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Blog: (1979)

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Yesterday BBC Parliament showed the 1979 Election, in its entirety. I watched a few hours of it, and it was completely bloody FANTASTIC.

Not for the result, obviously, but for the amazing insight into a world which has now completely disappeared. They showed the election coverage that they'd showed 25 years ago, and the most amazing thing about it was how "modern" it looked. Whenever we see film of the 1970's now we usually see film footage, and when this appeared during the broadcast it looked fuzzy and faded, just as we expect the 1970s to look. However, when they showed the (I guess, previously unrepeated) VIDEO footage it was INCREDIBLE. For instance, we saw Thatcher emerging from her house into a crowd of cheering people (and OH! if only they'd known what they were cheering!) and it looked as if it could have been broadcast live today - it looked EXACTLY like video footage does now, it was amazing - suddenly you saw how very similar the world looked then, indeed people were dressed pretty much the same as they would be now. Again, we get used to the dramatisation of the past, with everybody walking around very much In Costume, but seeing ordinary film of ordinary people without the distancing effort of gloopy old film footage drastically cut down the distance between us and them. It's a good job they had the little "1979" in the top right of the screen, otherwise someone tuning in might have thought THE NIGHTMARE was BEGINNING AGAIN!

It was fantastic watching all the predictions and expectations being reeled out. Tony Benn, self-important and posh as ever, was seen saying "Oh yes, I expect we'll be back in power soon enough to look after the common people" (NB: PARAPHRASING). Numerous Old Tory Duffers appeared on screen, not knowing how soon their DOOM would come. Every so often a face of IMPENDING EVIL would appear - notably Keith Joseph, who LOOMED out of a sea of hideously toothed big haired nobodies like Darth Vader sweeping through a field of stormtroopers. Industry Leaders hoped for a more conciliatory attitude towards the unions, and that there wouldn't be any "unneccessary laws" being brought in, and, hilariously, commentators looked forward to a more positive attitude towards Europe.

And through it all, the mighty EVIL of Thatcher stalked ever closer toward Downing Street. You could practically see an old way of life crumbling, as the death knell sounded for Common Decency...

And also there was lots of HILARITY about what on earth could be done about Docklands, whether the Jubilee line could be finished off soon, the Exotic Nature of Jim Callaghan's last meal in Downing Street (a take-away!), and astounding casual misogyny as the implications of a woman prime minister were countenanced. An American "lady pundit" saw great things ahead for women, and a very nervous Shirley Williams, stood by a duck pond, accepted Robin Day's compliments and doubted very strongly that Labour would change its position on anything, and certainly not move any further left...

It was an incredible thing to sit and watch, I only wish I'd sat down earlier and seen the whole thing. I wonder whether people in 2022 will look back on May 1st 1997 in the same sort of way?

posted 4/5/2004 by MJ Hibbett

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