Letters to my sons. Trying to explain the world to two very small children.

May 13, 2010

1983 Election

Filed under: Family,Memories,Politics — Administrator @ 3:33 pm

Dear Boys,

I wrote about the first general election that I remembered and now I want to share some thoughts on 1983’s election.

By 1983 the family had moved from Grimsby to the North East and by the time the election came around in June 1983 we still hadn’t got used to the colder weather. Margaret Thatcher won the election by a huge majority for a number of reasons. The main reason was the Falklands War the year before.

I remember waking up one morning and hearing on the radio that Argentina had invaded the Falkland Islands as well as South Georgia. We were still living in Grimsby and I my first thought was: Scotland has been invaded. I had no idea where the Falkland Islands were but they certainly sounded Scottish. Also I wasn’t really sure where Argentina was so in my mind it was quite clearly possible for Argentina to invade some Scottish islands – why they would want to do so didn’t enter my mind. My father explained that the Falklands were in the South Atlantic which didn’t help much. He then explained that the Islands were about 8000 miles away. I felt safer at that point as we used to go on holiday to Scotland and stay in cheap and grotty cottages. Argentina were more than welcome to dusty, smelly cottages without TV’s, central heating and had burn water coming out of the taps, that tasted rank by the way. Of course not all Scottish self catering cottages were in such a state, it was all my parents could afford at the time.

As an eleven year old child I really wanted a war because war was exciting. Bombs, bullets and airplanes. As the diplomatic efforts sped up many people around us, my parents especially, were hopeful that war wouldn’t come. They had both lived through World War 2 and many of the older people at church had fought either on the home front or the actual front. When an old man asked me what I thought about the Falklands, I told him that I wanted a war. I didn’t understand the look on his face at the time by I know now: pure pain.

Before long the boats were off to take back the Falklands including two aircraft carriers, HMS Hermes and Invincible. Military bands played as the boats left port in a “Task Force” and different news readers tried to pronounce “junta” correctly. Even with the Task Force sailing 8000 miles, peace was still a possibility because it would take 6 ot 8 weeks for the Task Force to get into position.

We were the last family to get a colour TV in our street but we were the first to get one with TeleText. TeleText was a massive revelation at the time. While watching TV you could press the “Text” button and you would get a “page” of information usually a menu on Page 100. From there you could enter page numbers to get the information you wanted. News was on pages from 102 to 125 and if you went to page 150 you got a news flash. The news flash page allowed you to see almost all of the screen and a few lines of news. If you pressed the Recall button the news flash would disappear and you could carry on watching the TV until the page changed and then it would pop-up again. The problem was you couldn’t change channels because the TeleText was tied to the TV channel you were watching. This wasn’t really a problem for us as we tended to watch BBC1. One night we were watching TV when the News Flash come up on the screen. I read it incorrectly as I though it said that Sheffield had been bombed by the Argentinean’s, in actual fact the ship HMS Sheffield had been hit by an Argentinean missile. My heart fluttered at the thought of a city being attacked, could it be Grimsby next? Our teacher at the time had been a little mischievous in the run to the war telling us that if things got bad and escalated we, his class, could be drafted in to the army to fight. It had happened elsewhere in the world he told us. This information didn’t dampen my desire for war and when I re-read the New Flash and saw that it was a British ship that had been sunk I really was excited. I asked my dad: “Does this mean war?” “Yes it does” he replied with much foreboding. I looked at Uncle Phil and we smiled at each other – nothing like a good war to get an 11 and 13 year old excited.

It must be remembered that in 1982 we only three channels on the TV and no rolling news. Before the news every night there was a half an hour program dealing with the days war news. During the conflict the Argentinians claimed that they had sunk Hermes at least three times. They also claimed that they had shot down a considerable number of Sea Harriers. This lead to the famous quote from John Hanrahan: I’m not allowed to say how many planes joined the raid, but I counted them all out and I counted them all back. They used this quote during the opening titles so it was repeated every night and soon learned.

I remember watching some war footage with my mother not long after the conflict finished and it showed a Harrier launching an air to air missile that followed an Argentine plane before hitting it and blowing it up. I let a “YES!” at that point but my mother rebuked me: “That was someones son that just died” she told me. I think that was the point that it all started to sink in. War isn’t a game, it isn’t fun – it is about people trying to kill while not being killed themselves.

The British eventually won the war and returned home to massive adulation. I remember being at South Parade Middle School on the day victory was announced. The lads who played football in the top and second to top year spent the morning play time singing songs about beating the Argies. I’m sure where the songs came from – someones dad probably went to football matches as there was plenty of swearing. Being only 11 and knowing that “your” country has just won a war, against the odds and thousands of miles away from home filled me with euphoria. Along with other feelings I experienced as a child, I have never experienced anything like it again.

My mothers reaction to the death of the Argentinian pilot has stayed with me because it showed a little split of her personality. She was born in 1937, two years before the Second World War kicked off so she got a full dose of the anti-German propaganda that was pumped into the population from 1939 – 1945 to justify the bombing of innocent German civilians – in the same way that the Germans were busy de-huminising their own population in order to justify murder. Some of this propaganda stuck as, from time to time, she would come out with something very anti-German and then laugh it off as rubbish. I remember just before we left Grimsby we were looking at tapes in Woolworth’s and she found one that had lots of songs on it that she liked. She showed to me and said “I was going to buy that, then I saw that it had ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ on it. I don’t want it now” and she put it back.

I went to a ruby match between England and Argentina recently and I was a little perturbed to see Sea Cadets holding an Argentina flag.  War propaganda leaves it mark. And so it did with the electorate. Just over a year later Margaret Thatcher was re-elected with a massive majority which she used to pass the most divisive of legislation. She was able to satisfy the needs of the people with money while pushing whole segments of society into poverty – poverty that remains today.

Not that I understood all of this at the time. On the day Thatcher won I cut out her picture from the paper and attached to the car window on the way to school. I understood what Thatcher said when she said that the country must compete with other countries and that meant reducing wages. As a 12 year old this made sense and it’s true. Unfortunately there is no way to compete against countries like China that use political prisoners as slave workers although this escaped me at the time as I was caught in the smoke and mirrors that is capitalism – or the version of economics that is called capitalism. But these are my memories of the 1983 election.

May 11, 2010

A change of government.

Filed under: Memories,Politics — Administrator @ 9:05 pm

Dear Boys,

after my last post things have moved on. Gordon Brown resigned and David Cameron become Prime Minister.

The first change of Prime Minister I remember was when Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979. Mr Robinson, the head teacher at South Parade Middle school, told us in the morning assembly that we now had the first woman Prime Minister in the UK although she wasn’t the first woman Premier in the world as there had been others. I remember the election being called, the front page of the Telegraph had a picture of a calendar showing the date of the election. In those days at home we used to have tea while listening to “P.M.” on Radio 4 and they used to broadcast a lot of the debates in Parliament. I remember something about the Liberal’s not being allowed to use a dispatch box because some MP’s put their feet up and wouldn’t let him past.

Parliament wasn’t televised in those days and as a child I had no idea what it looked like inside. I had this idea that all the MP’s were all in a large hall like the church hall at the Haven Methodist Church, were Grandpa John was the Minister. The church hall had a large set of both brown and blue chairs made from tubular steel. When we had boys brigade in the hall we used to get out blue chairs – the colour of the Boys Brigade uniform and not brown – the colour of the Brownies uniform. In my minds eye the rows of chairs were put out and angry men would stand up and try and shout down the man speaking at the front. The rows neat rows of chairs that would have been put out in the morning but with the all the anger and shouting they would have been higgledy piggledy. I would love get some tapes of parliament from that time so you could hear them – the shouting and the anger. As a young child during the winter, when it was already dark, I found it quite frighting. The shouting was hateful, loud and constant – well the stuff they broadcast anyway.

In the morning we also had Radio 4 on and the time I needed to leave to for school was when the “Yesterday In Parliament” segment started with an “Order Order” from the Speaker. When I eventually did get to see the inside of Parliament with it’s green seats I was very surprised as it looked nothing like the image in my mind. For a start there were benches, not tubular steel chairs covered with cloth and the benches were set out in rows facing each other.

When I listen to you William talk about how you image things work I think about my ideas of parliament and how wrong I was but it was fun to imagine.

Malcolm Rifkind espouses fascism?

Filed under: Politics — Administrator @ 3:36 pm

Dear boys,

after yesterdays turn of events the Tory press and politicians went into a tizzy as it looked like a deal was about to happen between the Lib Dems and Labour. By the time you are able to read and understand this blog Rupert Murdoch, if there is any justice in the world, will be long dead, but no doubt his influence will still be felt. And yesterday his mouth piece, Sky News, was touting that a deal between the Conservatives – who he supports – had done a deal with the Lib Dems and his favourite – Cameron – was going to become the next Prime Minister. Just a few minutes later Gordon Brown announced that he was going and that Labour and the Lib Dems were in negotiations.

This lead to this bizarre piece of TV:

The Murdoch press simply spat out their dummies and got annoyed.

Other Tories came out and said some quite bizarre things. Malcolm Rifkind then came out and said that the Lib Dems were some how traitors because they were concentrating on electoral form and not the economy and that working together on the economy was in the best interests of the country.

So it is the view of Malcolm Rifkind that economics is more important that extending democracy, in fact we should ignore democracy because economics is more important. There is a word for ignoring democracy and focusing instead on “economics” for “the benefit of the nation”: fascism. It would be much better for the economic good of the country to force people to work for long hours for poverty pay. That way the UK could compete with China. In fact slave labour would allow the UK to become the manufacturing giant of the world. Unlike Malcolm Rifkind I believe that people are more important than market economies and that extending democracy is better than finance.

The latest news coming out is that Labour have thrown in the towel and that David Cameron will become the next Prime Minister but the question remains – as part of a coalition or as a minority.

It will be interesting, if there is a coalition, to see how hard the Lib Dems will work to keep the Tories honest.

May 10, 2010

Gordon Brown goes!!

Filed under: Politics — Administrator @ 6:07 pm

Dear boys,

we still don’t have a new government but things are really hotting up today. The Lib Dems and the Conservative spent all day in talks and it seemed that a deal was possible between the two parties. But things were afoot between the Lib Dems and the Labour Party. The funny thing about this election is that nobody won it and at the same time nobody lost it as the result was a hung parliament. Some have said that because Labour didn’t retain power they must have lost but this is false for two reasons:

  1. No other party won an outright majority.
  2. Just on the percentage of votes cast, combined with the Lib Dems, the two would have over 50% of the votes.

The idea, put about by the Tories, that they “won” the election is laughable. They got 306 seats out of 650, 47% but only received 36.1% of the popular vote. According to the Tories everyone else should just stand aside and allow the Tories to rule for 5 years – meaning that 63.9% of the popular votes cast should be ignored. Claiming that ignoring 63.9% of the population is “the democratic voice of the people” is utter rubbish.

Gorden Brown’s decision to resign today is a master stroke of timing. He had to go at some point but the timing was exquisite – the Murdoch Press was trumpeting that Cameron and the Tories were due to take power via Sky News, that the deal was done and that a new Tory era was due to begin. But, unbeknown to them and behind the scenes, the Lib Dems and Labour were meeting at the highest level – Nick Clegg leader of the Lib Dems met with Gordon Brown. Clegg told him that he could enter a coalition but Brown would have to go. Senior Labour figures had also told Brown he had to go, but when? After a day where the Lib-Con pact looked promising the announcement of his resignation was like a bomb going off.

Brown hates the Tories. If voting reform can be achieved it would mean the end of the Tory party ever having exclusive power again. Brown would have achieved much more by resigning and helping the forming of a Rainbow Alliance than staying on in power and looking desperate to retain his position.

I’m not a fan of the Labour Party and Moron Brown but today he completely out manoeuvred the Tory party and with any luck he has manoeuvred them out of power for the foreseeable future.

May 9, 2010

Hung parliament update.

Filed under: Politics — Administrator @ 4:36 pm

Dear boys,

still no new government formed so Labour remain in charge of the country. Today the Lib Dems and the Conservatives are meeting to see if they can come to an agreement and from a coalition. I still think that the Lib Dems will go into a coalition with Labour, the SNP and Plaid Cymru and push through voting reform. The Lib Dems want voting reform, it is the only way they can ever be relevant on the national stage in the short to medium term. How many Labour MP’s want electoral reform, how many will accept it to stay in power and how many will reject it is not really known at the moment. So even if a grand anti-Conservative coalition is created, voting reform and an elected upper house is not by any means guaranteed.

May 7, 2010

A hung parliament

Filed under: Politics — Administrator @ 8:13 am

Dear boys,

yesterday we had a General Election and for the first time since 1977 there is no overall winner and we have a hung parliament.

A Tory spokesman this morning was claiming that Labour and the Liberal Democrats had lost the election and that the Tories should be allowed to form a government. In essence he is saying that the votes for Labour and and the Lib Dems should be ignored because the Tories got the most votes and the most seats.

Labour have been sucking up to the Lib Dems all night and promised Electoral Reform – something the Lib Dems want. The only problem is, as it stands right now – 09:10 – Labour and the Lib Dems don’t have enough seats to guarantee a majority. That might change when the other 41 seats have been revealed. So today is quite an exciting day and if things pan out the way I would like, when you two come to vote you will be doing so in a more democratic way.

If the Tories do manage to get a majority they have pledged to cut the number of MP’s by 65 and redraw the electoral map, keep the present system of first past the post. The Tories would draw the map in their favour making it almost impossible for other parties to come to the fore and kick them out.

I’ll update this when things become clear.

May 3, 2010

Pushing off.

Filed under: Misc — Administrator @ 4:04 pm

Dear Boys,

well today William you finally learnt to ride your bike on two wheels without any help from me. You were already riding happily without stabilisers but you needed help getting started. But today you learnt how to push off all by yourself.

You needed a little coaxing to try pushing off but your learnt it really quickly. Well done son.

April 15, 2010

On two wheels

Filed under: Misc — Administrator @ 6:18 pm

Dear boys,

Today, William, you rode your bike without stabilisers for the first time. I took them off yesterday and you had a few rides up and down the garden with me holding the back of your bike. Yesterday after a few rides up and down the garden you started crying because you couldn’t ride your bike without my help. I understood your frustration at not being able to do something that looks so simple. I asked you if you were able to do sums a few weeks ago and you said “no”. I then explained that you had been taught how to do sums at school and now were very good at it. I also told you that I was not able to ride a bike without stabilisers the first time I tried either and that it took me a few weeks before I was able to do it. At this point you stopped crying, got back on the bike and tried again.

Today I was certain that I could let you go and you would continue without falling off – which you did. I’m not sure when we will get the chance to go to the park so that you can have a proper go at riding on two wheels as tomorrow we are at football all day then on Saturday there is a kids party and then you are going for a sleepover. Maybe we will go on Sunday.

April 6, 2010

Back in the Premiership.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Administrator @ 7:12 pm

Dear Boys,

So after one single season in the 2nd tier of English football, Newcastle return to the top. William and I went to the game at Peterborough last Saturday and it was a cracking game. Newcastle going behind early on, playing badly for all of the first half before scoring in added on time. The second half was completely different – the Toon scored 2 quick goals and took control of the game before Peterborough came back and got a goal back. Newcastle almost went to sleep at this point and if Peterborough’s strikers had been a little more accurate then they would have taken all three points. But they weren’t – which is why Peterborough have been relegated.

The singing during the whole match was constant and unbelievably loud. Fantastic support from start to finish.

The problem now though is putting together a team that can stay in the Premiership. The team that has won the Championship is not good enough to stay up as the gulf between the first and second tier is huge and gets bigger every year. If Newcastle are not to become a yo-yo team then money needs to be spent.

Having said all that I am chuffed with the way the season has gone. While walking around Sainsbury’s today I just wanted to shout “We’re Newcastle and we’re gonna win the league!” over and over.

March 30, 2010

A long time since my last posts.

Filed under: About,Misc — Administrator @ 6:30 pm

Dear Boys,

It has been a while since my last post. Sorry for that. Loads of stuff has happened and I have invested in some technology that will enable me write more posts more often.

We have a general election coming up and I have some adult themes that I want to share with you. You are too young to understand these posts but by the time you are hopefully they will be old history and not relevant.

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