Archive | February, 2014

The Feb 74 election

28 Feb

Not a turning of the tide …more a nibble at the edges …

The General Election of Feb 74 was held 40 years ago today. Its been on my mind recently , and I have posted some other comments on it before. The first post war election to result in a hung parliament , one of the few winter elections, a dissolution that seemed to come from siege. The surge in votes for ” others”

Heath had called the election over ” who governs Britain” an attempt to get a mandate for his strong industrial policy. Oddly most polls showed the electorate agreed with his policies and approach. They still didn’t vote for them, and indeed the election never really reflected this issue to the extent you would have thought.

It wasn’t a watershed result , this cant be seen like 45 or 79 as a time when things changed because of firm decisions to do something different. It was a yukky result, one with little for mainstream politicians to take comfort from. As one remarked “There was a loser , but it wasn’t clear who the winner was”. With hindsight there appear to be many winners.
With the drop in support for the two main parties , the revival of the Liberals, the ignition of the Scottish Nationalists , a few strong Independents and the anti-Westminster centric result in Ulster, Feb 74 is a seed ground.
Think of many of the events in the last 40 years which were birthed in that election.Of course not in the result but the issues and actions that manifested in that result.

The disparity between the Liberal vote and seats in Feb 74 leads to the 2011 referendum on electoral reform. The Despair in Heaths policies by his own party created the oxygen of Thatcherism. The rise of Celtic nationalism leads to the creation in 1999 of the Parliament and Assembly. The breaking of the consensus in Ulster politics is the start of a 20 year journey to its own Assembly ( one with popular support this time )The breakdown in the the two party system , though something that has never completely broken has given rise to the likes of the SDP, UKIP and others. A less capricious relationship between voters and parties.

However analysis showed that a swing of 1.5% either way would have given one of the major parties a majority …would it have mattered. Would the Liberals have seemed so hard done by if they hadn’t looked like they could hold the balance of power ? If Heath had won would it have written off the Thatcherite agenda. International perspectives would probably say no, but the timing and architecture might have been different. If Heath had got past the security questions and party dynamics and made Thorpe Home Secretary would this have worked ? They still would have been a minority Government and would have needed to go back to the electorate at some point. That may have given both of them a kicking and who knows how that might have impacted on the 80s. Perhaps the SDP would have been a Tory breakaway.

However there’s no point in the what ifs. Its interesting as to why ? Why did the electorate throw up this strange result. It was perhaps a throwback to the 10 or 15 years that proceeded it. A general relaxing in some attitudes , an attempt at industrial democracy. Heath and Wilson , a failed attempt at being the new Disraeli and Gladstone ( though they did appear in an episode of Captain Pugwash ). Punch and Judy were asked to accommodate the Policeman , the sausage and the dog.

An election no one seemed to win , only added to a media sense that there was a breakdown in governance. 40 years on , it is remarkable how much has changed and yet how much stays the same.


Was Heaths Government the dodgiest ever ?

27 Feb


Was it ?

Maudling – Home Secretary during bloody Sunday. Director of Poulson architects , a corrupt firm. Lobbied foreign governments on its behalf.
Lampton- Defence Minister. Drug user who was blackmailed by prostitute.
Jellicoe – Lord Privy Seal and Leader of House. Admitted to drug use and prostitute use. One of first ever people caught and fined for drink driving.
Hailsham – Lord Chancellor, once seen as a Nazi appeaser. Called Homosexuality corrupt.
Whitelaw – became Thatchers Home Secretary and introduced military justice for young offenders.
Walker – part of Slater Walker dodgy failed asset strippers.
Joseph – The poor shall not have children. Advocated the managed run down and exit of Liverpool.
Rippon- Monday Club member.
Campbell – ignored evidence to contrary and left an innocent man in prison for murder.
Noble – presided over the last execution under UK law.
Scott- found in gutters of Chelsea. Campaigner against disability rights.
Amery – friend of Walter Walker , 70s madman and coup leader.

And then there was Maples. Outside the Government but still on the benches. Maples should be known as the man who introduced premium bonds and the MOT. But no he will forever be known for corruption. He held 80% of the shares in a road building company when Minister of Transport , responsible for road building. His name came up in the Profumo prostitution ring . He fled to Monaco in 75, with several million in notes. Wanted for Tax fraud by the Inland Revenue and for repairs by the tenants in his slum houses.

More camping …

18 Feb


It is the unwritten rule of camping that time plus darkness eventually equals some kind of animal escapade.

We decided on another 2 nights out in the tent , mainly to justify all the time spent putting the thing up!

The main attraction , as ever is the fire …


These 2 fire gods knew exactly what they were doing.

There was plenty of fun until the second night. Not long after we had all managed to get to sleep there came a loud ferocious roar. It clearly sounded like an animal in need of an instant feed , perhaps a stray lion from some poorly managed Zoo ?

Bravely I ignored the noise and tried to sleep through it , but the roar fine tuned into a meow and we were now being circled by one of our cats. At this point I realised that banging the tent is pretty futile, in fact it seemed to encourage her. I went outside to see if I could catch her , but she ran away. The bright moon helped me pounce on her ( some witnesses think she came to me but its a fine art ) and I tried to coax her into our eldest sons tent. To no avail.

So a change of tactics. I would assume that she will just leave us alone.

Yay it worked ….for about 10 minutes , or enough time to start to drift off again….


Then it was Meow,Meow MEEEEEOOOOOWWWW. There was nothing else for it , I had to march her across the field and lock her into the house. ( Yes the Cat slept inside and we slept outside !).

Quiet…at last.

Except in the house …I had locked her in with mother cat and the kittens …



What if Renzi is like the Fonz ?

16 Feb

Before i finish writing this , it is likely Italy will have a new Prime Minister. In fact by the time Ive written this you never know there may have been 2. Italian Prime Ministers come and go at an alarming rate. Since 1945 there’s been one about every 18 months.

Matteo Renzi you see. Italy’s most popular politician , supported by a massive 15% of the population. Renzi who was on wheel of fortune ?yes that Renzi, who was Mayor of Florence, yes that Renzi , who is like the Fonz , yes that …what like the Fonz !
You see in the article above the guardian makes light of his comparisons to new labour but is serious about his Fonz image…because he wore a leather jacket with the collar up.
But suppose he is like the Fonz. It will be difficult.

Firstly he needs to surround himself with people half his age , difficult in Italian Politics. Indeed Renzi is more Richey than Fonz in this respect.
Secondly he needs to over extend his financial situation on some poor friends parents. Easy you imagine that’s Germany right ?

But he cant be Fonz unless he holds Cabinet meetings in the toilet ( or his office ) …difficult I would think.

I expect the European elections to be fought on a campaign on electomondus or perhaps treatymondus…

Oh guardian journalist you should have thought of a better analogy.

11 things I didnt know about the Feb 74 election

14 Feb

Seriously. I am only interested because in recent years the seventies have been merged with Dominic Sandbrooke, all history now moves through him. I have read quite a bit around the Feb 74 election before ( Butler and Kavanagh , Labour memoirs etc ) but from a recent look at the papers from the time here are 11 things I didn’t know

1. BBC staff were told not to be flippant in reports.

2. The Communist Party complained about a TV program ” The perils of Pendragon ” which portrayed Welsh communists robbing a bank to fund their guns. A Conservative MP successfully had a program banned “The other side of the valley ” as it showed his constituencies economic performance as poor.

3.Canvassers in Peterborough found 2 dead pensioners and 1 in a coma ( and no it wasn’t after they spoke to them )

4. The Government gave polling stations an exemption from heating restrictions up to 63 degrees.

5. Harold Wilson filled a Welsh hall with seating for 1,000 and even had 200 waiting outside ! 800 students shouted seig heil at Willie Whitelaw ( perhaps they didn’t see Hogg )

6. Oswlad Mosley called Thorpe ” charming”. Thorpe tried to charm the officials by over paying his deposit.

7.John Fraser ( Lab ) was attacked  by a heckler at a meeting in Brixton and had 2 fingers poked into his eye(left). ” Just before the attack he yelled out in an Irish accent that he wanted to poke my eye out”

8. Labour and Liberal stood against the speaker Selwyn Lloyd claiming the new boundaries caused a rethink.

9. The Liberals wanted to tax inflation.

10. Tony Benn was refused entry to the Wills Tobacco canteen

11. William Williams Wynne standing in Montgomery shire had the slogan ” William Williams Wynne Will Win “


Bagpuss and the common market

8 Feb

I was forced , and there was some resistance , to watch Bagpuss this morning. The one where the Mice find a mill and then use butter beans to make chocolate biscuits…yes that one. It got me thinking. Particularly when you note it was made in April 1974.

The Mice of course aren’t really making chocolate biscuits, they simply pour the beans into a bag and roll a biscuit out , and to make matters worse they keep reusing the same biscuit.

Why do I care. Well there’s something strangely political about it. I know people have commented before about the mice as a metaphor for striking labour, but I am not sure. In fact they seem like a metaphor for the common market ( as it then was ). Something people thought was all an illusion , that tricky thing with its false claims , its biscuit you never taste and its ingenious schemes. And the central characters , the professor is surely Enoch Powell ..all logic and reason. Dismissing the scheme and uncovering the fraud. Bagpuss is Ted Heath , jowly , disinterested, leading by power not charisma. 

When the Professor rumbles the ruse , Heath or Bagpuss I was confused at this point, just yawns and goes to sleep. When he sleeps everyone sleeps. The sleep of course was his calling of the February 74 election.

Maybe I am not getting enough sleep ………


Sandel on Morality and queues

2 Feb



Michael Sandel in The Moral Limits of Markets argues against those that queue jump. Not for the irritation or annoyance but more for the fact that those that queue jump aren’t playing the egalitarian game. Instead they use the advantage they have in disposable income to hold a place above random or time selection. Economists , Sandel argues , would justify this as a market transaction and therefore OK.

He uses multiple arguments around free concerts, senate hearings. Queue jumping is anti-egalitarian. He may have a point. His bigger point throughout the book is that giving moral status to transactions that are merely manifestations of an auction for those with the most to dispose of is wrong. (or simply market forces shouldn’t justify a market society).

Im not sure I am as exercised by his queue jumping for the same reasons. My moral argument against queue jumping is this

1.Its a manifestation of inequality, queue jumping is how the inequality is disposed…but suppose we ban it..the inequality still exists.

2. The disadvantaged ( financially) have to go through queues in supermarkets that are laden with weak purchases ( chocolate and magazines ) which by purchasing just increases the inequality. The purchase happens because they are stuck in the queue.

My own method for dealing with egalitarianism in supermarkets ( if not queues ) can be seen above.