“CRISIS? What crisis?” Our famous Sun headline vividly captured the Winter of Discontent as militant unions brought Britain to its knees in the January snows of 1979.
There were empty supermarket shelves, queues at petrol pumps, soaring inflation . . . and a Labour government doomed to annihilation at the next election.
So are we heading back to the future, as some Boris-haters gleefully predict?
Back then I was a reluctant eyewitness, just off the plane after swapping sunny Australia for the sulphurous atmosphere of divided Britain. And I can tell you there is absolutely no comparison.
1979 was a nightmare in which the dead lay unburied, stinking garbage was piled high on the streets and union pickets decided whether ambulance cases were genuine emergencies or strike breakers.
Economists today rightly worry about inflation hitting four per cent. In those days it was close to 25 per cent, with cashiers racing ahead of shoppers to update price stickers. Today’s forecourt shortages represent an irritating but minor inconvenience. But compared with 1979, we’ve never had it so good.
Some — including members of this Cabinet — will criticise the promise-busting hike in National Insurance. Many worry Boris’s government looks rudderless and adrift. Surprisingly, though, most voters think nothing of the sort. The polls, despite some slippage over recent days, still put BoJo’s Tories in the lead — in one survey by EIGHT points.
They don’t blame him for the petrol drought and think he has turned out a better PM than they expected.
People don’t like tax rises, but they understand we are still emerging from a costly pandemic. They are prepared to pay a bit more if it means better health and social care.
All Boris has to do is deliver — which is easier said than done. “You have no fear, sir, of a more zealous opponent of unnecessary tax increases than me,” the buoyant PM barked at Andrew Marr yesterday.
The economy, he said, was growing faster than almost any other industrialised nation, jobs are plentiful and wages are rising as firms are forced to compete for scarce workers. Boris and Chancellor Rishi Sunak believe the economy will grow enough for tax cuts before the next election.
By then the shortage of tankers drivers will be a distant memory. All of which makes ominous reading for Sir Keir Starmer and bickering Labour. It is astonishing at a time of turmoil — and immediately after his showcase Brighton rally — that Labour is still adrift in the polls.
Three of its MPs are rumoured to be deserting to the Tories. Even Andy Burnham, treated like the leader-in-waiting on yesterday’s Sky and BBC political shows, rates Tory “Levelling Up” minister Michael Gove as his political hero.
In notably friendly interviews with Sky and the Beeb, the long-lashed mayor of Manchester revelled in his image as “King of the North”. While he was basking in praise, poor Sir Keir was left to fend off a ferocious attack from his own side — for daring to write in The Sun on Sunday.
It was a harmless piece about the impact of the pumps crisis on hard-working families. But he might as well have set fire to a jerry can of high-octane.
Labour MPs exploded, with Hemsworth’s Jon Trickett moaning: “Keir’s article this morning was a mistake.
Won’t taste power
“Of course we need to have a conversation with that paper’s readers, but there are other ways.”
In one short tweet, Trickett revealed Labour hasn’t really changed since 1979. He showed why it hasn’t won an election since 2005 and why it won’t taste power again for another decade, unless in coalition.
In the 1970s, Labour and the unions viewed working-class Sun readers with contempt. Today, we are treated, in the words of potty-mouthed deputy leader Angela Rayner, like “scum”.
The truth is that no party can win an election without the votes of Sun readers. And while Labour has people on its front bench who keep treating us like scum, Sir Keir and Andy Burnham can whistle for the chance of ever becoming a party of government.
IT’S time to declare the Covid pandemic over. Hospital admissions are low, and so are deaths – most of them unvaccinated.
Worryingly, there has at the same time been a sharp rise in non-Covid deaths – more than 60,000 up on the five-year average, some needlessly from heart disease, strokes, cirrhosis and diabetes.
We also face a sharp spike in late-presentation cancer cases left untreated by a collapse in primary care.
If now is not a good time for TV news bulletins to end their nightly drumroll of Covid death and disaster and let people get back to the office, when is?