Tag Archives: nostalgia

Memories of the 1983 General Election – Detention, a bonfire and the relief of victory

Like first love, your first General Election is a special and precious thing.

Mine was 1983 and this post is inspired by the earlier one about Simon Hughes’ 40th anniversary celebration.

It must be pretty much exactly 40 years since I first walked into Bob Maclennan’s campaign HQ in Wick to ask for a copy of the manifesto. It certainly was a Saturday afternoon about 3 weeks before the election. They didn’t have one, but it took them an impressively short time to persuade me to deliver leaflets for them.

But all didn’t go smoothly. There was a lady in her garden burning some rubbish. I put on my best and most charming smile, and handed the leaflet to her. She gave me an absolute death stare and tossed the leaflet on the burning pile. I later discovered that she was a leading light in the local Conservatives. I have to say, that if a young person from an opposition party handed me a leaflet, I’d be impressed that they were interested in politics and I’d be very nice to them.

Anyway, that didn’t put me off and I became an an enthusiastic part of the campaign team. At 15, I was obviously the youngest by a very long way. It was great to spend my first campaign in the company of Bob, his wife Helen, his agent Peter Kelly and Ken and Brenda Fraser who were my friend’s parents but became my friends. Bob’s staff Jeanne and Con were also up with him. They were an impressive bunch to learn from.

Campaigning was so different back in those days. We actually had to cut up the electoral register to make canvass cards.  I remember one soggy Friday when we all got on to this truck thing and drove around Wick, with posters and megaphones, generally annoying everyone.

For me, I had just finished my O Grade exams so didn’t have to be in school much during May unless I had an exam. However, about a week before the election on 9 June, I had permission to be out of school to compete in the Caithness Music Festival. My bit was finished earlier than I expected so Helen spirited me away to the other side of the county to go canvassing. Unfortunately, one of my teachers saw me get into her car, so I ended up with the only detention I ever had to do as a result. However, I had learned about how to canvass with warmth and the personal touch. If people weren’t in, Helen left them a personal note to come home to.

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The past can be useful

My wife, Ruth, has had a collection of boxes, originally some 30 strong, in which she stored both personal and political stuff, waiting for the opportune moment to open them and sort out the treasure trove within.

That job is now underway and there are minutes of both NLYL and ULS as well as a huge collection of newsletters produced by all manner of Liberal activists in the late sixties and seventies. Radical Bulletin, Gunfire, New Outlook, Liberator and a whole raft of local stuff from Young Liberal and Liberal Student groups from Scotland to Cornwall. It even included some copies of Clockwork Orange, a Manchester ULS publication that I started in 1971/2 and that was then carried on by Pat Coleman.

Political discourse in the 60s and 70s was carried out by meeting and pamphlet.

Ruth reminded me that Young Liberal branches often met weekly to discuss politics and campaigns, actually campaigned most weekends and met up socially as well.

There were frequent conferences on political issues and both the Young Liberals and the Liberal Party had council meetings on a regular basis (the ‘Council’ was the policymaking body between Conferences), primarily on political issues.

Liberal Party Constituency and branch meetings were at least monthly. In short, our politics centred on meeting together, talking about ideas and putting them down on paper for discussion in order to get out and campaign together.

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So farewell then Sunday Politics…

Way back in the early eighties there was a sitcom called “Butterflies” where the mum was lampooned for her terrible cooking and all round failure as a homemaker. I pride myself in being the 21st century version of that mum. I drown noodles, explode baked beans in the microwave, incinerate duck and pancakes (even though Mr Marks and Mr Spencer provide simple instructions) and the hoover gathers more dust than it picks up.

And yet, despite it all I know I am a reasonably ok parent because I have at least managed to impart to my children an interest in politics.

Most …

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10 for No 10

As David Cameron leaves, it dawns on me that this is the 10th time the Prime Minister has changed in my lifetime. I thought I’d share with you my memories of the other changes.

When I was born, Harold Wilson was PM. I don’t remember him losing out to Ted Heath in the 1970 election because I was just a toddler. Nor do I really remember Wilson really getting back in again in 1974. I have a vague memory of walking along Dell Road in Inverness with my parents as they went to vote, though.

The first change I actually remember was in 1976 when Wilson resigned and Callaghan took over. There was no 24 hour news cycle then, and in fact telly didn’t even go all day. However, I think we were watching General Hospital (the UK version) in the afternoon when the news appeared on screen – James Callaghan is the new Prime Minister. We then got a newsflash in the commercial break.

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Reprise: My first post of the year

This is the post I wrote 365 days ago that went live as 2015 dawned.

Despite all our efforts, it ended up being one of the worst years ever to be a Liberal Democrat. The devastation of election night, followed less than a month later by the death of Charles Kennedy could have knocked the stuffing out of us. In many ways, we are still grieving and adjusting to our new circumstances, while simultaneously engaged in that #libdemfightback.

There are huge challenges ahead of us in this coming year – the Welsh and Scottish elections, the London Mayoral election and local elections, as well as the EU Referendum and making sure that all these new members stick with us. Where the referendum is concerned, it will be up to us to make the case to remain a positive one and not a choice that people are scared into making.

Thankfully, we have a leader who is very good at articulating what liberalism is all about and who is good at getting himself and the party noticed. We have many committed long standing activists and new campaigners all over the country. If we can harness that energy and articulate a bold, radical message, we may even take some steps forward, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves that we’ll make any more than that. The giant leap will take more time but there is a determination to claw our way back. 

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What were your hopes for today?

Back to the Future film series logoThis is a post aimed at those of us who were around in the ’80s when the Back to the Future films first came out. Today, of course, is the day Marty McFly and Dr Emmett Brown arrived in the future. People are marking the occasion in all sorts of ways. One of my favourites was Ayrshire Police’s post this morning – although it was in fact 12 hours early, it was a savvy use of social media. They posted on Facebook:

About 0728 hours today, Wednesday 21st October 2015, police received reports of a suspicious vehicle causing concern in the car park of an Irvine supermarket.

Witnesses report the stainless steel DeLorean vehicle to have been damaged and two men to have been within the vehicle. One man is described as being around 17 years old, slim build with dark hair while the other is only described as being older with grey hair and wearing a white coat.

A spokesperson for Ayrshire Police Division commented “on arriving at the location the vehicle almost collided with two members of the public on hover boards. Luckily the hover board’ collision avoidance system prevented any injuries. We are keen to speak with the two men seen within the vehicle.”

#JustForFun #BackToTheFuture

My Facebook timeline was full of comments about hover boards, but my feelings were mostly mild discomfort. After all, a day that I had thought was a very long time away when the film first came out in 1989 is now here. I wonder if people who read 1984 when it was first published in 1949 felt when that date finally arrived. 

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Five posts from five years

Nov 2006 modified LDV front pageWe thought it might be fun to take one of our occasional trips down Memory Lane to see what we were writing about on this day in 5 of the 9 years of our existence.

19th October 2006

Pre the Crash, leader Ming Campbell takes Labour to task on poverty and talks about, guess what, a fairer society. Who says we are inconsistent. Worth reading as much of it is relevant now.

I am determined to take the fight for a fairer Britain into the mainstream of British politics, and into the heartlands of the Labour Party.

I am determined to show that defeating poverty and increasing opportunity does not mean creating a state of dependency.

I am determined that Britain should not simply swap the days of calculated neglect under Mrs. Thatcher for years of benign neglect under Mr. Cameron.

I am determined to show that there is an alternative to the Dependency State of Gordon Brown.

I am determined to show that there is a sustainable way to remove the scourge of child poverty that does so much to undermine our social cohesion.

I am determined to show that way is the Liberal way.

The mainstream, not the centre, but essentially means the same thing.

19th October 2008

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A row with a Labour MP and a wonky crystal ball

Facebook is now giving you more reason to waste time on it by reminding you what you posted on this day in previous years. I’m mostly enjoying it. A random bit of cheek from the much missed Andrew Reeves made me laugh and cry yesterday. Today I was reminded about a post on my own blog from five years ago.

Tom Harris, then MP for Glasgow South had been whinging something chronic about the (then) new IPSA, the body which administers parliamentary expenses, set up in the wake of the scandal. I wrote a post in response which said, basically: Tom, you have a point, but this is how public services generally treat ordinary, often vulnerable people. I then went off on one giving many examples of such horrors.

There might be some who take a bit of perverse pleasure in seeing MPs being treated like that. I’m not one of them, although I have no objection to them having to provide documentary evidence of things. You try claiming benefits or tax credits without providing supporting documents and see how far you get. Most MPs, as I have repeatedly said, are good people – but then so are most people who deal with the Department of Work and Pensions, the UK Border Agency and HM Revenue and Customs – and nobody should have to put up with poor systems and bad service.

One thing IPSA hasn’t done yet is lost any confidential data, unlike HMRC under Labour where the details of Child Benefit claimants went missing.

I do have a slight concern about the way in which one MP spoke to the IPSA officials (apparently interns, who have no power in the organisation) when asked to file his children’s birth certificates:

It is not yet known whether the IPSA official in question is even physically capable of performing the act the MP then requested of him, or even if it is legal within the United Kingdom.

.I wonder if this is a bit of poetic licence on Tom’s part but if a benefit or tax credit claimant had spoken to a Government official like that, they would have suffered some fairly severe consequences and perhaps been denied service, however understandable the grievance. I also think Tom would be the first to stand up and defend the relevant Government agency in that instance.

Tom was none too pleased and took me to task in the comments:

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What’s your first Conference or campaign memory?

I had meant to write about something else this evening but time has run away with me. Never mind. That’ll keep for tomorrow.

So this is really just a quick post inspired by the fact that my nephew is heading off, all fired up and full of anticipation to his first political conference. Sadly, it’s the SNP one in Perth, but I’m sure he would want me to say that he did join earlier in the Summer, before the referendum and before it became cool to do so.

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What were we talking about…in June 2007?

Tony Blair in OsnabrückI thought it might be interesting to take a wee look at what we were talking about at various points in the history of Liberal Democrat Voice. Today the spotlight shines on the first couple of weeks of June in 2007. Here are half a dozen posts from Tony Blair’s last few weeks in office. It’s interesting to note that in the first 15 days of the month, not one single woman wrote for the site.

First up, Jeremy Hargreaves assesses the Blair years:

A more equal society? Well

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35 years since Thatcher: A trip down Memory Lane

THE IRON LADY, MARGARET THATCHEROn 4 May 1979, Margaret Thatcher entered Downing Street for the first time. The sun that shone down on her on the steps cast a decade long shadow. The culture of selfishness, instilling a belief that there was something wrong with paying taxes for good public services, pervades today. In recent years, only the Liberal Democrats of the major parties have gone into an election advocating a rise in Income Tax, albeit a tiny one, to invest in education.

We seem to be embroiled in this cycle of underfunding our services, complaining about them and then underfunding them some more.

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Worth a second outing: historical BOTYs

With the success of the most recent Blog of the Year still ringing in our ears, I thought I’d dig through the archive and bring you the tapes from the previous incarnations of the event.

Marvel at our clipped accents and the comical costumes we wore as we take this trip down memory lane.

Firstly, Jonathan Calder unearthed some footage of the very first BOTY ceremony with guest speaker Alex Wilcock. This was way back in 2006 when the world was as a younger, kinder place.

I’m not aware of any recordings from 2007 – if you can help fill the …

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