Dominic Sandbrook v Jeremy Corbyn: August trivia
The cultural historian Dominic Sandbrook has recently presented a 3 part series on the 1980s on BBC2. It was as usual hugely entertaining and did also contain some serious (right-wing) history if you concentrated hard enough.
Sandbrook is indeed the master of historical trivia. One idea was that while many might have thought the 1980s was quite a bit about Mrs Thatcher, according to Sandbrook, she was an also ran simply following trends.
These trends included Delia Smith’s cookery programmes, space invaders (at which young Dominic was rather good it seems) and microwave ovens.
The fact that the 1980s was the decade of microwave ovens is a commonplace for cultural historians but the first programme of the series featured Sandbrook putting something in a microwave several times. It may have been his script. Yes, that is caricature but Sandbrook histories do tend towards that kind of area.
Series done Sandbrook is back writing Op Ed pieces for the Daily Mail. I have read his latest (25th August) on Mr Corbyn goes on a train, so you don’t have to.
Sandbrook has also written the lead piece for this week’s New Statesman, a magazine which despite its origins seems keener on competing with the Spectator for right-wing readers (which makes some commercial sense btw as the Speccy has a much bigger circulation) on why Cameron is a loser.
Why Sandbrook is criticising Corbyn and Cameron in the same week is clear from the Mail piece, he likes Theresa May.
Sandbrook is prepared to admit to his credit that the Corbyn train story is trivia. His point, as the master of trivia, is I think that it is just not very good trivia. Perhaps it can be agreed that Corbyn could do better at trivia.
Sandbrook thinks Corbyn is ‘very stupid’ but then he thinks former used car salesman Philip Hammond is competent. He may be but he is Chancellor and he has no financial qualifications.
More importantly he thinks Corbyn is living in the age of the 1970s sit-in.
It is the 45th anniversary of the successful sit in at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders so perhaps he has a point there too.
The historical point however is such a commonplace as to be hardly worth making. Of course Corbyn is shaped by the decades he grew up in. I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s and often use the 1930s as a frame of reference- as was common then. I doubt people born in the 1980s do that.
The point however is that while some of Corbyn’s Labour supporters do remember the 1970s (Ive met some of them, and I remember them…) the vast majority were not born then and back Corbyn because his politics seem relevant now.
So while Corbyn rightly wants to re-nationalise the railways- as polls consistently show a majority of the public do-Sandbrook in the Mail thinks this is a waste of time and what is required is just more regulation.
No doubt more regulation would be useful but where is the money to pay for it. Could it perhaps come from the subsidies the Government gives to train privateers that currently disappear into the pockets of shareholders and are not spent on improving the railways at all?
Anyway I’m off to microwave my lunch.