Appearing on BBC Question Time in 1980

1980 television

In 1979, the BBC launched a new political discussion show called Question Time – presented by Sir Robin Day. Somehow, a friend of mine got tickets to be in the audience and so, aged 16, we went along to the studio. Robin Day was elsewhere that day and the programme was hosted by the veteran Canadian broadcaster Bob McKenzie.

At that time, I’d started to get involved in left-wing politics and had developed a curious and unconvincing cockney accent – ditching the cut-glass posh voice my mother had instilled in me. I also still had the Irish Republican convictions that my Irish Republican grandmother had indoctrinated me with from an early age. I later became a lot more nuanced on that issue.

During the show, I stuck my hand up and got to make a point about the vote being taken away from Irish citizens living in the United Kingdom. This was a typical piece of Margaret Thatcher spite aimed at Irish people.

Me on Question Time in 1980

The British Nationality Act (passed in 1981) was being discussed in parliament and she was clearly keen on trimming the rights of Irish citizens in the United Kingdom. Subsequent analysis has suggested she thought they all voted Labour and so needed to be disenfranchised. Being half-Irish – I was not impressed.

Anyway, with my newly found cockney accent, I made my contribution and was roundly put down by Bob McKenzie. Should mention that the poor man died a year later. I hope the stress caused by my angry teenage words didn’t contribute to his demise!

Martin Luther King – a widow grieves

When I was a kid in the 60s and 70s, there were always colour supplements lying round the breakfast table. They were the magazines that came with Sunday newspapers like The Sunday Times and The Observer. And the selling point was the strong images they conveyed of key political events. Occasionally, we’d get a copy of Life – the American publication – and I kept copies with the most iconic images.

The “golden age” of Life magazine is normally regarded as being between 1936 and 1972. It’s the photos that adorned its front pages in the late 60s that really struck me. The mad staring eyes of Charles Manson or students in France revolting in 1968. But this one is the most moving. Here’s Coretta Scott King – widow of the assassinated Martin Luther King.