From the vaults


• While Waterloo and D-Day are the best known anniversaries in June, Backchat is on the search for the social care equivalents.

The local government union Nalgo held its conference in Brighton and up the beach the residential social workers charged. It appears they were paid less than their field brethren. But in a spirited display of unity not seen since the Anglo-Dutch-Belgian-German line held at Waterloo, conference passed a motion demanding equality.

But the comrades stymied an attempt to back a separate pay grading structure for social workers, calling it discriminatory towards other government staff. And so social workers’ dreams of elite status went the same way as Napoleon’s best troops – up in smoke.


•  Labour faced its own Waterloo. On 9 June 1983, the Tories won a second general election following General “Montgomery” Thatcher’s vanquishing of the Argies in the Falklands (or Malvinas as layabouts like me called them at the time).

Gloom hung like the fog of battle over the Comcare newsroom: our “No to Mrs Thatcher” editorial proved to be only wishful thinking as millions said “yes”. Labour polled 27.6%, its lowest vote since 1918. Despite the worst economic recession in living memory, Labour went the same way as Napoleon, by-election success failed to result in final victory as the Tories exploited war fever, the SDP/Liberal alliance split the opposition, and the media humiliated Labour leader Michael Foot’s fashion for wearing donkey jackets.

A chastened Community Care then charted the Conservatives’ enthusiastic support for the voluntary sector. Rhodes Boyson became the social care minster and sported sideburns beloved of Victorian paternalists. His policies also had the touch of the top hat and waistcoat about them.

Today, Labour is doing even worse in the polls and the Tories are yet again bigging up the voluntary sector, wearing their caring clothes while talking about boot camps for the poor. If there is any lesson in the past, then Labour should start a war.


• General Thatcher issued these battle orders in the campaign against young criminals: “The government will not act as a mother to those who choose to leave good homes to wander the streets”, which I think means that the blighters will be locked up rather than hugged a la Dave “boy” Cameron. Giving Thatcher’s own son’s lost wanderings in the desert and various African escapades, the words take on the haunting timbre of Banquo’s ghost.

Meanwhile, the police were doing their bit in the fight against teenage criminality. Like the brave red squares at Waterloo holding out against the hordes of French cavalry, they stood firm against taunts and tantrums. A series of leaked comments from police notebooks gave an insight into the exasperations of the force: “The boys are small angelic replicas of the Omen” “The cleanest thing in the house was the cat” and “Mother shields him from justice by involving a solicitor”. But my favourite was: “He states he is going to give up his life of crime and become a social worker.”

The PC probably believed him as well.

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