AFTER EIGHTIES.. It Wasn't Just Shoulder Pads and Big Hair, the Eighties Had Strikes, Sexism and Brutality. Andy McSmith Tells How the Decade Revolutionised Britain

Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), September 20, 2010 | Go to article overview

AFTER EIGHTIES.. It Wasn't Just Shoulder Pads and Big Hair, the Eighties Had Strikes, Sexism and Brutality. Andy McSmith Tells How the Decade Revolutionised Britain


Byline: Andy McSmith

THERE are two reasons that 1980s nostalgia is all the rage.

The first is a product of the natural ageing process.

In our teenage years, we think we know what it is going on in the big, wide world but, as middle age descends, it dawns on us that we knew a lot less than we thought - and have forgotten most of it.

So there are a lot of people aged around 40 who are curious to find out what took place 20 to 30 years ago.

The other reason is the gathering storm clouds.

Impending cuts in public spending, the rise in unemployment and the prospect of strikes have made some people wonder whether the political clock has turned back 30 years.

Actually, we are not going back to the 1980s and, for all the nostalgia, that is something to be thankful for.

Not only have our lives been made much easier by a vast number of gadgets and conveniences that did not exist then but our political and economic problems are not as bad as they were 30 years ago.

Then, there was recession, high unemployment, double-figure inflation and Government debt which, in newly elected PM Margaret Thatcher's view, was far too high.

Now we have the one problem of Government debt.

In 1981, while the nation was intrigued by the impending wedding of Charles and Diana, there were riots in most of the big cities.

And the conflict between the British state and the IRA took on a new intensity when Bobby Sands and eight other prisoners starved themselves to death.

In October 1984, the IRA blew up the Grand Hotel in Brighton in an attempt to kill Thatcher - which very nearly succeeded.

More generally, there was an epic political contest under way over what sort of society Britain was to be - whether the Government should be more involved in managing the economy, or less, whether capitalism should be rejuvenated or reformed out of existence.

That war was won outright by Thatcher.

By the time the miners marched back to work, defeated, in March 1985, she had established a political and economic order that has never been seriously challenged since.

Having won, though, Thatcher overstretched herself. And it was a small quirk in Scottish law that started the process that brought her down. In Scotland, every property had to be revalued every five years to make sure that domestic rate bills reflected genuine property values.

There was no such legal requirement south of the border, where revaluation was put off indefinitely to avoid trouble.

The law required revaluation to go ahead in Scotland in 1985, to the fury of people who found that the rapid rise in house prices had a drastic effect on their rate bills. …

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AFTER EIGHTIES.. It Wasn't Just Shoulder Pads and Big Hair, the Eighties Had Strikes, Sexism and Brutality. Andy McSmith Tells How the Decade Revolutionised Britain
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