Wednesday 2 September 2015

The myth of the Falklands Factor

The myth that the Tories won the 1983 election because people were feeling a patriotic glow at Britain's victory over Argentina the year before has now entered the popular lexicon, but it is a myth, and one that we should at least try to counter. Enough studies have been produced since the war to show up the theory of the Falklands Factor as the fantasy that it is, but still it persists. What follows is my personal memories of the time, because the war came slap bang in the middle of the 1982 local election campaign, so if there was such as factor at work then I suspect that I would have seen it on the doorstep, but I didn't.

Along with millions of others I had been made redundant the year before, so I had plenty of free time to go around sticking leaflets through doors on behalf of the Labour Party. In those days the party's membership was growing by leaps and bounds, especially in Northern England where I am from, and every night a crew of anything up to a dozen people would go out banging on doors in every ward. We did three full canvasses in my old ward of Failsworth West that year, and across the whole of the borough of Oldham, the mill town that Failsworth had been dumped in much to the residents' irritation as we always saw ourselves as belonging to Manchester, similar canvassing was taking place.

We went out not to talk people into voting Labour, but to agree to actually get off their arses and vote on the day. If they voted, then they voted Labour, of course, but trying to get them to give a cast iron, sworn on a bible type promise was like getting blood out of a stone. One way to do that was for every canvasser to have a stack of window posters in his hot little hand, and the trick was to talk the people into agreeing to take a poster and put it up.  We figured that if they made that commitment, then they might just remember to go and walk a couple of hundred yards to the polling station. I don't know if it really helped turnout at all, but it was marvellous to see so many houses all defiantly displaying their Labour posters. 

Looking back at 1982 I can remember only one conversation that was in any way connected to the war that was still raging. It was with a very old woman who had been born in Hartlepool and who remembered the German navy's shelling of the town during the Great War. She was concerned that the pride of Argentina might do the same to Failsworth...

"Hang on, we're about 40 miles inland, and I don't think that shells travel that far," I told her.

"Well, what about the Manchester Ship Canal?"


"That's what bloody horses eat. I talking serious now. What's to stop them coming up the canal and bombing us?"

I tried to imagine that happening and decided that it was unlikely to occur, but I did promise to mention it to the candidate who might just take it up with the MP. If it seemed like a genuine threat, we would be in touch, she could be assured of that.

So much for any Falklands Factor during the war itself, because if the war had been on the top of everyone's agenda I rather suspect that more than one person would have mentioned it.

The 1983 General Election saw Labour fighting internally, against a backdrop of the scabs, defectors and parasites who made up the SDP. So cack-handed was Labour's campaign that I had to drive Michael Meacher, our candidate who is still the local MP, around the Oldham West constituency in my clapped out Nissan, with its bald tire, dodgy brakes and dubious MOT.

The miracle is that we won anything at all, but the seats that Labour held were the ones where people know that the Tories are the scum that their employers vote for. Always assuming that they still had an employer as more and more factories and mills were closing almost every day.

We couldn't tell people that Labour had the solution to everything, but we could remind them of what they had lost in the previous four years and how important it was to wipe the smile of the faces of the bosses and their arselickers.

Nobody even mentioned the Falklands. They just voted to try and wipe those smiles of those faces.

The Falklands War had nothing to do with any of it.



  2. Not quite sure what your link has to do with my piece, but what the hell.


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