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UK politics

At least the 1970s had proper politicians

Tony Benn: an “uncompromising” visionary. Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty

You can’t open a newspaper these days without finding some comparison to the 1970s, says Capel Lofft in The Critic. It’s easy to see why – the strikes, the energy crisis, even Kate Bush “screeching her way to the top of the charts”. But politically, the 70s couldn’t have been more different. Why? Because it was “a decade of genuine conviction politics”. On the right you had Margaret Thatcher, rising through the ranks with her “nearly suicidal commitment” to free market ideals. On the left you had Tony Benn – not the “doddery national treasure” he became in his later years, but a firebrand left-winger with a “distinctive and uncompromising vision for Britain’s future”.

These ideologues are very different to the empty vessels and wet blankets on today’s front benches. Boris Johnson has “all the single-minded political vision and principled consistency of the Vicar of Bray”. What passes for the “radical” left after Jeremy Corbyn amounts to “sloganeering Twitter clickbait and a demented attachment to flying the Palestinian flag”. Who are the Thatchers and the Benns of today? Keir Starmer? Michael Gove? “Whoever is currently Lib Dem leader?” Come on. None of these people has a clear diagnosis of the crises we face, let alone “a clear vision of what to do about them”. As “divided and chaotic” as things were in the 1970s, there were at least big political beasts capable of offering “some means out of the impasse”. If only the same were true today.