Life After Cambridge (1966-1980)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

Kennedy before his assasination had announced a ten year program to place a man on the moon, and Neil Amstrong was to achieve this in 1969.Whilst I was at Emmanuel, MacMillan had retired from office with suspect prostrate cancer(which was misdiagnosed) having lead an administration rocked by the Christine Keeler scandal.It was still an age in which moral indigation was possible on grounds of Profumo's affair with this young woman, but Harold Wilson, perhaps prudently, had claimed as Leader of the Opposition that he was only concerned with the security aspects of the affair: Profumo had shared Keeler with the Soviet naval attache and spy, Yevgeni Ivanov. footlights
Satire had become a popular genre, and Private Eye was born in these years, as was the career of the young Cambridge Graduate, David Frost, and of the team of the television program That Was the Week that Was, many of whom had originated from their undergraduate training in the Cambridge Footlights Review.It was to prove a decade of rapid and radical change in social mores that was to survive the death of Marxism and the radical hopes of a 'new' political order in the demonstrations of 1968.
Meanwhile in the election of 1964 Wilson was to become Prime Minister, replacing the 14th Earl of Hume, or Alex Douglas Hume as he was known following the renouncing of his peerage.benn2
It was a move made possible much earlier by Anthony Wedgewood Benn, M.P. who had refused to go the Lords on the death of Vicount Stansgate, the hereditary peer who was his father, and had been ejected from the commons by an election court! The Peerage Act of 1963 had to be passed to change a situation that was clearly undemocratic.
 
Wilson promised change, but not Marxist but Social Democratic change in which the country would be ruled centrally by state economic planning based upon nationalizing the 'commanding heights of the economy.' 1968 was to see the crushing of the Prague Spring in Czechloslovakia, but Wilson seemed to have a vision in which state control would have a democratic face. It was a vision that the Union Leaders would not in practice share as they tore to shreds any planned incomes policy.
In any case, the problem with such a policy is that it rewarded efficient companies as equal a reward as inefficient ones. Furthermore, in a democracy, politicians facing elections would pay any price to avoid strike action, and with a large part of the economy nationalized, would simply provide a cash cow for union demands.wilson
Economic and technological competence found in a rising class of technocrats would change Britain in 'the white heat of a technological revolution.' 'Productivity' was a term that Wilson claimed to have invented himself whilst a full-time civil servant in World War II. In his hands an income's policy with a social contract became simply a piece of rhetorical spin to conceal policies that could not work in a free society.

 

Wilson's advent had given me great satisfaction in Cambridge in 1964, and I shared the Labour club's tension about whether a government with an overall majority of 4 could possibly survive. The image of Wilson, former State Grammar School boy and Oxford economics don seemed to represent the triumph of a working class lad from the East End and proving himself against Old Etonian privilege represented by Hume and the 'grouse moor image.' Here was the victory of position earned by ability, etc. I left Cambridge early March 1966, having joined the Labour Party and assisting in the Waltham Forrest Election Campaign and living with my parents in Chingford where they had moved from Stoke Newington.Wilson was returned with an overall majority of 96. I then spent a term at Dudley Secondary Modern School, and then Letchworth Grammar School (September 1966-April 1968) when I transferred to Dorking Grammar School and lived in London (Clapham Junction), teaching Classics and Religious Knowledge, continuing to be active in Politics (1968-1970).

During this period of my life (1968), whilst living in London, my views on the sacramental nature of the Church, fostered as I have described in my Cambridge theological experience (Cambridge Life), germinated into action and I ceased to be a Baptist. Caught up in the ecumenism of the late 1960s, I believed Methodism was destined to re-unite with the Church of England, and the best path for someone from my background would be to join that bandwaggon.hinde st

So I attended Hinde Street Methodist Church, in London W.1, and found a social life in the Sunday Night Group.

kathallwed

 

It was there I met my wife, Kathy, a Swiss nurse learning English, and we married in Switzerland in August 1970.

We lived in Chelmsford since the Surrey County Council had granted me leave for a full-time M.A. in Philosophy of Education at the University of London, Institute of Education (see Qualifications).

Kathy in June was expecting Christopher our son, and after a long travel around the interview circuit, I accepted a post at La Sainte Union College of Education as a Lecturer in Philosophy of Education in Southampton where we lived in Hedge End. It was there that Christopher was to be born. It was there that I became a Methodist Local Preacher. I describe elsewhere how both my introduction to Catholicism both in La Sainte Union and the Methodist Sacramental Fellowship, and the experience of becoming a father radically transformed my religious perspective.(See Church:Catholic).

 

polpamphlet
I stood for the district council in Hedge End in a four seat district. Labour only contested 3 seats. My two colleagues were successful but I failed to get elected- clearly as a newcomer I was not popular.
I clearly was interested in the possibility of a political career during this period. I believed in Wilson's rhetoric of democratic socialism, and was appalled by the refusal of major unions to play ball with his concept of the social contract and incomes policy

DJ Foot

At this time I read Paul Foot's penguin book, The Politics of Harold Wilson. Foot was the nephew of the Left Wing Leader and MP, Michael Foot. But Paul was a Marxist who had no time even for the militant, Left Wing of the Labour Party that was still a considerable force in the 1970s. Indeed, Michael was destined to become Leader of the Opposition (1980-1983), and to have lead a Party whose conference endorsed a comprehensive policy of extended nationalisation called 'the Longest Suicide Note in History.' At this time the keynote Leftwing themes were hostility to America centred on opposition, with militant demonstrations, against the Vietnam War. Paradoxically, the other mark of being 'Left Wing' was membership of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, joined by the youthful Tony Blair, which advocated unilateral nuclear disarmament despite the fact that this would leave two super-powers one of which would be the 'capitalist' United States of America.
socialist worker

Paul seemed determined to outclass Michael and was a member of the Socialist Workers' Party before he died in 2004.

Nevertheless Paul was a brilliant journalist and produced some great examples of investigative journalism, in particular Who Killed Hanratty? critical of the judicial process by which he argued cogently that a miscarriage of justice had taken place.

In the Politics of Harold Wilson he brilliantly brought out how the nature of British politics had turned into the victory of spin over substance. I continued to maintain with many of my generation that British politics, unlike American, was about an alternative program for a different kind of society against a conservative status quo. Foot's book had established that this was not what Wilson was about. His Labour victory was achieved by the use of American style politics creating images of 'Camelot' through a style of journalism. It was prescient of what developed with New Labour, though Tony Blair really did believe in what he spun as Wilson did not. I was convinced by his case though it took a long time for me to admit it.

I finally despaired of the situation in the United Kingdom, with increasing attacks on the budget of Higher Education and the closing of colleges of education where degrees in education requiring the study of the philosophy of education were alone taught before the advent of the New Universities. I had produced a successful PhD at Leeds (see Qualifications: PhD) as well as a book that I felt was an original development of what I had learned from R.S. Peters and Paul Hirst at London University (Qualifications: M.A.). I despaired of finding a career in which I could feel self-fulfilled. Furthermore, the Labour Unions in their hostility to reform and resistance often violent to an incomes policy that would enable some form of social democracy to be realized were creating the situation in which Thatcher was to come to power and confront militancy. So I successfully applied for a university post at James Cook University of North Queensland and we, Kathy, Christopher and myself, left for Australia in March 1980 (Career: Australia). Thus I escaped the aftermath of Wilson's succesor as Labour Prime Minister, James Callaghan's election defeat, and Thatcher's confrontation with Scargil and the miners and the three-day week.