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

Book Review:Changing Life Chances by Robin Richardson.

Peter D`Sena

Peter D`Sena

Peter D`Sena Discipline Lead History,Higher Education Academy

According to the Department for Education (DfE), almost 1.2 million children in England live in a lower-income household (as defined by eligibility for free school meals); and from that group only 27% of the 16-year olds achieve five A* to C grades at GCSE, compared with 54% of others.

No wonder the DfE in their Equality Impact Statement (2011) came to the enormously miserable and powerful conclusion that ‘we are clearly, as a nation, still wasting talent on a scandalous scale.  It is a moral failure and an affront to social justice’.  Using government documentation such as this Robin Richardson quickly and convincingly launches into this short book, showing us that we are living in a period when, paradoxical as it may seem because things are both getting better and worse at the same time, the achievement gap is growing wider between children.

The recent Equalities Act (2010) then comes under Richardson’s microscope and the result is a succinct, yet robust rationale for practitioners working in the field.  His effective argument is that to the Act’s nine protected characteristics of disability, ethnicity and race, gender, religion and so on, we should also add socio-economic inequality, brought through poverty, low income and social class.  And, just as a core principle of the Act is that ‘due regard’ is a necessity in order to carry its objectives into practice, so too should schools and individuals develop, demonstrate and practice ‘due regard’ in all they do in order to narrow the gap. Read more of this post


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