Historian Dominic Sandbrook explores the 1970s. He reveals a Britain brimming with aspiration as ordinary people first felt the thrill of freedom and money.
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MUSIC: "Automatically Sunshine" by The Supremes
# Ooh, baby Let's take life's highway
# It's automatically yours and my way
# No road is too rough to travel
# We'll walk barefoot
# On life's gravel
# Together whatever we express now
# Automatically means success now
# Whatever mystery life's about
# There's no doubt we'll work it out
# I'm yours and you're mine
# It's automatically sunshine
# Baby. #
Maybe you were falling in love with music, or just falling in love.
Perhaps you were sitting exams and getting serious,
or out mucking around with your pals in the playground.
Perhaps, like me, you were just being born.
Or maybe you weren't even born at all.
Whatever you got up to in the 1970s,
it's passed from rose-tinted memories
into our shared national history.
In many ways, '70s Britain
feels like a very strange and distant place.
But it's time to look again
at the years of Ted Heath, Marc Bolan and Mary Whitehouse,
Because this was the decade
in which 21st-century Britain, our Britain, was born.
We often think that the 1960s gave us freedom
and the 1980s gave us money.
But, for most people, it was in the 1970s
that those two thrills really arrived.
These were years of tremendous change,
shattering the cosy post-war consensus.
And, for millions of ordinary families, a brave new world,
at once exciting and terrifying, was at hand.
The British people were impatient for more.
More freedom, more opportunities, and more money.
And, in the first years of the 1970s, they went out to get it.
A nation basking in the sunshine of affluence and security,
happy and self-confident after 25 years of the post-war boom.
For most ordinary families,
life in 1970 was quite simply better than it had ever been.
This was a blessed generation.
We had work, we had welfare,
and we had wealth -
on a scale people have never known before.
But now, people were looking for something more.
Something solid, something permanent,
something that would confirm that they had arrived.
By the dawn of the 1970s, the affluent society
had become a fact of life.
Even an ordinary family now had expectations
that their forebears could barely have imagined.
And at the heart of all their ambitions,
was something we now take for granted - a home of their own.
-It's our house.
-I know, pet, our house.
Oh, Bob, I can't wait to move in.
In the '50s and '60s, many people had still grown up
in overcrowded terraces and damp, sodden flats.
Many still had shared bathrooms, or had no indoor bathrooms at all.
But now, they were ready to escape the shadow of the past,
to leave behind the soot and smoke and squalor
and to strike out for pastures new.
These were the Wimpey years,
when brand-new estates of neat, little houses
blossomed on the suburban fringes of the nation's cities.
And this is the little bedroom.
You can either use that for the nursery,
or you can throw your mother-in-law in that one.
And nothing better captured the spirit of change
than Britain's new towns.
Enough homes, opportunities, and facilities befitting
a civilised way of life for an extra 100,000 people are to be built here.
One of the biggest developments
was the expansion of the old city of Peterborough,
transformed by a government scheme
to rehouse the people of London's slums.
For the same rent they were paying in Lambeth,
some £5 a week, inner-city tenants
could move into a brand-new house in Peterborough.
And what was more,
they were encouraged to think about buying their houses outright.
For years, people had been told
that an Englishman's home was his castle.
But for millions of people,
it was only in the 1970s that that dream became a reality.
As early as 1972, more than half of Peterborough's residents
already owned their own houses.
In this little corner of eastern England,
a new world was taking shape.
New towns had decent motorway links, good schools,
even the first indoor shopping centres.
Yes, they weren't terribly grand or picturesque,
but they succeeded because they fulfilled the ambitions
of hundreds of thousands of ordinary British families.
A steady job, a safe neighbourhood, a neat suburban home,
a back garden, even central heating.
And for people who had grown up
in damp and dilapidated inner cities,
places like Peterborough were the future.
# I'll light the fire...
For young couples, born after the Second World War,
and now in their 20s and 30s, here was the chance
to not only have their own space and do their own thing,
but to join the swelling ranks
of the property-owning middle classes.
# Staring at the fire...
When you do tell people you've got your own house,
then it's a status symbol.
You know, you just feel nice, you know.
You pay rent, you pay it for the rest of your life
and at the end of it, you've nothing to show.
Whereas, with this, we sincerely hope, anyway,
that at the end we shall have a saleable property.
If somebody was to describe how you were getting on in life,
say a relation, you'd say, "He's got a car." They'd say, "He's got his own house."
They wouldn't just say, "He's got a house."
So it must mean something, you've got your own house.
# Our house
# Is a very, very, very fine house
# With two cats in the yard... #
Until September 1971, most ordinary house buyers
could only get a mortgage from their local building society.
But then, in one of those tiny decisions
that have incalculable long-term consequences,
the Bank of England relaxed its lending rules.
Now, high-street banks were free to compete in the mortgage market
and as The Times put it,
it was as though the Bank of England had changed the traffic lights
from red to green, and the great property race was on.
But not everyone wanted the fresh air
and fresh paint of the new towns.
There was another housing make-over going on in Britain in the early '70s,
one that would have an enduring impact on our city life.
For young, left-leaning hippyish professionals,
the old slums of inner-city London represented a rare opportunity.
Streets like this one in Islington
were transformed by middle-class couples,
driven by their bohemian ideals
and their desire to escape from the shadow of their parents.
The new residents of areas like Islington
thought of themselves as pioneers,
building a self-consciously progressive enclave
in the heart of the city.
They send their children to the new state primary school
just down the street.
And they waxed lyrical about the multi-cultural diversity
of their new domains.
We like living in an area which has all sorts of people
from different occupations and all sorts of different land uses.
For example, there are three factories in this square.
But for these high-minded Guardian-reading gentrifiers,
there were canny financial motives behind all the liberal gloss.
The third one along there is owned by some cousins of mine
and the last one is divided into flats.
The cousins actually told us about this house
and we bought the house together, and I eventually bought them out
before we moved into this house.
The irony was that as middle-class couples moved into the area,
they drove property prices up and working-class residents out.
And as landlords cashed in by selling to the middle-class newcomers,
everyone got rich.
Property today is big money
and that's what's attracting the speculators large and small.
Yet, however huge the profits, however keen competition,
this isn't simply a game of stocks and shares,
because property also means people's homes.
Today, we call this gentrification.
And inner-city Britain would never be the same again.
All those overheated dinner party conversations about property,
they started in this first flush of the 1970s.
Make it 30,000, madam. Is it the mortgage you worried about?
Come on, dear.
-At £30,000. That's more like it.
At £30,000 I'm selling.
I warn you, by next year, it's going to be worth 35.
Yours at £30,000, sir.
In 1972 and '73, house prices went up the biggest margin in history,
a staggering 70% in two years.
-Hey, look at that!
CASH TILL SOUND EFFECT
Good grief. Prices are going up fast.
Look, we can't afford anything.
Why don't we just pack it in, go back?
-No, here's something in our price range. £5,000.
A dog kennel.
And by 1980, the average house was worth ten times its value in 1970.
This was a new landscape of shiny kitchens in trim, tidy houses.
We often think that Margaret Thatcher created this,
but she didn't.
It created her.
But they were the foundation stone of a new suburban society,
marking the transition from an old, class-based collective culture
to a new domesticated, individualistic one.
-# Oh what a lovely surprise
# Furniture to dream about
# Talk about, scheme about
# Furniture for you. #
Eventually, as so often, this housing boom would turn to bust.
But in the long run,
property had become the central pillar of the new affluent society.
Among those moving into new houses in the summer of 1970,
one man, in London SW1,
faced a particularly daunting redecorating job.
Like the gentrifiers of Islington,
he had just moved into a rundown, 18th-century town house.
And he was determined to drag it into the 1970s,
bringing in his black-leather armchairs, his marble tables,
his gleaming new stereo and the love of his life, his Steinway piano.
His name was Edward Heath.
And his address was 10 Downing Street.
This Government will be at the service
of all the people, the whole nation.
Keen to banish every last taint of his hated rival,
Labour's Harold Wilson,
Heath ripped out the dark-red carpets
and put in brand-new gold ones.
In the Cabinet room, out went the battered leather armchairs
and the tatty, green-felt table,
and in came a symphony of beiges and browns.
Heath's friends told him that it looked stylish and modern,
like a cool bachelor pad.
Most people thought it looked more like a boudoir.
But Ted Heath was like no Tory leader before.
He wasn't public school and silver spoon.
He was the son of a jobbing builder from Kent.
A self-made grammar-school boy,
he seemed a very modern kind of Conservative.
The ideal man to lead an affluent, meritocratic nation.
Heath's victory had given him the chance
to remake Britain on entirely modern lines.
There was no time to lose,
right from the start, he was all business.
This was Ted Heath's kind of place.
Work on the NatWest Tower, as it was called, began in 1971.
At the time, it was the tallest building in Europe,
a symbol of the blossoming power of the City of London.
From his very first Cabinet meeting in June 1970,
it was clear that Heath saw himself
as the clipped and businesslike captain of a tight, but well-disciplined, ship.
In his own mind, he was more than just another grubby politician.
He was the dynamic modernising chief executive,
who'd been hired to turn around the fortunes
of a vast, but struggling, family business.
We will have to embark on a change so radical,
a revolution so quiet,
and yet so total.
At the top of Heath's modernising agenda was an ambition
that was to become the single-most controversial political issue of our lifetimes.
For what he wanted more than anything else
was to get Britain into Europe.
Heath had been committed to the European ideal
since his student days in the 1930s.
He'd visited Spain during the Civil War.
He'd seen one of Hitler's Nuremberg Rallies at first hand.
As an artillery officer in the Second World War,
he had seen for himself the horrors of Nazism.
In the aftermath of the war, Heath had travelled across West Germany,
witnessing the extraordinary rebuilding of a shattered nation.
The Germans might have lost the war,
but they knew what was needed to win the peace -
efficient industry run by clear-sighted business leaders.
The world is shaped more by the head of a big company,
the life of his compatriots is shaped more
by the head of the big company than by an ambassador.
This is a thing that has to be realised.
For Heath, West Germany offered a glimpse
of Britain's economic future.
On the streets of German cities today,
the working class seems to have disappeared.
Everybody has a bank account.
Year by year, balance sheet by balance sheet,
all the Germans are turning into capitalists.
By joining Europe's Common Market,
Britain would stake its claim to this economic miracle.
This vision of Europe
wasn't just about burying the hatreds of the past,
it was about building a new world,
wealthier than ever before.
It's a big decision and it's one that goes far beyond party politics.
It's a decision that will affect us fundamentally,
whether we go in or stay out.
Let's be very clear about it, this is a moment of decision
that will not occur again for a very long time, if ever.
All the six now want us to join them.
Britain's businessmen loved the idea
of joining the world's most lucrative single market.
I feel this country is in a dilemma, so we should go in.
Certainly, nothing's happened since the war, has it?
Which is before I was born.
FRENCH ACCORDION MUSIC
But were ordinary voters ready to embrace
Edward Heath's European dream?
Well, that was another story.
The truth is that anti-European sentiment died hard.
After all, it was only a quarter of a century
since the end of the Second World War.
And when many people thought of Europe,
they remembered Agincourt and the Armada,
Napoleon and the Kaiser.
"BLESS THIS HOUSE" THEME TUNE
Even prime-time sitcoms captured our suspicion of all things continental.
After all, England's a civilised country.
What do you think they are over there, head hunters?
You know what I mean, they're foreigners.
Not to them, they're not.
They haven't even got the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Indeed, even in Heath's own party, there were plenty of people
who recoiled from his European enthusiasm.
"I'd rather live in a socialist Britain," said the Tory MP Alan Clark,
"than one ruled by a lot of effing foreigners."
Heath might want us to be like the Germans,
but first, he had to persuade the French.
Unconvinced by our European credentials,
our wartime allies had twice blackballed British attempts
to join their club.
In May 1971, Heath went to Paris for face-to-face talks
with the French president Georges Pompidou.
In his eagerness to look European, Heath gave a speech
that has gone down in political legend,
although perhaps not quite for the right reasons.
(SPEAKS FALTERINGLY) Je suis convaincu que nous vivons
un moment historique,
comparable a celui d'il y a vingt ans.
Car il est certain
que les decisions que nous prendrons tous
dans les semaines a venir seront determinantes
pour l'avenir politique de l'Europe.
Perhaps never before had the language of Voltaire
been subjected to such a battering.
But while Heath was hardly one of history's great linguists,
his speech had sent an unmistakable message.
And that message was, "Can we join your gang, please?"
With the French onside,
Heath now had to get the legislation through Parliament.
And with both main parties deeply divided,
passions for and against were running high.
I believe that Britain will be worse off in the Common Market.
It's an opportunity that offers great benefits for us
and great benefits for Europe as a whole.
Will you turn away from the open seas
and moor yourself to Europe?
Mr Heath said yes. We say no.
But in October 1971, the Commons backed Heath.
On the cliffs of Dover,
pro-European campaigners lit a gigantic beacon in celebration.
This was one of the decisive moments in our modern history.
British politics would never be the same again.
Yet we never learned to love Europe,
and even now, more than 40 years on,
there are still people who think that Ted Heath was a traitor to his country.
SCREAMING AND LAUGHTER
But the truth was that when you mentioned Europe in the early '70s,
most people didn't think of a grand political project.
Europe meant something much simpler and altogether more exciting.
A week in the sun.
Until the dawn of the 1970s,
most British people only crossed the Channel
if they were wearing a uniform and carrying a gun.
But a foreign holiday was becoming
one of those crucial little badges of status and affluence.
An adventure abroad was now one of life's pleasures,
an ambition to set beside the manicured lawn,
the colour TV and the Ford Cortina.
The more we spend from housekeeping the less we have the holiday fund.
Oh, yes, the holidays.
Ten days in torrid Torremolinos.
Ten nights of madness in the Mediterranean.
Ten evenings of ecstasy in the Costa Del Sol.
Then back to the Merseyside and the "costa" living.
By the early 1970s, a two-week package holiday to Spain
in a one-star hotel would cost you around £20.
That's about £240 today.
But the amount of money you could take out of the country
was tightly regulated.
As late as 1969, you could only take £50 abroad in an entire year.
Hi, can I have some euros, please?
But in January 1970, the rules were relaxed.
Now you could take £300 in foreign currency,
and that's the equivalent of more than £3,000 today.
It was a small, but seismic, shift.
It was as though British families had been held prisoner in their own country.
And now they'd been let out,
they behaved like unruly kids on a spending spree.
Almost incredibly, Britain's biggest travel agents, Thomas Cook and Lunn Poly,
were both state owned.
Like the mines or the railways,
package holidays were a nationalised industry.
But by 1972, Ted Heath had sold them off to private buyers.
They have changed your hotel. They've changed it to the Verit White.
Has it been changed once before?
-Where were you originally?
They've changed it to the Verimar.
In 1970, about six million people were already going abroad on holiday.
And by the time Heath left office, four years later,
that figure had almost doubled.
Even Britain's most famous comic brand
had tired of the week in the caravan park,
and was carrying on, on the Costa.
It's very lovings, no?
Yes, I beg your pardon, oh, you mean lovely, yes, it's nice.
That first trip abroad was so often an unforgettable experience.
The shock of the heat, the light,
and the unfinished hotel.
Dick, Dick! Look up there!
For Ted Heath, Europe meant fine wines,
classical music and international brotherhood,
but for most British holidaymakers,
it meant sheer hedonism.
Drunk with the heat, the excitement, and the local liquor,
they threw off their inhibitions
in a way that would have been simply unthinkable back home in Skegness.
This was two weeks of sun, sea, sand,
sangria and above all, sex.
# If you want it, here it is
# Come and get it
# Make your mind up fast. #
It's pretty promiscuous over here,
well, it's promiscuous in a lot of places in Spain,
but Majorca more than anywhere.
I mean, everything you read in magazines, well, believe it.
Did they approach you on the beach?
No, they haven't, it's been all right.
It's been in the daylight, one-and-a-half weeks to go yet.
Back home, the sexual revolution was still something people read about in the newspapers.
But now, all those buttoned up inhibitions melted away
in the Mediterranean heat.
# Because it may not last. #
For girls who were more accustomed to fighting off Barry from Barnsley,
sometimes it took just one look from a Spanish waiter
and they went weak at the knees.
But some girls, rightly, were rather more suspicious of the Latin Lotharios.
Here's a letter to Jackie magazine's agony aunts, Cathy and Clare.
This girl says she's going on holiday in a couple of weeks
with five friends.
"I'm a bit worried about it, I'm not very confident with boys,"
she says, "I don't want to get involved in any wild schemes
"for picking up Spaniards."
Bizarrely, Cathy and Claire are worryingly enthusiastic.
"Try not to get upset and look forward to your holiday," they say,
"we're sure you'll have a great time,
"and maybe even a holiday romance of your own."
As much as people loved splashing about in the sun,
they still wanted part of it to feel a bit more like home.
Fish and chips, pint of English ale, and all the trimmings.
Why go abroad when you can get all the comforts of home on holiday?
But come to think of it, why not go abroad?
Because it's all here in Benidorm.
Most of these visitors weren't really interested in exploring Spanish culture,
what they wanted was the traditional pleasures of the British seaside,
only with added sunshine.
That meant a full English breakfast, fish and chips,
and steak and kidney pie, all washed down with a cup of PG tips,
and a copy of the Daily Mirror.
The educated upper and middle classes had long flocked to the Med
for a dose of sunshine and high culture.
And to them, the Costa package millions looked like a sun scorched Philistine mob.
I'm fed up of going abroad and being treated like sheep,
what's the point of being carted round in buses,
surrounded by sweaty miners from Kettering and Coventry.
With their cloth caps and their cardigans
and their transistor radios,
and their Sunday Mirrors, complaining about the tea,
"Oh, they don't make it properly here, not like at home."
Monty Python's Oxbridge comedians
had wicked fun with the tour bus classes.
Sitting in cotton sun frocks
squirting Timothy White sun cream all over their puffy, raw, swollen flesh,
because they overdid it on the first day.
Of course, there was a fair bit of social snobbery in all this.
Until the 70s, Europe had been a playground
for a tiny elite of the rich and well-connected.
But this new British tourist was less David Niven,
and more David Essex.
# Oh, is he more, too much more than a pretty face,
# It's so strange the way he talks, it's a disgrace. #
Shall I tell you something, Franco? Shall I tell you something?
That is not an unpleasant little burgundy, that.
That is not a bad little burgundy.
But the pioneers of mass-market tourism
also wanted a taste of Europe back home.
Another sign of a nation impatient for new experiences.
Until the 70s, wine was the drink of the refined,
or at best, a tipple for special occasions.
But with its hints of holiday good times,
and its suggestions of sophistication,
el vino had invaded the high street.
People go abroad for holidays more, come back with ideas,
it encourages them to experiment.
Wine was becoming essential
at even the most modest suburban dinner party.
In just ten years, the average British wine intake doubled.
They're so casual about it, you'd think you were in France.
Indeed, one of the benefits of joining the common market
was that it slashed duty on table wine.
How often do you buy wine?
-Do any of your friends drink it?
Of course, it's easy to look back now and to laugh
at all that Blue Nun and Mateus Rose,
but the truth is, that people's tastes went inherently terrible,
they were just untutored,
because, of course, most people had never drunk wine before.
And let's face it, without these trailblazers,
you wouldn't be sipping that agreeable sauvignon blanc.
And all these bottles of Black Tower were a powerful symbol of change,
they represented affluence, ambition,
a kind of sophistication, even modernity itself.
The island nation, the land of the pie and the pint, was dying out.
Darling, wine is my hobby. I'm not drinking, I'm learning about it.
Not like some people, not like Terry Collier,
he hasn't gotten beyond beer yet,
his idea of sophistication is a pint of Newcastle Brown with a cherry in it.
But in the early '70s,
the days when real men looked, thought,
and drank just like their dads were dying out.
Even the straight back and sides was disappearing from pubs and schoolyards.
Perfectly ordinary young men wanted something different,
a bit more sparkle in their lives.
And one pop star above all
seemed to capture this new spirit of showing off.
# What happened to the teenage dream? #
Here is the only group to have two number ones last year,
T Rex and Get It On.
Ten minutes before T Rex's front man, Marc Bolan,
was due to appear on this show,
his personal assistant, Chelita,
sprinkled some glitter on his cheeks.
Now, Bolan and Lita claimed she had done it as a joke,
but for thousands of thrill-starved youngsters,
hunting for the next big thing,
Bolan's new look was a revelation.
And at T Rex's very next gig,
Bolan was greeted by the sight of hundreds of be-glittered fans.
# Get it on, bang a gong, get it on
# Get it on, bang a gong, get it on. #
In the first years of the '70s,
nobody could match T Rex's appeal to British teenagers.
Lennon and McCartney anointed T Rex as The Beatles' true successors.
We play for the kids that never saw The Beatles,
never saw Jimi Hendrix,
they're seeing us as those sort of people, you know.
# You're dirty sweet and you're my girl. #
And Bolan himself seemed to be the ultimate pin-up.
# Get it on, bang a gong, get it on. #
Girls loved him,
but what was really striking was the image he presented to teenage boys.
Bolan wasn't just another middle class hippie with an Oxbridge third,
he was a lorry driver's son from Hackney,
with an eye for the ladies.
And what he represented was the single biggest change in masculine identity for a generation.
There's been a change in England in two years,
and we are part of the change.
I mean, guys now can wear make-up, they can shout and scream.
# All the young dudes. #
Bolan's dramatic look, all feathers, flares and hair, was a sensation.
While not everyone could be quite as coiffed as Bolan,
they could have a go.
And before we knew it, blokes didn't have a haircut,
they had a hairstyle.
The only thing you study is your navel, you even shave lying down.
To the dean of grumpy old men, Rigsby of Rising Damp,
all the free-flowing locks were a national disgrace.
Oh, so that's it, it's my hair, is it?
Well, let me tell you, Jesus Christ had long hair.
-Now, that's enough of that.
Don't you go comparing yourself with him, you show a bit of respect.
But it's true, he did have long hair.
He didn't have a hairdryer, though, did he? Eh?
Didn't give himself blow waves.
But the revolution wasn't confined to hair,
young men were experimenting with their whole look,
flirting with glamour and colour.
Nobody symbolised this better
than Britain's most vividly attired man of the early '70s, Peter Wyngarde,
better known as TV's rakish adventurer, Jason King.
Six feet and a half inches of steel, not tall by today's standards,
but so slim and well proportioned that he gives the appearance of a lithe athlete.
Disturbingly, all the explosive outfits he wore on screen
were from his own personal collection.
For people who could still remember the General Strike, the Blitz,
and the Battle of Britain,
for people whose memories were full of tin baths, short hair,
and the stiff upper lip,
the likes of Mark Bolan came as a terrible shock.
# Oh, you pretty thing. #
Of course, it was all just a silly and short lived phase,
but it had substance, too.
It was a lurid reminder that '70s Britain was a more expressive kind of country.
We do have very much vaster fashion consciousness,
right through every class and age of person than ever in previous history.
Even in Britain's factories,
the boots and boiler suit uniform was being updated.
Have you be worried about the dangers of it?
Well, up till now, I seen that poster.
What do you think about the hairnet?
I think it's a good idea, I think it'll catch on in other pits.
-Are you worried about the dangers?
Well, I am, but I like my hair, don't I,
and I don't want to have it cut.
How do you feel about the hair nets?
Think they're daft.
# Don't you know you're driving your mamas and papas insane. #
Still, let's not get carried away.
All the hair in the world couldn't make up for the daily reality of hard grind,
in tight knit, working-class communities,
where the old rhythms of masculine tradition ran slow and deep.
But the boundaries were to be pushed even further,
when a strange creature landed in central London.
Ziggy Stardust is the human manifestation of a creature from outer space,
fallen to earth to bring a message of peace and love to all humanity.
In reality, of course, Ziggy was merely the persona
of the rock star, David Bowie,
whose album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars,
hit the charts in the summer of 1972.
The key to Ziggy's appeal wasn't just that he was an alien,
it was that he was an alien in a dress.
# There's a starman
# Waiting in the sky
# He'd like to come and meet us
# But he thinks he'd blow our minds
# There's a starman waiting in the sky... #
Ziggy Stardust turned David Bowie
into an international superstar.
# Let the children lose it
# Let the children use it
# Let all the children boogie. #
I've been waiting for ages to see him.
Why are you so upset?
What made Ziggy Stardust so successful wasn't just the music,
it was the attitude.
As a former art school student,
Bowie saw gender bending as a kind of performance,
as well as a remarkably successful marketing exercise.
But for thousands of suburban teenagers,
his androgynous persona was a glimpse of another world.
A world in which you could change your clothes, your hair,
even your name, and be whatever and whoever you wanted.
# Didn't know what time it was and lights were low-oh-oh
# I leaned back on my radio-oh-oh
# Some cat was laying down some rock'n'roll
# Lotta soul, he said...#
If I've been at all responsible
for people finding more characters in themselves
than they originally thought they had, then I'm pleased
because that's something I feel very strongly about,
that one isn't totally what one has been conditioned to think.
In 1972, David Bowie upped the ante
when he declared himself bisexual.
# John, I'm only dancing... #
It was a bold statement at a time when in many parts of Britain,
you still risked a kicking for looking a bit different.
But it reflected how emphatically homosexuality was emerging
from the outlaw fringes of our national life.
Five years after the decriminalisation of homosexuality,
the gay rights movement had hit the streets.
Hand-in-hand with a new materialism
was a new individualism.
Young men and women wanted to say, "This is who I am,
"this is my lifestyle, my identity.
"And it's a lot more complicated than what class I come from."
In the late summer of 1972,
one group of British citizens were arriving from sunnier climes.
But they weren't back from happy holidays.
They were exiles from their native land.
They said, "You Indians get out from here."
Who did this?
How much have you lost?
It's about 2,000 shillings.
-Quite a lot of money?
Frightened Asian families from Uganda
were seeking shelter in Britain.
And they would test just how much attitudes had really changed.
In Uganda, the Asian community
had been wealthy, successful
until the arrival of a man made in Britain,
General Idi Amin.
An African dictator who had been trained by the British Army
and even played rugby for its East Africa XV.
But when Idi Amin first seized power in Uganda in 1971,
most people thought he'd still be loyal to the mother country.
The British are my best friends.
But Amin had turned into a cruel and capricious dictator.
He saved much of his venom
for the people he described as bloodsuckers -
Uganda's 57,000 Asians.
Thrifty and hard-working,
they dominated the country's professional classes.
Many of them still had British passports,
a legacy of the last days of Empire.
But now, Amin wanted them out.
Asians have been milking the economy of the country.
Go through and see one of the immigration officers. All right?
And that meant many of them were headed for the Imperial Motherland.
-Where are you going to live when you get to Britain?
The prospect of thousands of Asians arriving here
provoked a spasm of rage.
Send them back! Send them back! Send them back!
Not everybody had learned to love the new realities
of a post-imperial, multiracial society
and anti-immigration feelings were running high.
Many of the men on this demonstration
were from one workplace in east London.
Claiming that the Asians represented a threat to their livelihoods,
the Smithfield meat porters marched on Westminster.
Here was the authentic voice of white working-class anger.
It's too simple for the sanctimonious humbugs
in Westminster or Whitehall.
The answer to the problem is this.
End immigration immediately
and start repatriation immediately!
This storm of anger and anxiety came from a group of people
for whom Britain was changing just a bit too fast.
For Ted Heath, the plight of the Ugandan Asians
left him facing a tricky dilemma.
He had promised to limit immigration from Commonwealth countries.
But the Asian refugees were legally entitled to come and live here.
In the next few months, about 25,000 Ugandan Asians arrived in Britain.
Most brought only what they could stuff into their battered suitcases.
But it didn't matter.
Because what they did bring was ambition, aspiration
and a determination to succeed.
They were quickly settled in towns and cities across Britain,
including booming, property-rich Peterborough.
The extraordinarily impressive thing is just how smoothly
and successfully the Ugandan Asians settled into life in Peterborough.
These were tremendously hard-working people.
They had lost everything, but now they took any job they could find.
All that mattered was to get a foothold,
then you could work your way up.
Six weeks after they first arrived in Britain,
all three Osman brothers have jobs in Peterborough.
It's tough and monotonous,
but the basic wage is £21.75 with overtime on top.
We are willing to work, to do any job we are offered.
By 1973, less than a year after they'd arrived,
almost all the refugees had found permanent homes.
Don't forget that many of these refugees had left behind homes
and businesses worth thousands of pounds.
They came to Britain with nothing but the clothes on their backs
and by dint of sheer hard graft, they dragged themselves up.
These were Ted Heath's kind of people.
And their devotion to self-improvement
was a kind of super-charged version of the aspiration
that was transforming Britain.
The dream of a better life had even begun to penetrate
some of the nation's most traditional communities.
All around the country were our coal mining pits,
where 300,000 men toiled deep underground,
in dangerous and often almost primitive conditions.
Most of Britain's miners worked six-hour shifts
with just a 20-minute break to eat their sandwiches.
At the Snowdown pit in Kent, eight out of ten miners worked completely naked,
because it was so hot underground.
During a shift, they lost so much fluid in sweat,
that they had to drink eight pints of water laced with salt.
Little wonder, then, that so many people saw them
as working-class heroes.
After the war, mining had become a nationalised industry,
in recognition of the importance of coal to the country
and of the sheer courage of the men.
But since then, the miners had been neglected,
their wages falling far behind those of other manual workers.
Ten years since I was earning what I'm earning now...
We have a basic wage of £28, take home of £22.
Ten years since I was taking home £22.
So, therefore, the cost of living has increased in ten year
and our wages have fallen farther and farther down the wage scale.
What made this so infuriating for Britain's miners
was that they felt they were missing out
on all the excitement of the affluent society.
They might have been the salt of the earth,
but they, too, wanted their own homes, a foreign holiday,
central heating and a colour television.
They didn't want to smash the system,
they just wanted their fair share of Ted Heath's Brave New World.
People want to have holidays,
they want to run a car. Why should a man have to work
and maybe have a few pints at weekend, and that be his lot in life?
Workers now, they're getting a taste for better things now.
The miners' ambitions were pure '70s materialism.
But their industry had been built in the collectivist '40s.
And the truth was that a gulf was opening up
between what ordinary families wanted
and what our old-fashioned heavy-industry-dominated economy could deliver.
In the pit villages of South Yorkshire,
one young man became the standard bearer
for the miners' impatience for change.
I don't believe that anybody in the trade-union movement
wins anything at all, unless they're prepared to be militant.
This is the headquarters of the Yorkshire NUM,
for years the power base of one Arthur Scargill.
We always think of Scargill as the incarnation of hard-left militancy,
and the sworn opponent of Thatcherite materialism.
But the truth is
that his socialist rhetoric can be a bit misleading.
What made Scargill so successful
was that he told the miners what they wanted to hear.
They loved his cheeky, flamboyant persona,
but what they liked most of all was his promise to get them more money.
I've never known the employer who gives you anything.
You'll get as much as you are prepared to go out and take.
MUSIC: "Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who
"You get as much as you are prepared to go out and take."
That's a young Arthur Scargill,
expressing an almost Thatcherite ethos in 1970.
# We'll be fighting in the streets
# With our children at our feet... #
The miners hadn't been out since the General Strike of 1926.
But in early 1972, they woke from their slumber
and voted to strike for a better deal.
Inside the government,
there was no great alarm at the prospect of a national coal strike.
The winter had been mild and coal stocks were high.
But Ted Heath had fatally underestimated the miners.
They had a new strategy up their sleeve.
Across the country, cars, mini-buses and coaches were sent out,
carrying flying pickets to docks, coke depots and power stations.
In the early '70s, there were few laws restricting mass picketing.
And it was soon apparent that the miners' mobile tactics were choking
the supply of coal to Britain's power stations.
# And pray
# We don't get fooled again... #
The dispute reached a melodramatic climax at Saltley, near Birmingham,
when thousands of miners and fellow trade unionists,
marshalled by Arthur Scargill, overwhelmed the police lines
and forced the closure of the gates at the Midlands' biggest coke depot.
As the gates of the gas works clanged shut at 10.45,
a great shout of triumph went up from a crowd of about 7,000 people.
Saltley is a hugely symbolic event in our recent history -
often seen as the moment
when the miners forced the government to its knees.
But the truth is that Saltley was just a sideshow,
because most of the coke had already been shipped out.
What really preoccupied the Cabinet that morning wasn't Saltley,
it was the freezing weather, the blockade of the power stations
and the looming shortages.
With barely two weeks' power left
before Britain sank into total darkness,
Ted Heath knew that the game was up.
Within the corridors of power, there was now a mood of abject panic.
As Heath's right-hand man Willie Whitelaw put it,
"We looked absolutely into the abyss."
By now, power cuts were becoming a fact of life.
Not only were power stations closing,
but so were factories, offices and schools.
On the high street, shops were running out of matches and candles,
on the roads, there were long queues as the traffic lights failed.
What the politicians feared most was the loss of control.
Heath's grand plan of a united, managed and modernised Britain
was unravelling in economic collapse and social disorder.
On Friday, 18th February, the Cabinet met by candlelight
and agreed that they had no choice but to surrender.
Two hours later, Heath welcomed the miners' leaders to Number 10.
As the night wore on,
the miners extracted not just the 27% pay increase they wanted,
but a whole raft of extra concessions.
The strike was over.
Heath hadn't just been beaten, he'd been annihilated.
The miners' strike of 1972 wasn't just the biggest humiliation
for a British government in living memory,
it was a watershed in our modern history.
What it represented wasn't the triumph of socialism,
it was the victory of aspiration.
The problem was that ordinary people's ambitions
were outrunning the nation's ability to pay for them.
For, behind all the brand-new homes and foreign holidays,
the reality was that the British economy was in desperate trouble.
Ted Heath had promised a new Britain,
remade in the fires of global capitalism.
But within just 12 months,
global capitalism would have a terrible shock in store for Britain.
And then, everything Ted Heath believed in
would come crashing down.
Next time, Royal weddings and spending sprees...
MUSIC: "Help Me (I Think I'm Falling)" by Joni Mitchell
# In love again
# When I get that crazy feeling... #
..and global disaster rip through British life.
-What can I say?
-Might I suggest rolling the end captions and fade.
# And you know your loving
# Like you love your freedom... #
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Historian Dominic Sandbrook presents the 1970s as a vital and exciting era in which the old Britain of the post-war years was transformed into the nation we see around us today.
Sandbrook is as interested in how ordinary people were changing Britain as he is in politicians. In this episode, he reveals a country brimming with aspiration as millions get on the property ladder, take their first foreign holidays and start to challenge the old class boundaries to their lives. It was a decade in which ordinary British people first felt the thrill of freedom and money, but Sandbrook shows us it was also a decade in which raging conflicts about the economy and Europe loomed large.