister tacking the ‘winter of discontent’ where half of Britain seemed to be on strike because Callaghan was attempting to hold wage increases to less than 5% (!!).
40 years later we are about to have a general election in Britain and there is the fear that should Labour win again they will drag Britain back to the 1970’s. It’s that faint memory of rubbish piled high on the pavements or the army having to put out fires out the trains not running that seem to terrify people.
It’s a legitimate fear although as a public sector worker myself who has not had a pay raise for nearly 10 years the idea of getting a 5% rise seems fantasy. This is the other side of the coin, because of the power of the unions, usually seen as a bad thing, the 70’s were the time in our history when the gap between the richest and poorest was smallest ever. There was a lack of jobs but there were at least benefits for those without work. Virtually no one had to sleep rough, there was pretty much council housing for all and if you didn’t fancy that there was always squatting. One of the social factors that facilitated punk was the fact that you could live in central London for nothing in houses that no one wanted anymore. Now central London is just a collection of uninhabited assets, empty investment properties owned by the Arabs and Chinese which are making more money each year by just existing than I will ever earn.
The 70s was a time when ordinary working people could look forward to buying a house and living and retiring comfortably. A classic example of this are my own in laws Ralph and Shirley who both left school at 16 worked all their lives and managed to save enough to retire early to their own bungalow where, in their late 70s are able to live as happily as two welsh people can manage.
Both have had major health issues, they are fine now but they wouldn’t be without the NHS which has effectively brought them back to life and kept them healthy more than once. It didn’t cost them, or us a penny at the time, we’ve all paid taxes of course but it seems worth it to me.
I currently work in a hospital and let me tell you the NHS is fucked, no one is pretending otherwise, even the Tories have stopped telling us the NHS is safe in their hands anymore, if they get into power they will sell off the assets which we have paid for with our taxes, to their mates in private companies. They will then sell off services, funding the likes of Richard Branson to take over and make cuts, this will happen over a number of years it will be slow so we won’t really notice it’s happening until it’s too late.
One of the features of more recent years has been benefit concerts for musicians who have fallen on hard times and whose health has taken a turn for the worse. Musicians being notoriously slack with everyday bureaucracy have often failed to establish health care plans so medical treatment can cost thousands. The only way they can get treatment is to get their mates to pull together to raise, hopefully, the required sum, if they can’t well…….
That’s in the USA of course, in Britain they just get referred to hospital to see a specialist and get as much medical treatment as they need. I don’t matter who they are or what they do because it’s free for all.
What a fantastic system and we could keep it if we just make the right decision on Thursday.
I’m not trying to preach but if its one thing that punk taught me it’s that life if political whether you want it to be or not. For the first time in my life there is a very clear choice between the parties.
I will be voting for a party that is pledging to level out social inequality, to bring the huge corporations that pay no tax to account and to fund a decent health and education service. Some of the values of the 1970s are worth keeping.
Oh, that’s the Labour Party by the way.