I saw on the box the other evening a programme presented by Andrew Marr dealing with events from the accession to power by Harold Wilson in 1964 to Bloody Sunday in January 1972.
Amongst other things, it recalled how the new Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins found by his desk a fixture showing the names of prisoners waiting to be hanged, where names would be crossed out as each was despatched.
Jenkins had a rather fastidious nature and removed the fixture, replacing it with a refrigerator for wine.
He also moved to have the death penalty abolished and supported the decriminalisation of private intercourse between consenting adult males, and easier divorce. He might have, advertised (but didn’t) a personal interest in both the latter reforms, for he was part of a promiscuous set, and also swung both ways. Only a year before Harold Wilson and the Labour Party had cynically exploited Mr Profumo’s relatively innocent peccadilloes to destroy the Conservative Government, put a couple of silly girls in gaol and drive another man to suicide.
Lord Denning’s Report on the affair was a bestseller, and as crooked a piece of work as ever emanated from any of Her Majesty’s Judges
Birchings could still be imposed by the courts. The Courts were relieved of that power. But floggings, with all the rituals you might expect from Tyburn or Newgate could be imposed on nine-year-old boys in fashionable, fee-paying, English Prep Schools, merely for talking in class. And were imposed, frequently at that time, according to a friend of mine who suffered them.
In 1968 after more than 200 years of Theatre Censorship plays could be publicly staged in England. No longer did playwrights have to submit scripts to the Lord Chamberlain and await his Licence or his Prohibition.
But it wasn’t all Sweetness and Light in the Days of Old Labour Government.
While life was beginning to loosen up within England, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Defence Secretary and the Ambassador to Indonesia were party to murder of genocidal proportions in Indonesia. The mass of the British people knew nothing about this then (1965) and still know nothing about it 55 years later.
The inhabitants of Diego Garcia in the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean, who understood that they had the protection of the British Crown were violently evicted, had their livestock slaughtered without compensation, and were shipped in open boats one thousand miles away and dumped in Mauritius and the Seychelles.
This was between 1968 and 1970 to make way for a huge American Naval and Air Base, the better to enable the US to murder and intimidate people over a huge section of the world.
It cannot be said that they (the Americans) didn’t go to waste. They wasted people in their millions, In Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
And Harold Wilson is remembered for not committing British Troops to assist the American aggression in Vietnam.
Some of his Cabinet Members had wanted him to condemn the American aggression. Andrew Marr tells us that Wilson told them that one doesn’t kick one’s creditor in the balls.
Britain had built a Welfare State while continuing the theft of oil from Iran and Iraq, tin, rubber and tea from Malaya, and trade with Ireland under terms which Britain dictated.
Nevertheless Britain was still in hock to the Americans.
In 1967 the exchange rate which had stood at $2.80 to £1.00 was changed to $2.40 to £1.00
This BLOG was prompted by Andrew Marr’s programme. But most of my comments arise from other sources.