OH, I know I shouldn’t go looking at the front page of the Daily Mail as I’ll probably go blind or something. But the one yesterday was hard to avoid.
The page I saw wasn’t attached to the rest of the newspaper, as the only time I read the Mail is when leafing through my mother-in-law’s copy. Reading that borrowed newspaper usually leaves two impressions: one, there is some vile stuff in here; two, it’s well put together and there is plenty to read. That interior dialogue is between the journalist inside me and the ordinary person.
I do look at the front page online, usually when reading the newspaper review on the BBC website. Those pages are studies in stern virtuosity and barbed hypocrisy, and that’s just on a quiet day. Yesterday’s paper had a lead story about Labour’s manifesto being leaked and the headline was: “Labour’s manifesto to drag us back to the 1970s.”
My first reaction to this wasn’t political at all, but personal. Drag us back to the 1970s? Oh, yes please. I loved the 1970s. I was young and had hair and hope. The hair’s gone and the hope can be threadbare too on a bad day, but everything was in place back then.
The way we divide time into labelled decades works on different levels, in that the tag is historical/political and personal. The 1970s – three-day weeks, power-cuts, uncollected rubbish and so on – took me from 14 to 24, formative years I suppose, embracing the sixth form at school, university and the early years of work.
Those were also the tender days – tender ego and tender heart; the easily bruised days and yet the days when time stretched to the horizon and anything could happen. The days of John Martyn and Van the Man and Fairport Convention, with prog-rock excursions too (King Crimson, Yes), and American trips with Grateful Dead and the Steve Miller Band and others lost in the fuzzy layers.
That Mail front page drew much scornful comment online, as those pages often do. This time it was down to the blurb at the top of the page which read: “Girl jobs and boy jobs are the secret of lasting love” with pictures of Philip and Theresa May bookending the words.
What people noticed was that this banner for the Sarah Vine column was itself a throwback to the 1970s. I didn’t read what Sarah had to say, but then she never reads what I have to say.
I can sympathise with the prickly outrage, but really what do you expect from the Mail, which earlier in the week praised Mrs Maybe’s plans to curb energy prices in a manner that was diametrically opposed to the way it reported Ed Miliband’s plans to do the same two years ago.
If you want hypocrisy, they keep a mouldy fridge full of the stuff at the Mail.
Without wishing today to delve too deeply into the politics of it all – we are in danger of being politicked to death by this dreary election – it is unsurprising that Labour should have a 1970s-themed manifesto as that was when Jeremy Corbyn formed many of his beliefs. They have since been nudged by time perhaps, but not budged a lot; in fact, ‘nudged but not budged’ might almost be a slogan for Corbyn. He can have that one for free.
What I loved yesterday was Mrs Maybe’s reaction to Labour’s manifesto, or at least to the Mail version. She had the screaming gall to say that “Labour wants to drag us to the past” – this from the woman who is obsessed by grammar schools and scrabbling around for scraps of the British Empire.
But back to the 1970s? Oh, go on then. I think I shall go and put Solid Air on the hi-fi.