Peter Hough

Peter Hough
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Tuesday, 18 January 2011

When the lights went out

My friend Geoff (who is always lending me books to read) gave me a cracker in the form of When The Lights Went Out by Andy Becket. If you're interested in social and political history then I can recommend it.

It covers the turbulent seventies - and all the main players are there: Wilson (well past his sell-by-date), Heath, Callaghan (canny old fox), Jack Jones, Vic Feather, Scargill and Thatcher (the milk snatcher). I was growing up then, and it's amazing as it all comes back - the three day week, flying pickets, Grunwick strike, the oil crisis and the dreadful terrorism acts of the IRA.

What comes through is how governments - far from being in control - are often at the mercy of outside forces. The unions, after the 'Social Contract' went sour, finally did it for Labour - a lesson they learnt and did not repeat in the Blair-Brown years. Far from being the 'Iron Lady' Thatcher is shown to have lacked confidence when she became leader, and was not that popular a choice amongst many Tory MPs. At one point they wanted to replace her with Heath for a party political broadcast!

What makes this book a page-turner, is the engaging style, and that Beckett went to the trouble of tracking down many of the characters, interviewing them to get a modern perspective of the times they helped to shape.

When The Lights Went Out  by Andy Becket, Faber & Faber Ltd, 2010 978-0-571-22137-0

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