Back to the past

Sun shining whilst clearing out my wife’s parents house yesterday. One dusty red book from the year I was born; 1960 caught my eye. It’s a selection of “Vicky” cartoons from the Evening Standard. Political satire of its day. The characters on the scene at that time have long since left the stage but I recognised the names of the prominent ones. What’s fascinating is the subjects.
Tory PM “Supermac” was being ridiculed. Russia was boasting of economic growth. British unemployment reaches a new peak in 1958. British humble pie was being eaten over Suez. There was rioting in Notting Hill. The Labour Party was fighting itself over nuclear disarmament. Nothing new on that one. City scandals were hitting the headlines. How times have changed! December 1959 the Home Secretary was answering questions on “telephone tapping”. Now that’s original. May 1960: with an eye on the US presidential election, Mr Nixon says he knows how to talk to the Russians. Gosh that sounds just like Mr Trump.
One lovely cartoon showed two shopkeepers eyeing each other up whilst standing in their doorways saying: “and a prosperous New Year to you, too!”. One was called “Free Trade Stores” and the other called the “Common Market Shop”. Thus, as it ever was, the arguments that were raging in late 1958 are similar argument to those we are having over this year’s referendum.
This was the world before Britain joined the Common Market. Britain’s place in the world was being challenged on all fronts. It was slowly getting accustomed to the post-war world order. The British economy was performing poorly. The “Free Trade Stores” were breaking-up. To reinvigorate British military-industrial efforts there was even a space programme, with the Blue Streak rocket but it got too costly and was dropped. In this era, it became clear that European collaboration as the only way forward. What proved too expensive for one to do alone became possible as Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands worked together.
It took a decade for Britain to join the “Common Market Shop”. There was no realistic way back to the imperial pre-war era. I do not want to see a Britain who has made a success of European Union membership then abandoned it for an uncertain future. As if there was a way back to the past.

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