It’s always grim Oop North on t’BBC… RICHARD LITTLEJOHN says new TV show Back In Time For Tea never misses a chance to bash the Tories
History is supposed to be written by the winners. But that’s not always the case when it comes to the Thatcher years, which are routinely portrayed as some kind of Dark Ages presided over by a fascist regime.
Revisionism is the order of the day, especially at the BBC. We’ve become accustomed to the Corporation’s news, current affairs and drama output dressing to the Left.
Now, though, even the ‘reality’ programmes are following the same Guardianista agenda. This week I caught up with a show called Back In Time For Tea, on BBC 2.
Coal was dying long before Thatcher entered Downing Street in 1979. The pits would have closed anyway. All the strike did was hasten their demise, says RICHARD LITTLEJOHN
To be honest, it’s not the kind of thing I’d normally bother with. My interest was piqued by a blog on the Spectator magazine website, written by Ross Clark.
The series features a typical family from Bradford, who are transported back in time to experience life in different decades of the 20th century.
It’s billed as a food programme, featuring dishes from down the years, illustrating how our tastes have changed and become more sophisticated. This gives the kids a chance to turn up their noses at everything from tripe to treacle pudding.
But politics is never far from the surface. So it proved this week, when Dad was transformed into a striking coal miner and Mum was told she was losing her job as a dinner lady because the Tories had privatised school catering.
As the strike, which began in 1984, progresses, the family’s car, sofa and washing machine are all repossessed because they can’t keep up the repayments.
Mum goes to the cupboard, but there’s nothing there, save for a mouldy old loaf and a symbolic bit of hard cheddar. We’re talking Old Mother Hubbard here.
Despite the hardship, Mum explains to the children that it’s worth it because they’re ‘taking a stand’ against the wicked Tories. The kids are encouraged to wear ‘Coal Not Dole’ lapel badges.
Here we go, here we go, here we go!
Fortunately, help is at hand in the form of food parcels from the Soviet Union. The family is saved from starvation by tins of beans from Hungary and beef from Russia.
You couldn’t make it up. Actually, you don’t have to. Distributing food parcels from the Communist bloc was one of the more cynical stunts pulled by the strike organisers and their supporters.
The voiceover states that in the Eighties, Britain was more divided than at any time since the Thirties. Soup kitchens popped up in Bradford for the first time in 60 years.
An ex-miner was wheeled on to declare, with tears in his eyes, that he’d do it all over again. (Cue the Brighouse and Rastrick brass band.)
What’s utterly lacking is any pretence of balance, either political or historical. Viewers are informed that the strike was over the closure of coal mines, including the one where the Bradford Dad allegedly worked.
That’s not strictly accurate. By the Eighties, there were no pits open in the Bradford area. The last one on the outskirts of the city closed as long ago as 1950, under Clement Attlee’s Labour government. In fact, far more mines were shut down under Labour than the Tories. This inconvenient truth is conveniently ignored. So when the ex-miner says he was fighting for the jobs of future generations, it’s a fantasy.
Coal was dying long before Thatcher entered Downing Street in 1979. The pits would have closed anyway. All the strike did was hasten their demise.
What viewers were not told, either, is that miners’ leader Arthur Scargill called the strike without holding a national ballot and enforced it using violent flying pickets.
It was never about saving coal mines, it was about bringing down a democratically elected Conservative government. There was revolution in the air.
It wasn’t Communist bloc food parcels which helped keep the strike going, it was Moscow Gold — money funnelled to the National Union of Mineworkers from Russia and Colonel Gaddafi’s Soviet satellite Libya.
(I remember one of the bagmen, the late Ken Cameron, leader of the firemen’s union, leaving a satchel full of dodgy dosh in a Westminster boozer after stopping off for a few large scotches before catching a train to the NUM headquarters in Barnsley. He had to get a cab back from King’s Cross station to retrieve it.)
Meanwhile, Back In Time, when the strike collapses after a year, Dad finds himself out of work. He receives a letter from the Government offering him £40 a week to become self-employed, by starting his own hot-potato business.
Dad thinks it’s a bit of a come-down from working down t’pit. For the record, I understand the dignity of labour argument, but ask yourself this: would you rather sell hot potatoes in a warm shopping centre, or crawl on your hands and knees breathing in coal dust hundreds of feet underground?
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but this looked to me like a sideways swipe at the origins of today’s free-booting, Uber-style gig economy.
By the time the programme moved on to the awful fire at Bradford City football ground, which claimed 56 lives, I switched off before they could make the inevitable Grenfell Tower parallels.
There was clearly a good series trying to get out here, but the producers couldn’t resist their statutory metropolitan, anti-Tory, anti-Thatcher moralising.
This is obviously what life Oop North looks like to Corbynista BBC types, most of whom have probably never been further north than Hampstead.
The modern Left love to romanticise the miners. But they also hate coal, because of the harm coal-fired power stations do to the ozone layer.
If the Tories hadn’t closed the pits, Labour and the Green lobby would have got round to it eventually.
So if you do catch up with Back In Time For Tea on the iPlayer, take it with a pinch of salt.
Two interesting developments in a week in which the ludicrous quango Public Health England declared war on obesity by ordering food manufacturers and restaurants to cut portion sizes.
First, it was announced that very soon seriously overweight people will be able to get gastric bands fitted on the NHS in their lunch hour.
Quite why taxpayers should be expected to fund those who lack the willpower to stop stuffing their faces with junk is beyond me, especially with the NHS always pleading poverty.
It was revealed that Greggs are hiring bouncers to stop punters fighting over steak bakes, sausage rolls and sweet pastries
Then it was revealed that Greggs are hiring bouncers to stop punters fighting over steak bakes, sausage rolls and sweet pastries.
So now we’re having to finance a fast-track gastric band fitting service for lardbuckets who have to be physically restrained from throwing punches over the last Cornish pasty in the shop.
Makes you proud to be British.
What if police had approached the Russian poisoning case in the same way as the Grocer Heath sex crimes investigation, or an Islamist terror attack?
Either a senior officer would call a Press conference outside the Soviet Embassy to appeal for more of Vladimir Putin’s ‘victims’ to come forward.
Or alternatively, he’d insist the poisoning had ‘nothing to do with Russia’ and warn that police were on the alert for any backlash against the ‘vast majority of peace- loving Russians’.
Loved the story about Tommy Charlton, 71-year-old younger brother of 1966 World Cup heroes Bobby and Jackie, finally getting his own chance to play for England.
Tommy has been called up for the England Over-60s walking football trials this weekend. Walking football was invented to help older players stay active and has grown so rapidly that there are plans to hold a World Cup in 2019.
Tommy Charlton may not have to wait that long for his shot at glory. The way the reigning Premier League champions played (or rather, didn’t) at Manchester City last weekend, it can only be a matter of time before he gets the call to sign for Chelsea.
Kingston University, in Surrey, has ditched a degree course on rural Britain because black and minority ethnic people (BAMEs) are ‘less likely’ to venture into the English countryside.
That’s not the impression you’d get from watching Vera, the ITV cop show set in Northumbria, starring Brenda Blethyn. Half the cast seems to consist of BAME actors — even the gamekeepers. I’m all for diversity when it comes to dramas set in multi-culti, big cities. The bleak, brilliant Lennie James series, Save Me, on Sky Atlantic, is a case in point. It looks, sounds and smells like authentic melting-pot Sarf London.
But it is a bit strange to see so many black faces in rural Geordieland. At this rate, in the next series, Vera will be played by Whoopi Goldberg.