Remember Gene Hunt and Sam Tyler from Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes? The two season drama set first in the 70’s and then in the 80’s? Lots of nostalgia, politically incorrect language, fast cars and dreams of a halcyon era.
It appears that whilst the BBC may not be bringing the series back, politicians are. Yet this time, it isn’t DC Sam Tyler sent back in time because of an accident, it is all of us. We have been warped back decades into British history to encounter the politics of yesteryear. Just like in Ashes to Ashes and Life on Mars, there appears to be a strange melange happening between fantasy and reality and there seems no way to escape.
Let’s take the state of the politics and the parties who want to take us back to days gone by. One headed by a traditional, very conservative woman. One by an old school socialist Labourite with a popular mandate from unions and members but not held in great esteem by the rest of the country. You could call them Thatcher and Foot – and some media already have. Talk of centrist Labour MP’s forming a new party (perhaps they could call it the SDP?), a resurgence of a once dead Liberal Party and a split in the ranks of Tories over Europe. All very familiar to anyone born in the middle of the 20th century.
Then we have the policies from both sides. The Tories want to bring back grammar schools – an idea that had it’s heyday in the 50’s and has been utterly discredited by experts ever since.. Intervention in the Middle East – a favourite of the 60’s and 90’s – is rearing it’s head again. As is portraying Russia as the evil Empire. Harking back even further is the drive for NHS consultants not to do private practice work – this old chestnut was around in the 40’s at the very start of the NHS when Bevan described them as having mouths stuffed with gold. Musings that Enoch Powell would be proud of around immigration are back in vogue and racial motivated hate crimes at levels not seen for donkeys years. There is talk of moving out of the House of Commons for a refit – the last time that happened was just after WW2 to fix the bomb damage. And we of course can’t ignore Brexit and the Little Englander mindset that belongs in 1948 – just after we beat Germany and still had an empire whilst all the while going bankrupt.
Labour is no better. Talk of renationalising the railways is harking back 20 plus years. And if you remember just how dismal British Rail was then this should send shivers down your spine no matter how much you hate private sector run stuff. And ‘renationalising the NHS’ – a very old hat idea mainly talking about getting rid of PFI which started in the late 80s. Then we have Trident renewal or not, proper 80’s kit. There is policy talk of propping up a failing, uber expensive and environmentally damaging steel industry in the same way that coal was being propped up in the 70s. They want to bring back council housing – something that hasn’t happened in more than three decades and we are still staring at the awful architectural carbuncles to this day. There is a pledge to reinvigorate manufacturing – which makes no sense when China and India and the rest of the developing world have led the way in making stuff for three decades. Labour even want to have a public inquiry into the Orgreave miners dispute from 32 years ago. The lists from both lots of tackling issues that have been and gone is endless.
Yet the unions are also in on taking us into series three of Life on Mars. Strikes on railways and on the Tube, in fire services, the NHS and teaching to name but a few feel like we are being swept back into a bygone era.
Even the film industry and the BBC seem to want us to believe we are living back in the past. Ben Hur is on the silver screen, as is The Magnificent Seven, Star Wars, Superman, Bridget Jones, Blair Witch, Absolutely Fabulous, Dad’s Army and David Brent. Whilst Auntie Beeb are feeding us a former generation of sitcoms like Are You Being Served?, Til Death do Us Part, Porridge, Steptoe and Son, Up Pompeii! and Keeping up Appearances.
Old Labour. Old Tories. Old unions. Old media. Out of ideas and out of touch with anyone except themselves. A set of Baby Boomers too scared of what the world has become to allow young people to flourish or inherit the world that they, in their youth and infinite wisdom, chose to create. Burying their head in the sand creating or consuming policies and programmes designed for a bygone, ignorant, less informed era.
Worst of all, it ignores, and fails to tackle, the massive issues that face today’s world and people who have longer than a couple of decades left in them – religious, ethnic and social divides; antibiotic resistance; the power of the multi-national corporation; the influence of marketing; the effects on society of the digital age; the ever growing, ever moving population; the lack of hope for this next generation and the desperately scary global warming issue that continues unabated. These are to name but a few and these are issues that the old people who run political parties, unions and the media outlets either don’t want to care about, don’t need to care about or don’t understand and therefore ignore.
What does it matter that Britain is heading back to Life on Mars? Well, the trouble is that it means there are policies and society being constructed by old people for old people leaving, in a few years, the next generation to work out where the hell it all went so badly wrong. It ignores the needs, hopes and desires of generations other than those born in the 50s and the 60s. It will create horrific schisms and will leave people without solutions, or fixes that are too late because at the moment those in charge are bereft of new ideas.
Gene Hunt would be 82 years old now. He would be part of this problem – frightened of the new, harking back to his era as a racist bigot, wishing for all the things he could have done but never did and determined to prevent others doing anything new or modern. He would enjoy what the parties, the unions and the traditional media are feeding him and he would fight to his last bitter selfish breath to let anyone else have any control.