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Sunday, September 23, 2007

First political memory meme

Sanddef has tagged me to talk about my first political memory. I don't usually do memes but I will make an exception in this case simply because it is one that I find interesting.

The memory that stands out for me from my childhood is undoubtedly the three day week in 1973. With the exception of budget day, when my father expected us to be able to tell him what the Chancellor had done with tax allowances on his return home from work, it was the one single event that raised my awareness of politics and the perils of governance.

I recall following the dispute between Ted Heath and the National Union of Mineworkers in the newspapers in intimate detail. I remember the inexorable rise of the price of petrol until it broke the £1 a gallon mark for the first time ever (those were the days!) and the various OPEC conferences as the oil producing countries of the Middle East started to use the power of the cartel to force up the cost of oil, using embargoes to make their point.

Wikipedia records that to reduce electricity consumption, and thus conserve coal stocks, a series of measures were announced by Heath, including the "Three-Day Work Order", more commonly known as the Three-Day Week, which was to come into force at midnight on 31 December 1973. Commercial consumption of electricity would be limited to three consecutive days each week. The Prime Minister's objective was business continuity and survival. Rather than risk a total shutdown, working time was reduced with the intent of prolonging the life of available fuel stocks.

Living in a house without central heating and reliant on an electric storage heater in the bedroom I shared with my brother, I recall that early 1974 was a very cold winter. Fortunately, we had a gas cooker so our meals were not affected, however for my siblings and I, there was huge excitement that we now had to go about our daily business in candlelight and take a torch to bed if we wanted to read. Government advice to take a bath with a friend was largely ignored in our household, though I am sure it spiced up life elsewhere.

The result of this conflict was that, with the exception of Muhammed Ali and the lead up to the Rumble in the Jungle on 30th October 1974, politics was a major topic of conversation between lessons in my school. At least two of the teachers were active members of the Liberal Party and as a result of widespread interest they facilitated regular leafleting sessions for some of my classmates and me in the Eastham Ward of Wirral Council, a Liberal Democrat stronghold for decades now. By the 1974 General Election I found myself canvassing for the Liberal candidate in the Bebington and Ellesmere Port constituency at the tender age of 14. I recall being warned very sternly by my father of the consequences if a Liberal poster were to appear in my bedroom window at the time.

Although I continued to be active in working for the Liberals and remained politically aware, I did not join properly until my first year of University. I did take some part in the 1975 referendum in support of remaining in Europe but my actual immersion into politics started with the 1979 Devolution referendum. By 1984 I was the only Liberal Swansea City Councillor. By 2004 the Liberal Democrats were leading the Council.

Having dredged up all those political memories it is time others join in. I therefore tag Frank Little of the Aberavon and Neath Liberal Democrat blog, David Peter, Betsan Powys, David Cornock, and Stephen Tall.
Wow, I had no idea that you were almost as old as Alwyn ;-)
I suppose the first time I became aware of politics was when living in Switzerland with relations in the mid fifties. I remember my Uncle and Aunt discussing the 1945 General Election, or more precisely wondering why the British people had rejected Churchill in 1945. Churchill was particularly respected in Switzerland given Switzerland's proximity to Germany and Austria, and the Swiss constant fear of invasion throughout the late thirties and early forties. The discussion must have been triggered by the 1955 General Election campaign.

Later I remember Edward Heath speaking at the Pavilion in Llandrindod when he was Minister of Power? Could this have been 1957-58?

Finally, what got me really interested in politics was hearing Emlyn Hooson speak on his vision of a classless society, this must have been in the mid-sixties, possibly the 1966 General Election campaign.
You are meant to do it on your own blog David :-)
What's this "tag"? Reminds me of tales of wrestling night at the New Brighton Tower. ;-)

The spur to my political activity (as opposed to political interest) can be summed up in two words: "Mrs Thatcher".

A slight correction: our blog spot is run by Richard Northcote. I am merely a main contributor.

- Frank Little
It is precisely like that Frank. I tag you and you take up the story on your own blog. I know that Richie runs the Aberavon blog but I tagged you specifically as a contributor to it as you have been around in the party a lot longer.
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