The Corner

What Might Have Been

Now that America has embraced government car-making and the administration is rumored to be considering the introduction of VAT, I have been reading up on Britain in the Seventies, which seems to be depressingly relevant once more. In dark times, all sorts of would-be saviors emerge.In 1976, who said this?

’As I see it, I am the only alternative for the premier in England,’ he drawled. ‘I believe Britain could benefit from a fascist leader.’

Answer: David Bowie. The uniforms would have been awesome.

More conventional members of the political class were slumped in gloom, starting with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition:

Jim Callaghan confessed to his Cabinet colleagues that if he were a younger man he would emigrate. Margaret Thatcher told Kingsley Amis that if she lost the general election she and Denis would stay in Britain ‘but we’ll work very hard with the children to set them up with careers in Canada’.

Canada? “It was that bad,” as Carol Thatcher once said to me.

The above vignettes are from a new book called When The Lights Went Out whose revisionist author tries to argue the case that the decade that marked the (to date) low point of the post-war era actually had a lot to recommend it. I like this attempt to look on the bright side of three-day weeks, uncollected garbage piling up in the streets, early-evening TV closedowns to save electricity, etc:

The disruption wrought by strikes and inflation and oil crises, and by the lights going out, proves that politics was ‘more obviously connected to everyday life’.

That’s one way of putting it.

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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