Saturday, December 18, 2010

January 1980 in the UK: chronology

A while ago I conceived of a series of pieces on 1980 on the premise that it was now 30 years since the birth of the eighties. With 2010 running out soon, it will soon be 31 years so I will try and post some more of The 1980 Archive in the next week. The following chronology of events in January 1980 is taken from 'The Book of the Year: September 1979 to September 1980' edited by the late socialist David Widgery and published by Ink Links at the end of that year.

The book's summarises that year as follows: 'A new government: pledged to change the face of Britain with a new threadbare philosophy and ruthless policy. A new decade: of economic collapse and international tension. A year when all our cosy institutions suddenly seemed fragile: the Labour Party, the NHS, civil liberties and the Olympic Games. But a year, too, of new forms of opposition, hopes for something better than survival. More strikes than 1926 and a rapid rise of popular protest movements'.

Clearly there are parallels with today, 1980 and 2010 both seeing incoming Conservative governments on a cuts programme. But reading through the chronology it is also striking how different the context was - the Cold War (Russia had just invaded Afghanistan), war in the north of Ireland, the colonial endgame in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, and a large industrial working class in the UK (January 1980 was dominated by a steel strike).

During the current student movements I've noticed a return of various 1980s anti-Tory slogans and tactics. I'm all for learning the lessons of the past, but we should be wary about trying to re-run the 1980s - after all in many ways radical and working class movements were defeated in that period, and in any event, those were very different times.

January 1980

1 Libyan oil price reaches $34.50 record. British army patrol kill each other in Northern Ireland (N.I.) despite procedures supposed to prevent ‘unnecessary’ killings. New chief of Royal Ulster Constabulary takes over as large march in solidarity with Republican prisoners is banned from going to Maze prison. Bill Sirs [leaders of steel workers union] predicts long steel strike: Keith Joseph [Tory mininster] intransigent in radio interview. Bad weather hits holiday sports programme.

2 Biggest-yet one day rise takes gold price to record $567 an ounce. International Transport Workers Federation pledges complete halt to union handling of steel imports into Britain as first day of steel strike gets strong support. Government-imposed commissioners in charge of Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham AHA suspend kidney transplant operations until April: three patients face death. NI Ombudsman-designate not to take up post after maladministration revelations.

3 Bill Sirs [leader of steel workers union] seeks guarantee from BSC [British Steel] of productivity element in their pay offer. Gold price reaches $660 an ounce. President Carter postpones Senate discussion of SALT treaty with USSR, because of invasion of Afghanistan, as US ambassadors seek support for anti-Soviet moves from NATO countries. Government concessions after protests mean South London kidney patients will not die.

4 DPP announces no police to be charged over death of Jimmy Kelly [killed by police in Liverpool]. Robert Mugabe accuses British of favouring Smith-Muzorewa side in Rhodesia. TUC makes further bid for peace in steel strike as TGWU declares dispute official. Carter announces sanctions against USSR.

5 British ceasefire administration announces 17,000 guerrillas have reported to ceasefire assembly points in Rhodesia.

6 US spokespeople say sanctions over size of Soviet embassy in Washington and export credits will last long time, and hint at closer alliance with China.

7 British-sponsored conference on future of NI opens to immediate disagreement among participants. Collapse of yet more steel-strike peace talks. Health Education Council launches campaign against smoking in front of small children. Teachers in Trafford, near Manchester, refuse to operate new timetables imposed to cut jobs through reorganization. US government to offer to buy grain which would have been sold to USSR before their embargo.

8 US sanctions stepped up: Soviet diplomats expelled, US consulate in Kiev closed, Soviet airline flights to America curbed. Steel pickets arrested in Sheffield. Australians’ second test victory in three-match series during England tour. 350 applicants for job of warden patrolling 15 miles of Hadrian’s Wall.

9 Talks on BSC craft workers’ pay collapse. Local councillors with children at state schools forbidden by government to vote on cost of school meals, milk, bus fares because of pecuniary interest’. Atkins announces second NI conference because first unable to agree on agenda. Summonses issued against two men over December attack on Tommy Docherty [manager of Manchester United].

10 Second closure will mean both nuclear reactors at Dungeness out of action for safety checks. TUC Steel and Nationalized Industries committees threaten industrial action over steel closures in bid to prevent Welsh miners’ strike planned for 21 January. Leaders of five African states deplore presence of South African troops in Rhodesia. Dog licence in N.I. to go up from 30p to £4.
11 Police arrest pickets outside steel stockholders in Strathclyde, and Whitelaw denies police are taking sides. Sirs says strikers now looking for 20% pay rise. Representatives of GMWU majority of water workers vote in favour of industrial action. Former IRA activist Peter McMullen wins right of political asylum in USA.

12 Reports of Soviet troops defecting to rebels in Afghanistan. Major grain-exporting countries reach deal with US to restrict supplies to Soviet Union.

Spizz Energi's Where's Captain Kirk was number one in the first UK Indie Singles Chart, issued in January 1980.

13 Press scaremongering continues against Militant Tendency in Labour Party. Veteran nationalist leader Joshua Nkomo returns home to a hero’s welcome from Rhodesia blacks: calls for moderation and reconciliation. ISTC [steel workers' union] leaders willing to talk with BSC provided there is a government-backed inquiry into the industry. Life- size statue of Charlie Chaplin found mysteriously abandoned in London’s Leicester Square.

14 Tories pledge support for possible US boycott of Olympic Games. Keith Joseph refuses to intervene in steel strike. BP raises pump price of petrol by 5p a gallon. EEC Commission to take France to court over continuing restrictions on British lamb imports. Planned all-out strike in Wales from 21 January is postponed to 10 March after TUC pressure.

15 Scottish TUC and CBI successfully pressurize steel strikers to scale down picketing in Scotland. Machbox’ toy firm announces over 1,200 redundancies. Brussels meeting of NATO and EEC countries fails to back Anglo-US hard line over Afghanistan. Government not to increase child benefit in April. Following strong protests Heseltine cancels ban on councillors with children at state schools voting on school meals, prices, fares. New Statesman magazine acquitted of contempt of Court for publishing interview with juror in Jeremy Thorpe trial.

16 Gold price reaches $755 an ounce. Government announces new financial targets for electricity and gas industries: large price increases will follow. ISTC decides to call out 15,000 workers in private sector of steel industry. US threatens to boycott Olympics if Soviets don’t withdraw from Afghanistan. Foreign Office announces resumption of full diplomatic links with Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. Parents and children join staff in protest at Nottinghamshire suspension of teacher who would not teach oversize classes. Paul McCartney arrested at Tokyo airport for possessing marijuana.

17 Bill Sirs says he is surprised that BSC announces closure plans for parts of Welsh steel industry in middle of strike. Picketing stepped up at private steel works and stockholders. Thatcher to support US initiative over boycott of Moscow Olympics. Unions at BL to hold ballot of workers over pay claim. Gold price rises above $800 an ounce.

18 Lord Soames renews emergency powers taken by Smith regime in Rhodesia after UDI. People queue to sell gold watches, rings in Hatton Garden.

19 Four arrested, including two policemen, by officers from Operation Countryman inquiry into alleged police corruption. At meeting with steel unions, Joseph and Prior make no concessions. John Tyndall resigns as National Front leader after losing vote of confidence. Dinosaur experts incensed by libel of brontosaurus in adverts for Audi cars.

20 President Tito of Yugoslavia has leg amputated. Carter issues one-month ultimatum to USSR: withdraw from Afghanistan or the US will boycott Moscow Olympics. UN Secretary-General Waldheim claims to have reached deal with Iranians for release of Americans in Tehran embassy. Protest outside Pentonville Prison over jailings, lack of inquest on Blair Peach following Southall demonstrations in April.

Dirk Wears White Sox by Adam and the Ants was Number One in the first UK Indie Albums Chart in January 1980

21 BSC works in Derbyshire closed by mass picket as steelworkers plan to increase pressure on North Sea oil industry’s steel supplies. Thatcher urges more negotiations in separate Downing Street meetings with steel unions and management. Gold price briefly exceeds $1,000 an ounce. Somerset County Council bans use by its employees of notorious herbicide 245T, which is alleged to cause serious illnesses. Mass evacuation of homes in Barking as fire releases cloud of cyanide from store in blazing chemicals warehouse.

22 Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov arrested and sent into internal exile in provincial city of Gorky. Gold prices plunge as speculation comes to an end. Over quarter of a million demonstrate in Dublin against injustices of Ireland’s tax system. Large rise in unemployment is announced. West Indies defeat England in World Series of one-day cricket matches by two games to nil.

23 Labour Party NEC defies press and right wing, decides to take no action against Militant Tendency and other left-wingers, and fails to change composition of inquiry into party organization. Anglo-US call for boycott of Moscow Olympics gets scant support either in sporting circles or from most governments. NUPE health workers follow example of local authority colleagues and accept 13% pay offer. Catholic Archbishops in Britain call for new anti-abortion campaign. Row continues between British authorities and ZANU leader Robert Mugabe over when he will be allowed to return to Rhodesia.

24 Carrington announces reprisals against USSR for invasion of Afghanistan: unused credits withdrawn, visits by Brezhnev, Kosygin and Red Army choir cancelled. Defence Secretary Francis Pym announces £4,000 million plus spending on replacement for Polaris missile submarines. ISTC and NUB refuse to attend talks between smaller unions and BSC. IBA announces it will look at plans for breakfast TV during discussion on new contracts for ITV companies. Staff occupy St George’s Hospital, London, in bid to prevent closure.

25 House of Commons committee to investigate deaths in police custody. Independent steel companies fail to get court order preventing ISTC bringing private-sector workers out on strike from Sunday 27th. Paul McCartney deported from Japan.

26 Lord Denning issues injunction against strike by ISTC members at private steel companies, bans secondary picketing. Financial Times survey shows London is the world’s most expensive city to stay in.

27 Massive welcome demonstration greets Robert Mugabe on return to Salisbury. Iranian Presidential election won by former moderate’ Foreign Minister Bani-Sadr. Sixteen arrests in Birmingham as Right-wingers attempt to disrupt large march commemorating British shooting of unarmed demonstrators in Derry, NI in 1972. US Olympic committee votes unanimously to back Carter’s boycott of Moscow.

28 BBC to repeat ‘Law and Order’ TV series on police corruption which met hostile establishment reception when first broadcast in 1978. Over 200,000 strike in Wales in protest against proposed run-down of steel industry. Many private steel workers defy Lord Denning. Employers make improved offer to water workers in face of threatened industrial action. British-sponsored conference on NI resumes meeting but makes little progress. Granada TV’s World in Action’ alleges corruption at Manchester United.

29 ISTC executive gives way to Lord Denning over ban on strike in private sector. 39 pickets arrested in South Wales. Four Persian Gulf oil states follow Saudi lead and raise price by $2 a barrel.

30 New Statesman magazine publishes details of massive British government phone-tapping operation. ISTC rejects pay offer from private steel companies in Midlands. Picketing continues at many steel plants in defiance of Lord Denning. South African troops withdraw from Rhodesia. Anti-abortionists lobby parliament in support of Corrie bill. Teachers’ strikes against cuts, job losses in Avon local authority to be extended. Post Office chief blames 20% + price increase on government-imposed cash limits. China’s Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping calls for ban on wall posters.

31 ISTC granted leave to appeal to House of Lords against Denning judgement. Private meeting of BSC officials with ISTC and NUB. BL chief Edwardes threatens end of company if workers' ballots rejects management's pay offer. Thatcher and Whitelaw deny that unauthorized telephone taps are made by police, security forces. White Rhodesian leader calls on black voters to back Joshua Nkomo against Robert Mugabe in forthcoming elections.

The Specials released their EP The Special AKA Live! in January 1980 and it reached number one in the UK singles chart in early February. It featured Too Much Too Young and Guns of Navarone (recorded live at the Lyceum) and Skinhead Symphony - a medley of "Long Shot Kick De Bucket", "The Liquidator" and "Skinhead Moonstomp" recorded at Tiffany's in Coventry. I once kissed a girl in that club but that was also a very long time ago.

No comments: