10.10.04

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As you would expect from someone who is a political historian, one of the things that interests me is past election results - I enjoy tracking changing political attitudes. I am also interested in social change, which I believe is intimately linked to political change - they are symbiotic. Well, today I had a real treat. While I was waiting for the rest of the family to get out of bed this morning, I was flicking through the TV channels, and came upon BBC Parliament, which, to recognise the anniversary of the October 1974 general election, was broadcasting the entire "live" election results coverage as it was broadcast on the night of the election. I was enthralled! It was interesting on so many levels. Firstly, it made me feel powerful as I watched the commentators trying to extrapolate the result when I already knew it. Secondly, the clothes! Big lapels, wide ties, horn-rimmed glasses and sweepover haircuts seemed to be the order of the day - and you should see how the men dressed! Thirdly, the accents! Everyone seemed to speak like either Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter, or like characters from a 1960s northern kitchen-sink drama. People just don't speak like that any more! And I was amazed at how uncomfortable the politicians were speaking to the TV! What's more - many of them were smoking cigarettes in the studio! Definitely the days before image consultants and sound bites took over politics. Fourthly, the technology! People manually changing the boards, and the famous Swingometer! You could see the people putting up the results - while trying to stay out of shot! Fifthly, seeing many of our elder statespeople when they were young turks - people like Margaret Beckett, Norman Lamont... And finally, listening to the then Tory leader, Ted Heath, claiming that there would be a woman prime minister one day, but that it would not be Margaret Thatcher! I tore myself away to go for a walk in the woods with Liam. It was raining and misty as we made our way through the mud... but the smell of the rotting leaves! Delicious.

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