Thursday, 20 July 2017

Will History Repeat?

"The Old B--- Likes It Narrow"

In 1951 a general election was held in the UK.  The Conservatives won; Winston Churchill was returned to power.  These were the days when large swathes of the working class supported and voted for the Conservatives.  Voting was not strictly along the lines of socio-economic class, despite very strong social class identity at the time.  

It took a long time to count the votes, and the final outcome was not known until the following morning.  In his book, Family Britain 1951-1957, David Kynaston quotes the writer Ronald Duncan's encounter with a train porter at Charing Cross.

The voracious station disgorged its crowds of office workers as the 8.15 steamed in.  The same anxious poker faces looking a little tired from their debauch of statistics on three cups of coffee.  As usual they hurried toward the ticket collector, straining the digestion of the gate.

I walked up the platform, watching a ferret-like porter going up the train, slamming the doors of the empty carriages.  From one he retrieved a newspaper which had been left on the seat.  As the train shunted out he paused, to study the Stop Press results, and thoughtfully lit a fag-end.  I glanced over his shoulder.

"Good.  It looks as if the old man will just get in after all."

"Which old man?"

"Winston, of course."

"Did  you vote for him in spite of your union?"

"Of course not.  Being a working  man I voted Labour, but all the same I'oped old Winston would get in this time."

"You mean to say you voted Labour although you wanted the Conservatives to get in?"

"It's like this mate.  I'ad to vote for me own side out of loyalty like, but what I say is this" (and here he whispered lest his mate should overhear), "the proper bloke to have on a footplate is an engine driver, and that's why I'd like to see old Winnie back at No 10, 'cause he knows his way around, having been brought up to it like."

"It look as if it will be a narrow thing," I said.

"So it was at Dunkirk.  The old b---- likes it narrow."  [David Kynaston, Family Britain 1951-1957 (New York: Walker and Co., 2009), p.41f.] 
 We wonder whether such an observation might eventually apply to the current British PM, Theresa May.  If she manages to succeed in Brexit, despite a very small majority, it may be that she too will be lauded as a political leader who "likes it narrow".  Time will tell.

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