Far from another exercise in eighties nostalgia, this book is a fascinating closer examination of a couple of years that apparently changed Britain forever. It’s fair to say that Beckett is uncertain about the value of this change although he’s open-minded enough to acknowledge the many benefits it brought as well as recognising the human costs. He also establishes the extent of change wrought by the left during the period as well as the right, even if that change was less obvious to begin with. The promotion of women’s rights, diversity and the language of equality, so controversial when they were policies pursued by the GLC are utterly uncontroversial today.
It’s packed too with loads of great stories and up-to-date interviews with protagonists from the time. One such offers this rather sad observation from Ken Livingstone about the personal cost of politics:
What I found interesting when I was doing the autobiography was that there’s no permanent friendship in there. People who you were totally close to, and working with … end up hating you. There are no permanent alliances in electoral politics.