by

Like it's Christmas 1984

My own, short, recollection of Thatcher's battle against a nation.

It was the 25th of December, 1984, and my father was driving us to his in-laws for the perennial, logistical nightmare that was the Christmas grandchild rotary.

The height of the 80's were great for a kid. Star Wars was still good, toys were innovative and awe-inspiring, as were the Saturday-morning cartoons, and bikes like the Chopper, were in.

For the rest of the nation, though, it was a time of cuts. Entire industry sectors were being destroyed, strikes and industrial action were being violently quashed by a tory government intent on destroying any semblance of social and community ownership. The country's very ability to generate wealth was being systematically dismantled for short-term, neo-liberal gains, direct from the play-books of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.

Both my grandfathers were coal miners in the South Wales collieries. Both were on strike, and had been for a while.

About half-way through our journey, my father told us to listen, he had something to say. He explained to us that my grandparents didn't have as much money this year as they had last Christmas. We may not get as many presents or as big ones as last year. But, we should thank them and be grateful for what we got. They were doing their best and had bigger worries than getting us toys. We had been raised properly and would have been grateful anyway, but I still remember that speech to this day.

On arriving, my brother and I were warmly welcomed and shown to the gifts. Being the eldest, I wanted to demonstrate that it wasn't all about the gifts, so I hung back a bit... for a few minutes.

I can't remember there being any difference in the presents I opened that day. They were just as wonderful as any other year, and to a child in the 80's, Star Wars figures were Star Wars figures. What more could I want.

In an age before credit cards and ubiquitous loans, my parents and grandparents were used to saving - a lost art. They probably started saving for the next year's Christmas gifts on Boxing Day. I remember terms like Penny Bank, and recall ladies visiting my grandmother and mother to collect catalogue payments.

Later, I discovered that my parents had bought my grandparents a hamper for that Christmas. This wasn't some jams and teas in a wicker basket. This was food. Sustenance. A food parcel all wrapped up in gift paper, to disguise that it was charity; an important point for a couple who's bread-winner prided himself on starting work in the mines at the age of fourteen.

I remind myself of this situation regularly. Whenever I hear the lies of this and previous governments about benefits and welfare, I remind myself of families in the 80's whose children may not have already left home. Miners or steel workers who were not nearing retirement age, as my grandfather was. Young men who had new families to feed through a bitter winter. Families who may not have had working relatives to supply food parcels, and whose children still hoped to find something beneath the Christmas tree in the morning.

My family had it easy, by comparison. My father worked in a factory that wasn't being closed down, but it could have been different.

I remind myself of it because it's happening again. Class warfare doesn't go away while classes still exist.

Tonight, as I raised a glass to my grandfathers, I consider how she may be gone, but her legacy is still hanging over the nation. A constant reminder that we're living through another time that is driving hundreds of thousands of hard-working people into poverty and despair. Where the media is owned by the rich and reports only what it is told. Where the BBC continue to doctor footage to support the narrative. Where state-owned services are dismantled for the benefit of the rich, their friends and their destructive economic ideologies.

It's not over. Not by a long shot.