Edward Fitter 

Naked Politics Blogger

The date is 9th June 2017, you’ve extended the aerial, climbed into your Morris Marina, tuned in your radio and you set off to work. That radio DJ with the funny side burns captures yesterday’s election, “…an extraordinary result, the snap election has backfired on Theresa May and changed our government. Jeremy Corbyn will soon be off to see her majesty to be formally asked to become Prime Minister and form his Government”. You feel a sense of optimism, not only because you’re still reeling from England’s 1966 World Cup win but your local watering hole and employer will now be forced to pay you £10 an hour. That song you like from the Jackson 5 is playing and continues your buoyant mood, and now you’re delighted that the richest people in society will be paying even more tax, adding funds to the public sector budget.

I tried to put it lightly, but many people who are against the Labour movement lead by Corbyn are saying it will feel like the 1970’s pretty quickly. Why are people saying this? What was life in the 70’s like? Was it a bad era? Does Labour’s manifesto show any comparisons to the 70’s?

When I arrive into Waterloo station, I always notice a pretty striking image on the side of Pimlico Plumbers Offices saying ‘Don’t Flush Britain down a 70’s Sewer, Vote No to Comrade Corbyn’, accompanied with Britannia looking very sad next to Corbyn, as he flushes her down the loo. I’ve also heard politicians, friends and people I’ve only just met saying “Corbyn will take us back to the 70’s”. This was a time of great change, with contraception becoming free of charge for women in 1974, and the Sex Discrimination Act in 1975 making it illegal for employers to discriminate based on gender in a number of industries. The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970, but some turbulence in government meant it only came into effect in 1975. The Brits started exploring the world when in 1971, British tourists took approximately four million holidays abroad – which then seemed an awful lot. But by 1973 that figure had sparked to nine million and by 1981 it was more than 13 million. That all seems pretty progressive, doesn’t it?

In the same period though, the UK’s weak and unstable economy was plagued with recession, rising unemployment, and rampant inflation (24% in 1975!). Pumped up unions were causing havoc, with endless strikes leaving the public with overflowing bins, unburied dead relatives, vastly reduced energy supply and three-day working weeks. The “sick man of Europe” tag was well-earned!

One of the main reasons that Labour and Corbyn could take us back to the 70’s is because of their treatment of the private sector. Abolishing anti-strike laws, ensuring all workers are in a union, private rental market caps, workers on a salary above £80,000 being raided for £6bn, raising the tax on health firms, increasing the minimum wage to £10 per hour (currently at £7.50) for all businesses of all sizes, corporation tax being raised to 26% (currently at 19%), and spending phenomenal sums to take Royal Mail, the National Grid and Railways, into state ownership. Labour also plan to spend big on infrastructure, big on health, big on education and big on welfare. These measures will result a rise in government spending of around £65bn per year according to the Institute of Economic Affairs. Government debt already exceeds £1.7 trillion, equivalent to nearly 87 per cent of GDP, increasing public sector spending will inevitable come from more borrowing, as in this open world, multinational companies have the choice of which country they pay their tax to.

My biggest concern is that these companies lack loyalty to the countries that helped them grow, and hitting them with more tax might mean they move somewhere more affordable. Profits are unfortunately before people, but these companies already give so much to society. Employing people of all skill ranges, graduate programmes, apprenticeships, paying into pensions and providing people with a wage that pays for the roof over their head and food on the table. It happened under New Labour, but with the United Kingdom’s relationship with the EU being unknown alongside with big taxes under Corbyn’s regime then companies that drive our economy may leave us behind, which would be devastating. So, you can have your “free” University tuition, but employers may not have the capacity to take you on when you’re graduated.

Essentially, people are saying that Corbyn will take the United Kingdom back to the 70’s, because he wants to increase Union power and expand centralised state control with higher taxes, higher borrowing, and an expansive re-nationalisation program.

In this election we are quite fortunate to have two very different candidates, with extremely polarising views and policies on essentially everything; a stark contrast to the choices in 2015, in which Miliband, Clegg and Cameron were all pretty similar. We should use the lessons of the 70’s to select the right government to lead us during these very challenging times.

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Last Update: April 27, 2018