Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Post War Britain - A Political History

I mentioned a while back that I read so few books now compared to a few decades of stuffing a lot of print down my visual oseophagus that I feel compelled to blog each completed book. The good news is that I'm no longer plodding through publications that I feel obliged to read or just don't really enjoy. So while that copy of Moby Dick is waiting to be read as a gift from Christmas, it doesn't feel right quite now.

I guess it's the sort of book I'd really dig on a long bus ride to nowhere like my own Burmese Days where if it were not for time available, I'd  could not have completed The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy. Something I'd have to say is impossible now given competing distractions but it served well on the way from Rangoon to Ngapali Beach on the Bay of Bengal in Burma and back again to the creaking, decaying capital in buses that I'll never forget.

I picked the book above from a charity book store in Hong Kong for 10 Bucks. I used to cream through this sort of stuff and the book reminded me why. While I'm  no longer as fanatical about politics (don't the Corporations call the shots these days?) this book was a fresh digging of a field left fallow for some time. I'd forgotten the names of the the real political left from the  60's and 70's in the UK. Mick McGahey, Bill Morris, Frank Cousins, Jimmy Knapp and so on and so forth. They don't exist now. I don't know any characters in Parliament. Even Dave looks like the kind of PM who if he does well is a chancer who lucked out.

Those old Labour characters seem so much more authentic now then how I used to perceive them. Nobody could argue that they were in it for the money or the glory. They dressed like shit, looked like shit and paid themselves less than shit. But somehow, they had a vision of working class Britain that never really materialised given the sloth of British industry prior to Thatcher but that doesn't mean that if the UK had inexplicably lurched to the left and say Militant had gotten a stranglehold on British politics, I'm quite sure that the Brits would have made the best hardcore communists in Europe.

Commies to be reckoned with. Don't ask me why and even more importantly don't ask me if that's a good thing.

The best and most gripping part of the book was the narrative leading up to, through and just after the Falklands war. There are so many details I had no idea of at the time that reading it was a joyous and pure lesson in history that I can never quite pay the proper tribute to.

However let's try; apart from Socialist Red Blood pumping through secondary picketing, and war torn limbs pumping arterial blood from HMS Sir Galahad or the Battle for Goose Green the book is a bit shit and pedestrian in parts. Mainly because of its obsession with the electoral numbers which leads me nicely on to my next post....

But in case anybody can spark me into devouring Moby Dick, I'd be interested to hear why. Go on. 

Taunt me into reading it.