OH I WISH IT COULD BE 1965 AGAIN

Sang the Barracudas in 1980.  That, apparently, is also what a lot of Brexit supporters think according to one recent article. This seems to confirm what many of us thought, that Brexit is all part of a nostalgia for simpler times, when a policeman told you the time, when children did as they were told, when murderers got their just desserts, when Heinz tinned spaghetti was the nearest most Brits came to exotic foreign food.

I am not sure why they alighted on 1965. There is actually a lot to like about 1965. Consider the continuing post war boom, full employment, strong trade unions, in short rising living standards for everyone, greater equality too.  It was also a good year for music and fashion. This was the year The Who released My  Generation, the year that Andre Courreges and Mary Quant gave us the mini skirt. Each, in their different ways , were signs of the times, signs that Britain was shaking off the dead weight of the past in cultural and social terms.

It is true that Britian still had the death penalty but there were no hangings. Labour had returned to power in October 1964, two months after the executions of Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans and Harold Wilson appointed as Home Secretary Frank Soskice, a long standing opponent of the death penalty. This ensured there would be no more, particularly as Soskice secured government support for Sydney Silverman’s Private Members Bill, suspending the death penalty for murder for a 5 year trial period. This passed into law in October 1965 and was made permanent four years later. 1965 was, therefore, the year in which the death penalty for murder was finally abolished.

By this time Soskice had been replaced at the Home Office by Roy Jenkins and further massive change  was coming into view, including the decriminalisation of sexual acts between consenting adult men,  the decriminalisation of abortion, reform to divorce law, abolition of theatre censorship and so on. 1965 was also the year that the UK embarked on metrication, something that an awful lot of people seem to think was imposed on us by the EU. It wasn’t.

So, dear Brexit supporters, 1965 really isn’t the year for you despite what the Huffington Post says. Any point of time is a snapshot of something becoming something else. 1965 is a snapshot of a country in the process of becoming a freer, more tolerant, more exciting, above all, more civilised place.  Will the bloggers of 2069 be able to say that about 2017?

2 thoughts on “OH I WISH IT COULD BE 1965 AGAIN

  1. I can remember 1965, alas.

    But, the 1967 Abortion Act didn’t actually decriminalise abortion; it didn’t repeal the 1861 Offences against the Person Act. The 1967 Act provides a legal defence to a charge of procuring an abortion providing certain conditions are met. It’s still illegal, for instance, to obtain abortion pills off the internet and to use them for a diy abortion. The 1967 Act only applies to Great Britain; in N Ireland abortion is illegal in almost all circumstances. (Apologies for the pedantry.)

    • Thanks for the clarification. Yes I am aware of the position in NI which is totally unacceptable and agree that further legal reform is needed here. Nonetheless the 1967 Act was a major breakthrough in the light of what had gone before as were the othet major legal changes of the 60s. I think they all need to be seen in context and some of the criticism of them made with the benefit of 50 yrs hindsight is unfair. We owe a big debt to the likes of Leo Abse, Sydney Silverman and Roy Jenkins.

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