What if Jim Callaghan had won the 1979 election? – education and society in multi-ethnic Britain, an essay in subjunctive history

Image © Allan Warren

Robin Richardson

‘Thinking about what might have happened,’ says a character in The History Boys by Alan Bennett, ‘alerts you to the consequences of what did.’ Another character replies: ‘It’s subjunctive history … The subjunctive is the mood you use when something might or might not have happened, when it’s imagined.’

‘We told Rampton,’ reflected and rejoiced people of African-Caribbean heritage in Britain in 1981, ‘and Rampton told the world.’ Anthony Rampton’s report, West Indian Children in our Schools, had been warmly welcomed by the prime minister, James Callaghan, and by the secretary of state for education, Shirley Williams. The report’s essential message was that England’s education system was institutionally racist. Day by day in schools, it declared, a perfect storm of customs and policies worked against the interests of Black people and to the advantage and benefit of white people. This was an uncomfortable message for Mr Callaghan, who had not said anything remotely similar in his celebrated Ruskin speech in 1976. But his positive response to the Rampton report, supported and reinforced by Mrs Williams, laid the foundations for one of the most exciting and sustained  revolutions in education and society that these islands have ever seen.

Rampton’s document was the interim report of a committee of inquiry set up by Mrs Williams in 1979. Her decision to create the committee had been informed by a report published in 1977 by the House of Commons select committee on race relations and immigration; by the damning claim in 1969 by E J B Rose (co-founder of the Runnymede Trust) in his magisterial Colour and Citizenship that African-Caribbean children  were ‘a source of bafflement, embarrassment and despair in the education system’, and that they ‘often presented problems which the average teacher was not equipped to understand, let alone to overcome’; and by a seminal essay published in 1971 by a young teacher in London named Bernard Coard, who had been born in Grenada. Read more of this post

What if Jim Callaghan had won the 1979 election?

Image © brizzle born and bred

Mike Guilfoyle 

In a fascinating debate recorded in 1983 in Hansard Lord Wells -Pestell drawing on his former role as a Probation Officer opined in response to what many in the Probation Service and beyond considered at the time an overly prescriptive approach from the Home Office on the future direction of the Probation Service that : ‘we feel that the Home Office has failed to provide a positive programme for the future development of the probation service. There is in the statement a narrow preoccupation with cost cutting which is unrealistic having regard to the importance of the service to the community’ From the middle of the 1970’s the probation service had been faced with a growing range of external pressures relating to resources, professionalism , greater accountability and a debilitating sense that its traditional faith in the case-work informed rehabilitative ideal, predicated on the almost mystical status of the Officer/Client relationship as the core task of the probation service, whose efficacy was being called into question and was facing ever newer challenges to its performance that needed to be measured and quantified. Such moves became enmeshed in the introduction of what became known by the label of  the New Public Management ( NPM) into the public sector, whose profound influence , albeit in a more attenuated form melded with the modernising strategies that later characterised New Labour’s approach to public sector reform. Read more of this post

Would we have been rolling about in laughter if James Callaghan had won the election in 1979?

Peter D`Sena  

Image © Ingo Hoehn

Peter D’Sena wonders if Callaghan had won

the election of 1979,

would so-called alternative

comedy and its associated forms of popular

culture have had a very different

genesis, trajectory and influence.

 

“Ladies aaaand Gentlemen!”, bellows the compere. “Please give a warm welcome our headline act tonight: the one, the only, Jim Davidson!”

It’s a Saturday night in March 1983 and in a new West End club (let’s call it the Comic Shop) the atmosphere is hot, sweaty, smoky and slightly claustrophobic.  Our hero struts on and, as this is ‘Sit Down’ comedy, he perches on a stool, Perry Como style, in order to start his routine.  A heckler in the crowd drunkenly berates the leader of the opposition (Willie Whitelaw), but even his jibe about the nation’s big, bushy browed soft target falls on deaf ears – the age of political apathy of the ’70s, has by this time grown apace and the passive audience quickly hushes this would-be participant down.  And why shouldn’t they?  The opposition is becoming merely ornamental.  After all, inflation is down into single figures; the labour party seems to be in internal harmony, especially after buying the loyalty of the Liberals and preventing the formation of a splinter group (the would-be SAP); and labour’s deputy leader, Tony Benn, not only seems to be a credible complement and successor to Callaghan, but also likely to capture a greater margin of victory in the general election called for a few months time.  Even for the few who are bothered to politicise, there seems to be more to laugh than cry about.  Dr Owen’s tactics of submarine diplomacy, in 1982, proved enough to prevent the quirky Argentinian leadership from taking the Falklands; Callaghan has pulled back from schmoozing with the new president – the B-list actor, Reagan and distanced himself from Star Wars; and the death of Brezhnev has opened the door to the possibility of a socialist-dominated Europe moving closer to reciprocal agreements with the new Soviet leadership.  Unemployment, which had been a threat in the late ’70s, seems to be turning around, so much so that a TV show called Boys from the Black Stuff won’t be taken beyond its pilot.   The show with a character called Loadsamoney looks to have much more potential under Labour than Yosser Hughes.  This is an age of parody rather than post-modern irony, and in the media the closest thing to conflict is the TV ratings war, where it’s a close call between Blind Date and Fantasy IslandRead more of this post

Ed Miliband Leader of the Left?

Nora Connolly 

Ed Miliband on the mic

Copyright archived Department of Energy

Ed Miliband is the leader of the Left, a revelation made recently in a broadcast with BBC/Independent journalist Steve Richards. Although, Miliband appears more interested in identifying himself with Conservative politicians, concepts and with Mrs Thatcher`s legacy – obsequiously describing her as a conviction politician. In his early thirties we discover that Miliband`s summer reading was Iain Macleod’s biography, Ed Milibands`s `One Nation` agenda clearly has had a longer gestation period than cynics might have thought. The Disraeli citation highlighted in the broadcast was further evidence that the philosophical underpinning of Miliband`s big idea is a Conservative/reactionary one. The only left-winger mentioned during the programme was Ralph Miliband, the father of the Labour leader, a brilliant Marxist thinker who sadly died in 1994.

Miliband`s position was considered analogous to Mrs Thatcher`s period in opposition, a correlation that allowed for a comparison with Miliband by Charles Moore. Richards returned to Thatcher`s legacy indicating that she developed a strong populist message, a political outsider who produced a critique of the former government led by Ted Heath in which she served. A politician who overturned the Keynesian post-war consensus, whose populist message was based on the notion that the state needed to get off peoples backs.  Read more of this post

You Can`t Say That (Memoirs) by Ken Livingstone

Book review 

Livingstone Ken

copyright Amplified2010

This is a highly readable account of Livingstone`s life beginning with his early years in post-war Britain, a world resembling Mike Leigh`s depiction in `Vera Drake’. London is an incredibly boring place lacking cultural diversity home life dominated by the Daily Express. His Conservative voting parents were socially enlightened although Victorian values permeated Livingstone`s upbringing, to escape he read Orwell, political awakening coming from Horowitz in 1967 `From Yalta to Vietnam`. Harold Wilson`s position on Rhodesia transformed Livingstone`s initially high opinion of the Labour leader and Livingstone delayed joining the party repelled by Callaghan`s treatment of Kenyan Asians.

Racism was a strong generational factor his uncle a member of Mosley`s Black-shirts who refused to watch television featuring black or Irish personalities. Livingstone outlines the racist Conservative campaign during the Smethwick election in 1964 setting the tone for UK politics. The Labour Party mimicked this agenda illustrated by comments made by Mellish and Richard Crossman, notable non-racist exceptions such as  John Fraser MP encouraged black political participation which attracted Livingstone to the Labour Party. Livingstone also worked at Chester Beatty with brilliant “research doctor” Tom Connors and drew closer to Ghanaian colleagues because of Ian Smith`s “racist government in Rhodesia”. Read more of this post

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