Monday, May 08, 2006

What it was like under Thatcher’s regime (1)

Living in Britain in the 1980s often felt like being trapped with a bunch of grade A bores in the bar of a suburban golf club. There used to be an expression 'saloon-bar bore' to describe the attitudes which became commonplace in those terrible days. But I guess that many people are too young to have heard of a saloon bar let alone been in one.

Saloon bar bores would be proud of their views and would expect everyone else to hold similar ones. They'd be casually racist, think nothing of ridiculing 'cripples', ‘women’, 'loonies' or ‘the poor’ and would like to boast about speeding or evading tax. In the 1980s this Tebbit-like mindset infected a large proportion of the population and it was difficult not to go along with it without seeming prudish. It was the zeitgeist. I well remember my boss's boss's boss complaining to me about a BT engineer but adding that his incompetence was no surprise as he should have been swinging through the trees rather than fixing telephones (the engineer was British and of West Indian origin).

I was reminded of those dismal days when commenting on a crass blog about the NHS on the Adam Smith Institute’s site. It's a shame that members of this august body seem only to have read half of Mr Smith's great works. They've picked up on free markets but cheerfully overlooked the stuff about paying fair wages or the government's duty to provide a decent environment and infrastructure....

Historical note: Until sometime probably in the 1960s British pubs, by law, had to have a public bar where ordinary people could drink. Beer was usually a few (old) pence cheaper in these and the decor was much more basic. The alternative, often called the saloon bar, became the haunt of wealthier drinkers. The stereotypical customer was a small-minded, old-fashioned Tory 'self made man'. When saloon bars ceased to exist and the riffraff started to invade all areas of pubs, these types had to retreat to private clubs. Golf clubs for example, especially those which think themselves posher than they really are, nowadays provide havens for these feeble people who are often too uncertain of their own social status and/or frightened of mixing with people who are not clones of themselves.

This may be the first of a series of reminiscences designed to remind / inform voters why we must never let the Tories back into government! Or perhaps it won’t be.

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