Sunday, September 23, 2007

Turning Back the Clock

Early Memories
Thunder Dragon has been a cheeky young fire breather, by inviting some us more advanced in years to embarrass ourselves by revealing our earliest political memories.

I'm not that sensitive about age, unless someone points out that by scrapping into the sixties by a few months I am now living in my fifth decade, so I'm happy to have my attempt at the meme, but I'll have to follow the sub-meme of several others by cheating with several offerings. So here we go in rough chronological order:

Earliest Memory of Politicians

I actually do remember something very early on of politicians. It must have been towards the end of the Heath government, and there was some kind of 'Buy British' campaign, kind of thing that would now cause apoplectic fits in Brussels. It sticks in the memory probably because it was launched when I was visiting my grandparents in Scotland, and the local shop was soon bedecked in the appropriate stickers.

It was just one of those places that stick in your memory, something, even then, from another era, where my grandmother would meet friends she had known since she was a schoolgirl, always greeting each other as Mrs This, Mrs That and Mrs The Other as they had done since the day each had got married.

I'm fairly sure it had to be the Heath government, as the main topic of conversation was how meat had crossed the 'pound per pound' barrier which a dull trawling of historical RPI figures suggests happens sometime in the first half of the seventies.

It was also memorable because some of the political promotion on the campaign came, I'm pretty sure, from a figure who was to become a familiar figure in later years. It was certainly off the Education brief, but I guess Mrs Thatcher could do a better impersonation of a concerned housewife than any of her cabinet colleagues.

Earliest Election

I remember elections well as our school was often closed for use as a polling station from around when I was 9. I've got a vague recollection of people talking about the Wilson/Callaghan handover, but the first election I do recall fairly well was 1979 and the arrival of the Thatcher era.

It was a big talking point at school, mainly because a malicious rumour was circulating that Maggie would make us go to school on Saturdays.

The first big event with political connotations that I remember quite clearly was the murder of Airey Neave by the INLA, a few months earlier. Somehow the killing of a senior politician in the very precincts of the Houses of Parliament made a mark, even on a 10 year old, perhaps even more so than the IRA's slaying of Lord Mountbatten earlier that year.

There were other memories from earlier that year, though the political nature of them only became apparent with a fair measure of hindsight. We had a non-teaching assistant who was everyone's favourite 'teacher'. He played the guitar, told stories better than anyone else, and was an all round nice guy. He also told us scare stories about near-accidents in nuclear command and control procedures that had taken us to the point of the UK within seconds of launching an all-out nuclear strike on the Soviet Union. I don't even recall CND, whose lapel badge he proudly sported, making some of the claims he did. He also was somewhat less than enthusiastic about the fact that I picked the USA for a 'countries around the world' project. At least just before I left for the local comprehensive, he had the honesty to accept the state the country was in in those days when he told me to study hard, go to university, and then head accross the Atlantic as there was no real hope for the UK.

First Issue

I suspect the first issue I really felt strongly about at the time it arose centered around the protests against cruise missiles, most notably at Greenham Common. Even at 12/13 unilateral nuclear disarmament seemed, as it still does to me today, simple lunacy. As time progressed the dangers in 'zero option' multilateralism also became clear to me, no matter how sensible it may seem on the surface.

I guess I identify this most concretely as my first real interest in politics, as for the first time it became possible to see that the 'nice' and the 'obvious' thing to do is not always the right thing to do.

This is my first posting in response to a meme, and I know the tradition is to pass it on to others to have their stab at it. I'm afraid thought that I'm one of those people who won't even make a friend request on Facebook until I've checked down the pub with them that it's OK, so shy and retiring I am with such things.

I must admit that I would like to see what his grace would have to say on the matter, especially as in his non-corporeal state he would be able to beat even the oldest of us by over four hundred years, thereby restoring the dignity of we relative youngsters.

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