Home   News   Article

COLIN CAMPBELL: Hard times are stoked up by 24-hour news cycle

By Colin Campbell

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak

THIS year will almost certainly be a General Election year, and don’t we need one? Crisis, chaos, division, rage, conflict, and seething discontent, “broken Britain” is in headlong decline.

That’s not necessarily what I think. It’s the mood of the times. It’s almost impossible to get through a day without further evidence being cited of “broken Britain” supposedly falling apart. Have things ever been worse?

It’s 50 years since the General Election of 1974, which I remember particularly well.

The biggest difference between then and now is that we now have a 24-hour news cycle in which much of the media exists on a never-ending diet of conflict and controversy where no lull in hostilities or truce in discord can be allowed.

This is exacerbated by social media where vast numbers of people are raging at each other or stoking up the next “Twitterstorm” of grievance and fury all day and night long.

I was a journalism student in Edinburgh in 1974 and during the election campaign our lecturer used contacts to give us the chance to meet Harold Wilson, leader of the Labour Party, and Jeremy Thorpe, the Liberal Party leader, at events they were hosting in Scotland’s capital. They were affable and seemed straight and above board. But in fact Harold Wilson was later revealed to be a heavy consumer of daytime brandy, and would resign as Prime Minister just two years later suffering from Alzheimer’s.

And Jeremy Thorpe? Well Mr Thorpe, who spoke to me about the veteran Inverness constituency MP Russell Johnston, squeezed my hand tightly and fixed me with a most engaging smile. Not too long afterwards he would be embroiled in a homosexual scandal which would see him go on trial for conspiracy to murder. He was acquitted, to the astonishment of many.

Click here to read more from Colin Campbell

Are today’s politicians really the most untrustworthy ever? It seems highly unlikely that Rishi Sunak or Sir Keir Starmer or any of the other leading players are concealing from the public ill-health and an alcohol problem, far less heading for the dock on a charge of conspiring to murder someone.

The 1974 election took place on the back of the “three-day week”. As a result of coal and rail strikes, it began on January 1, 1974, with firms limited to being open for only that time. Pubs, theatres and other entertainment venues were closed.

It was similar to Covid without the virus – or the free money to maintain incomes. A government minister suggested that to save fuel, families should share baths if possible. Back then his remark was greeted with light-hearted mirth. Nowadays he would be devoured and spat out amid inevitable “outrage” over such a proposal.

The three-day week lasted for an entire year. People made the best of it, especially at bathtime. Making the best of things? That seems to have gone right out of fashion these days.

There was no despairing talk back then of “broken Britain”. It was viewed as a time of difficulty that would pass.

So these are not uniquely desperate times, no matter how much the merchants of doom would have us believe it. Older people will recall worse and maybe even much worse along a bumpy road. The difference now is the 24-hour news cycle, the ceaseless rage on social media, and fact that there are so many loudly amplified and perpetually angry merchants of doom around.

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More