The Trauma of Tory Britain 1982 or The More A Tory ‘Changes’ The More They Stay The Same.

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Back in 1982 after 3 years of  Thatcher government policies unemployment soared. Apart from the names, this news item from the BBC sounds remarkably like its describing today’s situation after 3 years of Cameron’s rule:-

1982: UK unemployment tops three million

The number of people out of work in Britain has risen above three million for the first time since the 1930s. The official jobless total, announced today, is 3,070,621. It means one in eight people is out of work.

Rates of unemployment vary across the country – in Northern Ireland it is nearly 20% and 15 or 16% in most parts of Scotland the North East and North West – only in the South East does it drop below 10%.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was given a rough ride when she tried to defend the government’s record on employment in the Commons this afternoon.

Mrs Thatcher was frequently heckled as she insisted there were “encouraging signs” the economy was improving. The Speaker was forced to intervene and call for order.

 “There are 32 people chasing every vacancy”  said Labour leader Michael Foot

Afterwards, Labour leader, Michael Foot, said: “When Mrs Thatcher came into office there were five people chasing each job and that was bad enough. Today there are 32 people chasing every vacancy and in some parts of the country, it’s double that.”

More than 750,000 people are now classed as longterm unemployed.

Employment Secretary Norman Tebbit did not appear to be offering any quick fixes when he said: “We are gradually fighting back in competitive terms against our rivals. As we can expand the economy so there will be more jobs available in the future.”

The level of unemployment in Britain is almost the highest in Europe – second only to Belgium.

The two main factors behind the rise in the jobless total are the economic recession and the restructuring of industry.

 In cities like Coventry, workers are being made redundant by the closure of traditional manufacturing industries. The British Leyland factory making MGs closed 15 months ago, putting 700 people out of work.

After 21 years working for MG, Eddie McAvinue is now looking after his grandchildren. He says he felt bitter to start with – but not any more: “When I look round and there’s young people with A and O levels and they can’t get jobs, I just accept it now. I can’t do anything else”

maggie4  The controversial drama series “Boys from the Blackstuff” was aired on television during 1982 and became hugely popular. 

The British Film Institute described it as a “seminal drama series… a warm, humorous but ultimately tragic look at the way economics affect ordinary people… TV’s most complete dramatic response to the Thatcher era and as a lament to the end of a male, working class British culture.”

Set in Bleasdale’s home city of Liverpool, and reflecting many of his own experiences of life in the city, each episode focuses on a different member of the group. The series was highly acclaimed for its powerful and emotional depiction of the desperation wrought by high unemployment and a subsequent lack of social support. Although the series is and was noted by many reviewers as a critique of the Margaret Thatcher era, which was seen as being responsible for the fate of many of the unemployed lower and working classes, particularly in the North of England (and in fact fuelling the North-South divide), most of the series had actually been written in 1978 during Labour’s James Callaghan’s prime ministership, therefore preceding Thatcher’s Britain by a year. Unemployment stood at a 40-year high of more 1.5million by the summer of 1978, compared to some 600,000 just four years earlier, but by early 1982 had reached 3 million (some one in eight of the workforce) as a result of economic recession and Thatcher’s  restructuring of industry.

This episode “Shop Thy Neighbour” starring a very young Julie Walters brings home the trauma suffered by the unemployed brilliantly. The fact that it applies just as much today as it did then hammers home the message Labour should now be shouting from the rooftops: Never trust the Tories with the welfare state.




5 thoughts on “The Trauma of Tory Britain 1982 or The More A Tory ‘Changes’ The More They Stay The Same.

  1. Pingback: The Trauma of Tory Britain 1982 or The More A T...

  2. beetleypete

    I loved the ‘Boys from the Blackstuff’. Bernard Hill, manic as Yosser, and the despair so brilliantly portrayed. I remember the episode when the character played by Michael Angelis (who now narrates Thomas the Tank Engine) killed his family’s pet rabbits. It still sends a shiver down my spine, all these years later.
    Great stuff Sue, more power to you. Regards as always, Pete.

  3. sparaszczukster Post author

    It was a great series and when I watched this episode again I was amazed at how relevant it is again. After 1997 we moved forward away from the kind of despair portrayed in the stories and now after three short years we’re right back there again.I can think of no more powerful argument for getting this government out for good.Thanks for your comment, as always.

  4. beastrabban

    Thanks for posting this, Sparaszczukster. I remember ‘Boys from the Blackstuff’ and its character, Yosser. One of my aunts was an avid fan. I didn’t watch it myself, as I was rather too young at the time, and it was much too grim for me. I do remember the controversy and fierce political debate when the unemployment figures topped four million. This was the world that partly inspired the ‘Judge Dredd’ comic strip in 2000 AD. A vast mega-city in a world devastated by nuclear war, in which the vast majority of its citizens – 94 per cent plus – were unemployed. The strip’s creators drew on the despair of unemployment when they produced the Judge Dredd story ‘Unamerican Graffiti’. This was about an escalating competition between two underground street artists, Chopper and the Phantom, to create the most impressive and audacious bits of graffiti. The background to the character’s motivations is the sheer desperation of living in a society with no job prospects and no hope. Megacity 1’s citizens survive only by adopting hobbies, some of them very bizarre, in order to cope with the sheer boredom and bleakness of their existences. The strip has a sharply satirical edge that has made it one of the leading comic strips since it first appeared, way back in 1979.

    I also have to say that I really don’t trust the unemployment figures any more. They’ve simply been altered far too much since Maggie Thatcher took power. Mike, of Vox Political fame, did some calculations, and suggested that the real unemployment figures could be anything up to about 12 million, according to the way its calculated. If that is the case, then the global economy has something terribly wrong with it. It’s broken, and definitely not fit for purpose.

    1. sparaszczukster Post author

      Thanks for this. I share your scepticism about unemployment figures and firmly believe they’re far far worse than we’re led to believe. If Mike is right then its devastating.


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