Feb 13

The Matter Of Britain

Popular//41 comments • 3,707 views

The death that shocked me most that Spring wasn’t Kurt Cobain, or even Ayrton Senna. It was the passing of an owlish man in his 50s who people assumed – and hoped, in many cases – would be running the country before too long. Later on, John Smith’s heart attack became a locus for all sorts of counterfactual speculation – after the landslide of ’97 you heard people saying, well, tragic of course, you understand, but as things turned out not all for the bad…? And later – as the golden era of the Great Empathiser sank into a miasma of gossip, inertia and war – the wondering and what ifs turned sad and angry.

At the time – and since, really – what hit me was a sense of unfairness, based mainly on how hard Smith and his colleagues had worked. Also – and this didn’t last, at least not in this form – an irrational gloom, the feeling that things would never change, and that somehow the moribund, comical Tories would pull through again.

But then everything did seem to change, and quickly, with the facts of politics shifting last of all.

Two summers ago, as the phone-hacking scandal spread through the British establishment like fire through cobwebs, a friend tweeted that this was like “Britain: the season finale”. It was a moment where everything seemed connected and fragile and impossibly dramatic. The Summer of 1994 didn’t feel like that. In fact it felt torpid – the same films, the same records, the same bloody record from the same bloody film crowding out anything else – but with hindsight it was more like “Britain: the season opener”. It introduces charismatic new stars, it teases fresh plots, it establishes a few themes.

The theme of the 1994-1997 season of Britain – there’s no real question of what the finale was – was somewhat inward looking. It was Britain itself – what kind of country it was, could be, and wanted to be. This is the sort of thing politicians always want as the theme, but in this case politicians weren’t in charge: the ideas kept bubbling up through culture. On the day after John Smith’s death, Four Weddings And A Funeral was released. Four Weddings isn’t explicitly about Britishness, and “Love Is All Around” – its soundtrack hit – is no Britpop anthem, but the film plays fondly with types and stereotypes of Britishness, suffuses matters in a British marinade that’s essentially a feelgood strategy. Britpop was precisely the same, though with enough distance to allow an ironic getaway if things turned nasty. Four Weddings is at the cosy end of mid-90s British culture, but still feels like its product.

By the end of May, “Love Is All Around” had reached No.1. During that song’s smothering reign, Tony Blair became leader of the Labour Party and Oasis released their debut album. Blair, Hugh Grant, Noel Gallagher – the new cast of Britain taking intriguing shape, with more in the wings.

Politically, the mid 90s seem like a phantom prelude to the Blair Administration, where a paralysed Tory government could do little except let its citizens daydream about good times before and good times to come. Culture, not politics, took centre stage, and pop was (for the last time?) at the centre of culture. So for all sorts of reasons – mostly dramatic neatness – it’s very easy to take things one step further and make Britpop the centre of pop, to turn the narrative arc of the mid-90s into the narrative arc of Britpop. Doing this makes for an excellent story.

But is it the right story? The great thing about doing Popular is that its merciless slicing of the charts into their most successful records takes decisions of focus out of my hands. By this time the charts themselves aren’t an accurate fossil record of UK cultural concerns – and, if you just look at No.1s, Britpop ends up underrepresented – but at this particular moment they do a better job than storytelling.

Because what we see over the next few years is that wider cultural spasm – all those jostling dreams of “British” – pushing through into the charts again and again, giving a sense of something far wider happening than a bunch of indie bands trying to work out how to cope with fame. It’s not a bad story, exactly – but the bigger picture, British Pop not Britpop, holds so much more. Ravers, actors playing old soldiers, boyband heretics and true believers, second-generation immigrants, comedians, and most importantly and successfully young women – all shouldering their way to number one; all offering ideas, stated or implied, about Britain; all shown in the topsy-turvy mirror of the charts. What a time!

We’ll get to them all, but first of all I have to decide whether that pesky Wet Wet Wet record is actually any good….


  1. 1
    lonepilgrim on 11 Feb 2013 #

    if there was a like button I would press it

  2. 2
    Tom on 11 Feb 2013 #

    Sorry for the delay, by the way. I knew I wanted to do this post before the next actual review, and then I decided there were comics posts I just had to do (not all of which are up yet), and then work got in the way, and so on. My enthusiasm is undimmed, my work rate flickering.

  3. 3
    Chelovek na lune on 11 Feb 2013 #

    Great post, Tom. Hmm, the day the successor to John Smith was elected…that would be the day I left the Labour Party….

  4. 4
    Kinitawowi on 12 Feb 2013 #

    This means that the only possible content for the next article is “… no it isn’t. 1”.

    There’s a lot of changes happening in the charts over the next couple of years, to be sure; Britpop in particular now looks like a lost time (I always thought that that wretched song of a few years ago that spoke about the lack of a decent cultural revolution since the heady days of Woodstock and the Sex Pistols – think I’ve dodged the bunny bullets there – was doing 1995 a great disservice).

    But yeah, one of the first things I did when I blew a chunk of my student loan on the 17th Edition of the Guinness British Hit Singles book was to look up when entering straight at Number One became the norm rather than the exception, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s the spring of 1995.

  5. 5
    Auntie Beryl on 12 Feb 2013 #

    Insufficiently involved in studying for our finals, the passing of John Smith was a huge topic of debate in my immediate social circle.

    No doubt partially due to how torpid the incumbent Tory administration had become under John Major (I’m not sure, but had the first of that run of “sleaze” news cycles started by that point?), but also because Smith came across as comparatively grounded and decent, Labour were looking likely to put in a strong challenge for power at the next opportunity and a good few previously declared Tory friends were talking of switching to Labour.

    This situation was thrown into flux by Smith’s death and would not be resolved until we had all gone our separate ways from university. I never had the chance to find out how Blair’s leadership victory affected the intentions of my peers. I know I didn’t vote Labour in 1997.

    During the period the next number one was at the top, most of my life was turned upside down, but more of that anon…

  6. 6
    Erithian on 12 Feb 2013 #

    I notice Blair is officially 500-1 with Ladbroke’s to be the next Pope.

  7. 7
    Billy Hicks on 12 Feb 2013 #

    And, yet, to the younger me who spent most of Britpop’s boom years in infant school, the whole thing somewhat passed me by. I knew that what I was being fed was ‘pop music’, but few songs were ones I genuinely enjoyed listening to – as much as I love the likes of Oasis and Pulp now, they said nothing to my pre-teen generation, with only a future bunnied Blur #1 causing at least some enjoyment at the time. In a couple years time a huge gap in the market was noticed for said generation, and with Take That having just split and East 17 in their twilight years, the Cowell/Fuller/Walsh etc floodgates eventually opened.

    My true introductory era to pop begins and ends on somewhat of a transition. It starts in the summer of 1996 with a group foreshadowing many to come yet recognisably still part of the Cool Britannica era, and ends sometime in 2001 – perhaps with a group formed in a way that would define most modern popstars to this day, yet with a sound and image remaining a hangover from the late 1990s. That this era coincides with two certain life moments for me – starting junior school and becoming a teenager – seems only fitting.

    Still, looking forward to the rest of 1994 :)

  8. 8
    punctum on 12 Feb 2013 #

    The trouble with John Smith was that it was all that hard work that killed him. Or at least it didn’t help his heart.

    If he’d lived, however, I doubt Labour would have swept back into power the way they did. One of those politicians whom other politicians only start respecting once they’ve died, Smith’s Labour would have been perceived as more of the same.

    Whereas the feeling I get with Blair in ’97 is that many people, including those who didn’t vote for him, saw his victory as a fresh start, a new beginning, perhaps an opportunity to make something of their own lives. This may well have played a major part in Blair winning, just as it had probably done with Thatcher in ’79, that odd anagram of ’97 (“Are you telling me that I don’t know my own brother?”). The trick of making your voters feel good about themselves.

    And maybe Britpop helped a lot of people feel good about themselves as well; enough of indie worthiness, let’s take this stuff out into the world – hang on, haven’t we been here before? Doesn’t mstter. Blur, Oasis, etc.: a new start. Try and get it right this time.

    And then, when things didn’t go right, people projected self-hatred onto others and turned it into detestation.

  9. 9
    Cumbrian on 12 Feb 2013 #

    Given I would have been 13 when John Smith died, it made a dent in the imagination but I was still a bit away from a political awakening. In my naivete, I didn’t think it was going to change much. I had a sense that the Tories were going to lose the next election and I thought that this wouldn’t make a whole lot of difference. In one sense, I think I was right (Labour were going to win anyway) – as Punctum alludes to above though, I obviously couldn’t have been more wrong. Blair was a totally different sort of leader to what I imagine Smith might have wound up as and his (Blair’s) influence is writ large in the modern British landscape (perhaps not as large as Thatcher’s but it’s still there in both good and bad ways).

    I strongly suspect that a Smith Labour government would not have had as large a majority and would have been more timid in presentation as a result of that, not just the personality of the leader. I wonder whether we would have gone into Iraq – I doubt the prep work for such an incursion (in Kosovo) would have been done with the same sort of zeal by Smith.

    Anyway, Tom is right I think – looking back on it all, the 94-97 period feels like one long optimistic summer. We knew change was coming, so ignore the government and party on. Once it was fulfilled, it’s interesting how much of the optimistic streak of the music takes a downturn. I’ll avoid the Popular spoilers (because there are some #1 records that show this) but the rise of Radiohead post 97, for one, once the change had been fulfilled, seems to suggest that 94-97 was a party, followed by a pretty large hangover that at least one strand of British music still seems to be struggling to shake off.

  10. 10
    Izzy on 12 Feb 2013 #

    That’s a terrific piece, Tom. #8 reads it right too, I feel – Blair was absolutely not a continuation of Labour’s traditions, and in fact that was as big a selling-point as any of his other qualities, whereas Smith, Cook, Dewar, Brown et al fit squarely into Kinnock’s narrative; which itself would’ve placed discussion of the party in 97 still in its defining 80s struggle of dinosaurs vs modernisers. Which the electorate had already shown themselves to be (at best) cautious about. With Blair at the top the dominant narrative became modernisers vs new modernisers, and the only dinosaurs around were the other lot.

    Anyway, consider my appetite whetted.

  11. 11
    swanstep on 12 Feb 2013 #

    Once it was fulfilled, it’s interesting how much of the optimistic streak of the music takes a downturn.
    Isn’t that always the way with the arts in general (and let’s grant that self-aware up-to-something pop has its artsily ambitious side)? When times are bad there’s a mixture of angry kicking against the pricks and offering of consoling pleasures. When times are relatively good and ‘your side’ has won and there’s a bit of triumphalism in the air, however, contrarianism kicks in and suddenly paranoia about cooptation and complacency and conformity and illusions and so on starts to sound good to people.

    Anyhow, the view from the US (as I had at the time): I don’t recall John Smith ever getting any notice. In some respects it feels very odd to me the Blair didn’t come to power until 1997. I always kind of think of him as twinned with Clinton (much as Reagan and Thatcher had been) but of course they’re significantly de-synched so that that’s not possible. Still, there was plenty of coverage of Blair in the US throughout at least 1995 and 1996: he was definitely seen as the coming man and as the PM-in-waiting.

  12. 12
    Tom on 12 Feb 2013 #

    #11 definitely in 1995 people felt the Major government wouldn’t last a full term, and Blair’s poll ratings at that point were preposterous – Labour had 66% in the polls at one stage.

    #9 Hindsight is a funny thing, obviously. From memory the main criticism of Blair’s first term is that it was too timid in policy terms – he had the mandate but he wasn’t doing much with it. In presentation terms it was more aggressive of course! I wonder if his period as PM-in-waiting spoiled him – to go from those staggering poll leads to “only” 10-15% ahead might have combined with the scars of ’92 to give an impression of precarity that wasn’t really real.

    (Of course then he did start taking big unilateral decisions and they weren’t the ones most of his supporters wanted.)

  13. 13
    punctum on 12 Feb 2013 #

    And yet he won again, twice, once after the Iraq war had started, indicating that the public was generally quite happy with his decisions, big or otherwise.

  14. 14
    Tom on 12 Feb 2013 #

    #13 Yes – “many” of his supporters, I should say. And actually the drop off in the Labour vote (numerically) was far bigger between 97 and 01 than between 01 and 05. And neither Blair or Thatcher ever got as many people to vote for their party at a general election as Major did!

  15. 15
    Cumbrian on 12 Feb 2013 #

    Tom: with respect to Labour’s initial timidity, I guess it depends on what you want from the government. I don’t know enough about what Smith was intending to do but devolving power to the regions (arguably laying the groundwork for the dissolution of the Union – I guess we’ll see in due course), continuation of the NI peace process culminating in the Good Friday agreement, equality in the age of consent for all sexual relationships (a move whose consequent further moves for equality are still being played out), lifting the ban on gays in the military, establishing the minimum wage and enacting large scale tax and benefit reforms – not an easy governmental task – that lifted people out of poverty (and this isn’t partisan hackery, the reports on this come out of the OECD) seems pretty good going. People wanted more from a government with such a large mandate – and I understand that – but having been out of power for 18 years, they didn’t have lots of experience of governing with the parliamentary party, so I think they did a reasonably good job initially, despite the fact that they could have pushed further.

    The presentational stuff was one of the bad things I was referencing in my earlier post (there’s obviously a lot of other stuff to file in the bad column). Managing stories has become de rigeur in the Blair and post Blair years – now it’s absolutely everywhere. The rise of PR is definitely something that was going under Thatcher but the frightening levels of it that we have now, influencing the country, I think I would definitely put at Blair’s door.

  16. 16
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 12 Feb 2013 #

    Even though it does means something subtly distinct from “precariousness” and is thus a useful (=valid) neologism, the word “precarity” reliably sets my (classically educated) pedant’s teeth on edge every time.

    ^^^bcz I wish to register this beef somewhere, before moving on and never speaking of it again

  17. 17
    lonepilgrim on 12 Feb 2013 #

    I always thought that New Labour’s ‘timid’ policy decisions in Government were motivated by a desire to dispel right-wing media image of the Party as a bunch of shambling pacifists driven by class envy and intent on wrecking the economy.
    The ‘Power up’ for Blair at the end of this period was the funeral in 1997, which we’ll have chance to discuss sometime in the future.

  18. 18
    punctum on 12 Feb 2013 #

    #15: Many of these were put into action by Blair’s government. I don’t quite know what more “people wanted” from them, unless it was pissed-off old lefties slagging him off for not turning Britain into a Trotskyist republic or hanging the Queen or whatever.

    What Blair’s government did, I think, was, to at least try to bring the vast, benign, silent majority of British people together by means of a centrist political path which most British people appear to have been perfectly content following. I don’t know how helpful it is to elevate or lower someone in charge of public relations for a democratically elected leader to Beelzebub status.

  19. 19
    Alan not logged in on 12 Feb 2013 #

    Was it the consensus, or just my left-leaning anyway social circle, that thought the literal demon-eyes-ation of Blair in *that* poster (and associated images) was on own goal? ie reflecting badly on and doing damage to the tories for perpetrating it

  20. 20
    Mark M on 12 Feb 2013 #

    Four Weddings And A Funeral, I think it is worth noting, was released in the US (and France) before it came out in the UK, and was in fact marketed on the fact that it had been a hit across the Atlantic already, thus (presumably) defusing the British audience’s long-standing suspicion of British films.

  21. 21
    punctum on 12 Feb 2013 #

    #19: No, I think it was the general consensus was that it was a pretty dumbass poster that probably cost the Tories a lot of votes. In 2001 it was probably Hague’s Notting Hill Carnival baseball cap.

  22. 22
    Mark M on 12 Feb 2013 #

    Re 15/18: Um, I think Cumbrian is indeed listing all of these as the achievements of the Blair government.

  23. 23
    punctum on 12 Feb 2013 #

    A lot of them were formulated in the Smith administration, though. Blair was better at marketing them than Smith, and how you market something does matter.

  24. 24
    Cumbrian on 12 Feb 2013 #

    Punctum @ 18: yeah, that was kind of my point – perhaps inelegantly expressed in a run on sentence. Blair’s first term did a load of stuff that should be looked on as less than timid (essentially the stuff I listed). The rewriting of the tax and benefits code itself is a massive legislative job which ties up whole departments for years. Not knowing enough about Smith, I don’t know how much of this would have followed had he been PM. Evidently, you know more than I – not unsurprisingly; as noted I was 13 at that point.

    On your second point, it’s not really got anything to do with Campbell (assuming it is he to whom you are referring) per se, except that his success demonstrated to other branches of society that a tight handle on a story is imperative and a cosy relationship with the papers is more than handy. It means it’s very tiresome to constantly put the effort in to understand what the objective truth of a given matter might be. Furthermore, we wind up with some of the bits of Leveson with reference to the police trying to play the same sort of PR long game with the press and getting themselves into a situation where corruption is not just possible, but likely. The slippery slope is rightly a logical fallacy in argument – but when you’ve got empirical evidence of it, I personally think we’re in new territory vis a vis the influence of PR.

  25. 25
    punctum on 12 Feb 2013 #

    Maybe, but I’m not sure how much, if anything, Campbell had to do with Leveson, apart from others looking at him and (wrongly) thinking they could play the same game. I certainly don’t recall Bernard Ingham getting the same stick when he was doing much the same job for Thatcher.

  26. 26
    Cumbrian on 12 Feb 2013 #

    To be honest, that is all I am saying about Campbell. He was the successful face of PR – and people felt they could emulate him and Labour, with widespread (and frequently negative) consequences.

    I don’t think Ingham got as much stick when doing the job for Thatcher because he is a Tory (like much of the press) and some of the press were not for turning by someone from Labour, so were going to call Campbell out (like The Daily Mail) – but again, this is coming from someone who was there but wasn’t of the correct age to properly be aware/understand. I accept reality may well be at variance with my analysis.

  27. 27
    Tom on 12 Feb 2013 #

    The problem with Demon Eyes is that it looked desperate, and it looked desperate because it was desperate. I think it probably reflected a genuine fear in the CORE of the Tory party about what was going to happen which clearly wasn’t shared by actual voters. And I think it also influenced Labour itself quite a lot – if you read Andrew Rawnsley’s account of the early Blair years, he and Brown were both incredibly paranoid about being seen as clumsy on the economy, they were haunted by ’76, they’d witnessed Black Wednesday, and they believed that it was financial catastrophe which doomed governments. Quite accurately, as it turned out, though the decisions they made to placate this strand of opinion – financial deregulation and self-policing – contributed to the eventual wreck.

    I think this was the truth at the heart of the timidity criticism (which I agree was overplayed at the time, though the fact it existed says something about the essentially romantic hopes of May 97). Blair had expected to be elected, though not with such a fuck-you mandate. Given that fuck-you mandate, he didn’t need to be so conciliatory to Murdoch or the City. The problem with this critique is that it assumes he ever wanted not to be.

  28. 28
    Tom on 12 Feb 2013 #

    Isn’t the difference between Campbell and Ingham the difference between proactive and reactive PR. Campbell was aggressively proactive and also aggressively tactical – the “new announcements every day” period. And it worked! But that kind of 24/7 manipulation is very well suited to election campaigns and much more problematic in day to day government.

    It’s sort of – dodgy pop metaphor alert – a bit like dynamic compression in music. A song uses it and stands out on the radio and becomes a hit – hurrah! But when EVERY song uses it a certain amount of subtlety is lost and the range of options narrows. The resulting situation pleases few and certainly doesn’t seem to have been GOOD for pop music. But the problem is, it’s very hard to stop something becoming the norm if it works, even if the long-term consequences of its working aren’t good.

  29. 29
    Cumbrian on 12 Feb 2013 #

    Wow – I was saving talk of the loudness war for 5 blokes from Manchester. I think it’s a reasonably apt analogy though, inasmuch as everyone saw the success and copied it, until we got a lot of homogeneity.

    I’d love it if popular music went back to being about you using the volume control properly. We’ve got to the stage now where I think some people are rowing back a bit from the loudness war, but there are some unlistenable remasters of some records knocking around that were all about square wave forms and the like – I’m willing to bet it’s one of the reasons why some people love vinyl so much.

  30. 30
    Tom on 12 Feb 2013 #

    #29 actually a more apt comparison might be the practice of releasing singles to radio weeks before, to prime fans for a high first-week entry. Which, as someone upthread comments, coincides with the rise of Mr Campbell too.

  31. 31
    Cumbrian on 12 Feb 2013 #

    Even better – pop is about everything and everything is about pop.

  32. 32
    enitharmon on 12 Feb 2013 #

    I voted Beckett/Beckett, for what it’s worth. I’d certainly have supported Robin Cook if he’d stood for the leadership but he didn’t.

    Is Margaret Beckett the only major party leader who spent her/his entire tenure with the same record at number one?

  33. 33
    swanstep on 12 Feb 2013 #

    People wanted more from a government with such a large mandate
    Blair had expected to be elected, though not with such a fuck-you mandate. Given that fuck-you mandate, he didn’t need to be so conciliatory to Murdoch or the City.

    But, seriously, what mandate should 43% of the vote get you? That that vote share can get you 63% of seats in the House is a bloody silly electoral system artifact (like Republicans currently holding 53% of the US House of Reps despite getting a smaller vote share (48%) than the Democrats (49.5%)).

  34. 34
    Tom on 12 Feb 2013 #

    You’re completely right, and I should be using majority not mandate – especially as I’m making the case that compared to his polling history his share of the vote might have been disappointing (and frightening) to Blair.

  35. 35
    Mark M on 13 Feb 2013 #

    I hadn’t been very keen on John Smith when he was Labour leader, for reasons that are lost to history. As it was, his death left him with a contradictory double legacy as ‘one of the great lost leaders’ and yet also a man whose brief time in charge can look like a stopgap between the two big modernisers*: Neil Kinnock, the leftwinger who dragged the party into the centre, and Tony Blair, the outsider who… well, you know. Smith, a bald bloke with glasses, was a world away from Blair. He was talented spotted by Hugh Gaitskell, served in the cabinet in the 1970s, came from the old Labour right, although he was also mates with Benn and Ken (that seems to have been the big difference between Smith and his protege, Gordon Brown – a lot of people in the party really liked Smith, whereas there are a few people who love Gordon, and an awful lot who don’t). He didn’t like Hollywood production values and all that. But in many ways he set up what came after, not least letting Blair as Shadow Home Secretary outflank the Tories by attacking them for being too soft on crime.

    *In their own terms

  36. 36
    D.C. Harrison on 13 Feb 2013 #

    Like Cumbrian, I was also 13. And also in Cumbria. Politics didn’t seem to mean a whole lot in Whitehaven (Labour always got in), and in the main I was spending most my time trying to avoid getting a kicking at school. But I do remember the death of John Smith, as my mother (whose judge of character I have long trusted) thought he seemed “a nice man”. She was never that keen on Blair, but I can recall the celebrations from the teachers when Labour won the election. One of my teachers, a Geordie, tried to implore on me what it meant to get “those bastards” out, but I was still upset by Man United’s exit from the European Cup the previous week.

    Didn’t Jack Straw, in his memoirs, suggest Smith had a drinking problem?

  37. 37
    thefatgit on 13 Feb 2013 #

    All I remember of John Smith was his willingness to hothouse a new generation of politicians in his Shadow Cabinet: Blair, Brown, Prescott (stretching the description a bit) and Mandleson. I presume this process began under Kinnock, but the focus, from what I remember of the media at the time was Kinnock in Brussels. And Kinnock’s shadow loomed large over Smith. Smith had a way about him though. He seemed to “win” more PMQ’s than he lost, hardly surprising when Major sat opposite. As many have mentioned above, it was only after Smith’s passing, that he was given any credit for directing Labour towards a centrist position. Subsequently, Blair seemed quite happy to take most of the credit for that.

  38. 38
    nixon on 14 Feb 2013 #

    Many of the old hardcore Labour types (a range of pseudo-Trots and actual card-carrying communists as well as more moderate lifelong voters) that i used to hang around with (or who hung around me and my impressionable friends, I suppose) in my gawky teen years would drive around in endless circles arguing whether Smith would have won the 1997 election, and what might have subsequently happened had he done so. Certainly he wasn’t half as widely admired during his lifetime as he was in hindsight; Alexei Sayle had a whole routine where he’d transform into “John Smith Man”, mumbling, inactive champion of the working class, and lots of my school friends thought Sayle went easy on him.

  39. 39
    Jimmy the Swede on 15 Feb 2013 #

    Perhaps the most pleasant member of Blair’s first cabinet was Margaret Jay, daughter, of course, of Jim Callaghan. The Swede had the pleasure of dealing with her at our Customs outbound desk yesterday and she was charming. I was able to tell her that I had received a school prize for history from her mother Audrey back in 1977. I remarked that it was quite a thing for the wife of the then Prime Minister to turn up at a down-trodden and positively dangerous inner-city school, to say nothing of the threat of the IRA back then.

    When I googled Baroness Jay subsequently, it was revealed that she has more than a little spicy past. She was also more than a little dishy in her former years and is still not without glamour even today.

  40. 40
    Mark M on 18 Feb 2013 #

    Re 38: yes, there were a number of people I knew who slated Smith alive (especially during his time as Shadow Chancellor) and then sanctified him after his death, but that’s neither unusual nor particularly worthy of condemnation.

  41. 41
    LondonLee on 23 Feb 2013 #

    Excellent piece Tom, though as I was living in the States at the time and this was pre-internet I could only look at Britain from a distance. I am happier that I spent the 90s living under Bill Clinton. Less happy about having to hear Pearl Jam and Hootie & The Blowfish everywhere.

    Lefties are doomed to be disappointed in their elected leaders. Even Obama, who has achieved a lot, is criticized for not arresting and publicly hanging the Wall Street bankers.

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