I was at school with the son of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) boss Len Murray and together with a mate of mine, Mark, and some other kids, we all went down to the Anti-Nazi League carnival in 1978. It now seems like an epoch ago but was an incredibly exciting day.
The extreme-Right National Front had been gaining ground on the streets and in terms of votes in London. Since the mid-70s, the economy had been on a downward slide, the mainstream parties were failing to inspire young people and racism was being fuelled by sections of the media. It was a perfect storm for the neo-Nazis.
Even in my school in the east London suburbs, there were individuals who felt empowered to be openly racist. One pupil, who had been a mate of mine a year or two earlier, joined the British Movement. The target of their hate, where we lived, were Jewish and Asian people.
This documentary from the time gives a real flavour of how a movement arose through the Labour Party, trade unions and pressure groups to push back against the NF and the purveyors of race hate.
Does anybody remember a campaign in 1982 to keep Croxteth Comprehensive open in Liverpool? The closure of this school gave the impression – along with dozens of other policies – that the Tories in Westminster didn’t give a damn about inner city areas.
At this time, the Croxteth district of Liverpool had over 90% youth unemployment. I remember those official statistics of the time that showed how bleak things were – let alone the unofficial stats. The Crocky wasn’t just a school – it was a community facility, a beating heart in an area beaten up by recession.
In my first year at university, I ran for the welfare officer position in the student union at Liverpool Uni.
The Labour Club was heavily influenced by the Marxist policies of the Militant Tendency and so the programme I ran on included calls to nationalise the top 200 monopolies, a £90 minimum wage and a 35 hour week. I think the latter demand probably terrified some of the arts students!
Note the heavy fringe of the time. Think my hair would have been dyed jet black – think Phil Oakey of the Human League.
The poster was drawn with a felt-tip pen. Seems so weirdly amateur now but we had no digital magic back in those far off days.