Thursday, September 28, 2006

Happy birthday Jon Snow, still a revolting student 35 years on?!

I was a contemporary of Jon Snow’s at Liverpool University at the turn of the 60s & 70s decades. I didn’t know him except by reputation. But I supported his opposition to apartheid in South Africa and shared some of his concerns about the university’s links with that country.

The Stop the Tour movement didn’t succeed in ending the rugby matches or the Davis Cup tennis but it did get the cricket test series cancelled. It hugely raised awareness of the cause and helped to bring about the Gleneagles agreement outlawing sporting contact.

Meanwhile poor old Jon was being rusticated which sounded very painful. He was fingered in a shameful process as one of the leaders of the occupation of ‘Senate House’ the university’s administrative centre (in which ‘secret’ files about us all were allegedly stored). In a way typical of ‘establishment’ behaviour in those days he was condemned behind closed doors by, I think, a small unrepresentative committee of the alleged great and good. No Human Rights Court to appeal to in those ‘good old’ days.

He claims to have got a taste for broadcast journalism at Radio Merseyside the then embryonic BBC local radio station. The only things I recall about the station are that their announcer couldn’t pronounce thyristor and that it relayed Radio One on Saturday mornings so we could listen to Kenny Everett in FM quality on VHF rather than AM on medium wave (well I was studying electronic engineering).

He’s worked all over the world as a foreign correspondent which has given him a healthy scepticism about the US’s motives and methods. He now presents Channel 4’s seven o’clock news which I used to think the best bulletin on TV. I probably still would if it hadn’t come over quite so Independent-like ‘holier than thou’ about Iraq (and if the BBC4 World News programme hadn’t started). I share the worries about US foreign policy and the UK’s apparent enthusiasm for it, but I can’t help feeling that had the WMDs existed and been ignored by the west and then used that the righteous indignation from the media would have been just as loud.

Without trying to diminish our efforts 35 years ago, it was easier to be a revolutionary then. South Africa was, literally, a black and white case and there was no doubt about who the baddies were. The catastrophic effects of the Soviet Union’s economic policies weren’t as obvious as they are now so one could almost still believe in communism. China was a complete mystery and, when news that all was not well in Eastern Europe leaked out, one could always pompously say that in China they’d got the model right while the Russians hadn’t. Innocent times……

I learnt on BBC local radio that Jon is celebrating his birthday today, I think he may be 59. Gosh, happy birthday Jon!

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