There was a time, in the days of vinyl records and Top of the Pops, when speculation regarding the chart topper for Christmas generated genuine interest. It might now be a condition of growing old, but these days some of us look forward with greater enthusiasm to the release of cabinet papers under the 30-year rule.
In 1982, Beat Surrender by The Jam was kicked off the top spot just before Christmas by Renee and Renato singing Save Your Love. Describing Save Your Love as a novelty single is insulting to both the Smurfs and the Wurzels but it provided an apt conclusion to the year of the Falklands War and an appropriate harbinger of the year of the Thatcher government landslide re-election. For some, reading cabinet papers from 30 years ago might be as pleasurable as listening to Renee and Renato on permanent loop but for others, especially for those who lived through those times, they give a fascinating insight into the government many of us so fiercely opposed. There is also a sense of how history is made and how history determines the present and the future.
Most of the main news outlets descended on dossiers, minutes and transcripts and came away with a re-run of the Falklands War. The big story for the BBC and most of the print media is that Prime Minister Thatcher had no idea that Argentina was about to enter the scrap metal business on South Georgia and then set up a Tango Dance Academy in Government House in Port Stanley. Then and now, the press make no mention of the planned withdrawal of HMS Endurance just as the invasion began and, like Whitehall and Downing Street ignored the coded telegrams from the hapless British Ambassador in Buenos Aires. Shortly after victory was achieved, Mrs Thatcher told the closed Franks inquiry into the conflict:
“I never, never expected the Argentines to invade the Falklands head-on. It was such a stupid thing to do, as events happen, such a stupid thing even to contemplate doing.”
After realising that the junta led by General Galtieri were fighting for their political lives and that re-taking the islands could not be guaranteed, Mrs Thatcher resisted pressure from Ronald Reagan for an international peace keeping force knowing that she too was fighting for her political future. And that, boys and girls, are how wars are made. It`s never the sons and daughters of leaders who are blown to bits.
The cabinet papers also reveal that the boycotting of the 1982 football world cup in Spain was being considered but the sons of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland were allowed to go and fail. Another interesting footnote is the Prime Minister insisting in a memo that she should personally pay part of the cost for the search effort when her playboy son got himself lost in the Sahara. A dispatch from our man in Algiers suggested that there might be some public unpopularity if part of the £1,784.80 was Denis Thatcher`s hefty drinks bill at the Tahat Hotel in Tamanrasset. We also learn of the private meetings and correspondence between Margaret Thatcher and Jimmy Savile who, for various reasons, was lobbying for money for Stoke Mandeville hospital. He describes in one letter how he and his “patients” love her. The government gave the hospital £500,000.
What has gone largely unreported in the mainstream media, with the honourable exception of the Guardian, is a strangely familiar proposal to destroy the welfare state and, by implication, society. Encouraged by Thatcher and Geoffrey Howe, the Central Policy Review Staff came up with a ridiculous, far-fetched plan to massively cut public services, privatise education and, as the authors of the plan acknowledged; “would, of course, mean the end of the National Health Service”. Thatcher and Howe seemed keen on the ideas. Others in cabinet disagreed and Thatcher feared that this secret agenda would be leaked and electoral defeat would inevitably follow. The Guardian have taken the time to read all the papers and expose this preposterous secret plot to dismantle British society planned 30 years ago. Thank goodness this malicious, undemocratic and unpatriotic attack on the British people failed.
Even with a massive majority following the Falklands factor delivering a landslide victory in 1983, the Thatcher government did not dare destroy the hard fought for rights of those lucky to survive and those lucky to return to celebrate Christmas 1945. After every failed invasion plan there follows a litany of excuses yet in spite of the rolling heads of failed leadership, there are some that will try a malicious, undemocratic and unpatriotic attack again. Cameron has taken the secret 1982 blueprint for destruction and merely changed the date to 2010. With the explicit collaboration of Vichy Liberal Democrats in the secret agenda, the current Conservative government have already achieved more than Thatcher could have wildly dreamed. The state is disappearing under the snoozing noses of the Labour Party and the disbelieving eyes of its citizens.
Some of us will never know what will be the Christmas top topper in 2040 and will never be able to read the cabinet papers of 2010 when X Factor winner Matt Cardle gave us the suitably titled When We Collide. Not just because some of us will be unable to afford health care and social services; but because both music and democracy will be long dead by then.