As a nod to the opening of the TUC conference in Brighton today, here’s a short extract from Lady Thatcher’s Wink which predicts a steady decline in union influence. We’re a few years into the future, with the left increasingly demonised. In this scene the BBC’s head of news, Terry Bolt, is being given a dressing down by Justin Bodgers, the government’s Neutrality Overseer, Broadcasting, with the assistance of Gerry Turtle, the prime minister’s press secretary:
‘What about the platform you’ve given to trade union leaders?’ Bodgers said, producing a large ring-binder crammed with documents. He extricated a sheet, waved it in the air and ran a forefinger down the lines. ‘Fifteen minutes and twelve seconds in the past month alone.’
‘This is a crime?’
‘Not yet, though I understand it’s being worked on.’
Bodgers of course loved his own capital letters, of which, after a career doing nothing much in the law and then making up the numbers on countless lucrative committees, he had an impressive array. The relevant ones here were Neutrality
Overseer, Broadcasting, a post created a year ago and which he had filled with bristling vigour.
‘The leader of the opposition once ran a union,’ Bolt reminded him.
‘Once, Terry,’ the NOB wagged his head sagely. ‘You surely don’t think for a moment that he’d dare speak up in favour of unions today. Remember Clement Attlee? Remember Jeremy Corbyn? Labour tried socialism once and flirted with it a
second time before they finally learned their lesson. The British people like to appear bolshy from time to time, but they really crave being led by their betters. Ask the House of Windsor.’
‘And the oddballs . . .’ Turtle prompted.
‘Yes, you do seem fixated on the disruptive,’ Bodgers said. ‘The archbishop of Canterbury harping on about the homeless – five minutes, 24 seconds on all channels.’
‘We always play devil’s advocate,’ Bolt countered drily, aware that the irony would founder.
‘But it’s the exposure, the very fact of giving airtime to
subversive views . . .’