Next Saturday I am the guest speaker at my old rugby club Tiverton RFC which is enjoying its 150th anniversary, the oldest club in Devon. I will be sharing some old stories about when I played for the club’s Colts team, in the early 1970’s. Nearly 50 years ago! Looking forward to it.
There are many similarities about political life today compared to that in the 1970’s. Both main parties were struggling to form a government or win elections with a clear majority. We had two general elections in 1974, and (dare I mention it) a referendum on entry into the Common Market in 1975. We also had the Lib-Lab pact from 1977-1979. All ofthis political malaise was swept away by a radical incoming government with a strong leader and clear programme in 1979 – Mrs T of course.
We currently have similar politics: a stumbling government, unable to deliver its core policy, which circles on as though in a holding pattern waiting to land, but not quite sure where the airport is or even which one we are going to. The main opposition party is led by someone who does not command widespread respect even among his own MPs let along the wider public. No point in hiding it – British politics is in a mess. I am honestly not sure what is going to happen to fix our current predicament.
But unlike the 70’s our underlying economy – the thing that really matters to people – that provides jobs and puts food on the table – is thriving. Economic growth in the past three months was 0.5%, well above expectations. Unemployment continues to fall, and record numbers are in work. I am not sure why, with all the current uncertainty, the economy is flourishing, but it is.
This is reflected locally. The good news about the reversal of the decision to close the ball-bearing giant Barden, is a huge vote of confidence in the future of Plymouth. This week the announcement that Becton Dickinson is investing another £2 1/2 million in expanding its factory in Roborough. Other businesses report to me that order books are full.
In the seventies we were the sick man of Europe, with massive unemployment, constant strikes, trade union domination and the 3- day week and our broken politics reflected that. Now our politics might be stuck in a time warp but at least the British economy is doing well. Long may it last!