Christmas, Traditions and Family Values in Thatcher’s Britain

Wham

At 3pm on 25th December, 1986, ‘half the population’ of Britain sat down and ‘enjoyed’ the Queen giving her traditional Christmas message to ‘her commonwealth.’[2] To open the broadcast, the Queen broke with tradition and began a new one: she stood up.[3] 1986 was a particularly fruitful year for the Queen to break old and make new traditions. Rather than focusing solely on her own family, as she had for the previous thirty-three years, she also introduced the ‘children of the people living’ in her Mews, for whom ‘each year a party is held.’[4] [5] The core of the message given was that of childhood. Framed through the traditional Christian story of the Nativity, the Queen noted how the figure of Jesus was ‘fortunate in one very important respect: his parents were loving and considerate.’[6]  So too, according to the Queen, were the children living in the Mews: ‘I hope it also helps them to realise how fortunate they are to have comfortable homes and warm beds to go to, unlike the Holy Family, who had to share with the animals because there was no room at the Inn.’[7] The key message that the Queen espoused was that although there were ‘many serious and threatening problems’ in the country ‘they will never be solved until there is peace in our homes and love in our hearts.’[8]  The sentiment in this key message from the 1986 speech, alongside the revised form of the production and the impressive viewing figures, are the few elements that have been historicised from it. These ‘impressive viewing figures’ have often been cited in retrospective accounts of the 1980s, and are regularly printed in newspapers such as the Daily Mail, who highlight the Queen’s speech reaching a ‘peak’ in the mid-1980s.’[9] The viewing figures, reported by the BBC as 28 million were, however, incorrect.[10]

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Queen’s Speech, 1986

This post will use the subjects raised within the Queen’s Christmas broadcast of 1986 as a thematic lens in which to explore ‘family’ in 1986. The Queen’s Christmas message figures, as I will demonstrate, were elevated due to assumptions made by the BBC which predisposed the definitions what a ‘family’ comprised of in the mid-1980s. I will argue that the ‘new’ tradition that the Queen instigated, the more formal upstanding and mobile speech, was a response to perceived shifts in public expectations of the institution of Monarchy. I will argue the inclusion of the children of her stable-hands alongside the warning not to forget the ‘children who are victims of ill treatment and neglect’ speaks to a far broader awareness and an increased focus upon concern regarding children’s welfare in the 1980s, that intensified in that year. With the abolishment of corporal-punishment for children in schools and with increased focus upon child abuse, I will consider the ‘place’ of children within the family in 1986, and its contradictions in legislation. I will then consider how re-definitions of the family intensified the alienation of those already historically excluded from it. I will utilise material from the Mass-Observation project and the National Lesbian and Gay Survey as a means to measure how retrospective and high-politic, top-down narratives compare to how people themselves felt and wrote about family and tradition. I will also consult contemporary film, television and music to further explore how notions of the traditional family were explored, upheld and contradicted.

 “Oh, Take me back to dear old Blighty!”[11]

In 2002 The Daily Mail published that at ‘long last’ the ‘traditional’ Queen’s speech was ‘on the rise’ for the first time ‘in a decade.’ They cite the mid-1980s as the ‘peak’ of audience viewing and popularity.[12] In 2012, they stated that the annual event was an ‘integral part of millions of family Christmases’.[13] The annual Christmas speech, though considered a tradition, was only initiated in 1932 and, as a tradition, Hobsbawm notes, it was ‘invented, constructed and formally instituted’ as one.[14] As Hobsbawm further elaborates;

‘Invented tradition’ is taken to mean a set of practices, normally governed by overtly or tacitly accepted rules and of a ritual or symbolic nature, which seek to inculcate certain values and norms of behaviour by repetition, which automatically implies continuity with the past.’[15]

This concept is based on the premise that, insofar as there is a historic past with which the tradition references, the continuity with its history is largely ‘invented’, and as such fictitious.[16] Certainly, compared to the traditions and rituals of the coronation ceremony, which themselves have been revised and re-imagined across their lifetimes, the annual Christmas message is a ‘new’ tradition, and it’s place in history is largely fictitious. Its initiation formed part of a far broader and historically situated campaign to represent the monarchy in a more accessible fashion. Proceeded by such invented traditions as the state opening of parliament, the royal walkabout and the garden party, the annual Christmas broadcast was officially born to ‘inaugurate the Empire service’ of the BBC.[17]  It was not, however, an unchanging tradition, and shifted according to specific historic context.

As Hobsbam states, invented traditions ‘are readily modified to meet changing practical needs, allowing for the inertia which any practice acquires with time and the emotional resistance to any innovation by people who have become attached to it.’[18] Since 1986, the Queen is no longer committed to a desk during her speech and is often filmed moving about one of her many chosen residences. The seeming insignificance of this action now is perhaps the best indication of the potency of ‘invented’ traditions. It is now commonplace to see the Queen addressing an audience on her feet, but for a generation beforehand, it was expected (if not always practised) for the audience to stand for the Monarch and her/his anthem. However, as I later discuss, this particular shift did not have the desired impact that it was believed to hold. The speech was also cut with footage of the Queen and her family during walkabouts and talking to the ‘public’; now a standard feature. According to The Daily Mail, the Queen was ‘pleased with [the] new broadcast’, and had ‘voted the new-look…a success’ with plans to ‘repeat its informal style next year.’[19] The official history of this change in format is explained by the death of the former producer Richard Cawston.[20] David Attenborough’s biography brings more clarity into the decision to appoint him as Cawston’s replacement. He states that the palace asked him to produce a more ‘chatty, domestic, I’m-just-an-ordinary-person kind of feel.’[21] Attenborough declined to take such a drastic measure, holding that ‘the whole point of having Monarchy is that the Sovereign is not the same as other people.’ He did agree, however, that he could be more imaginative than simply asking her to ‘sit behind an ormolu-decorated desk.’[22] The decision to modify the appearance of the monarchy in the mid-1980s can be situated more specifically within three additional areas of importance. Firstly, the televised Royal weddings of 1982 and 1986 had achieved more viewing figures and press approval than any previously broadcast. The increased access and more informal elements (such as balcony kisses) set a precedent of revision to traditions. Secondly, in 1986 the Queen had narrowly avoided being involved in a constitutional crisis when one of her aids, Michael Shea, revealed that she was ‘dismayed at uncaring Thatcher’.[23] Although some believed that the event ‘contained the seeds of the destruction of the monarchy’ the event ultimately demonstrated that although constitutionally the Monarchy could not change its role, it could (and needed to) its image.[24] Finally, and most importantly, there had been, since the Silver Jubilee of 1977, an increased academic focus upon the current British Monarchy. David Cannadine’s celebrated essay of 1983 – ‘The context, performance and meaning of ritual: The British Monarchy and the “invention of tradition”, c 1820 – 1977’ – can be reasonably cited as the beginnings of scholarly criticism and revision of the mechanics of the current British Monarchy.[25] In the wake of Thatcher’s election in 1979 and the alleged popularity of the Falklands war, The Monarchy emerged, for the Left, as the prime candidate in ‘upholding anti-industrial and aristocratic values, containing class consciousness and socialism and frustrating economic modernisation.’[26] Within this context, the ‘new-look’ speech was deemed to be one desirous of a nation that was willing to tune in to experience it – in their millions – on their ‘family’ day. Measuring if this was the case was not a priority for the popular press. The only instance of a public response to the speech of 1986 printed within a newspaper was the revelation that Mary Whitehouse – the television clean-up campaigner – had ‘her Christmas wish granted: the TV set stayed off except for the ten minutes of the Queen’s Christmas message.’[27] The responses to the Mass-Observation Christmas day-diary, however, do provide us with an insight into how the speech was received, and how it featured – if at all – within their specific day.

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Re-imagined by David Pocock and Dorothy Sheridan, the re-launch of Mass-Observation in 1981 coincided with the wedding of Diana and Charles – a feature of the first directive – and followed a trial initiated by Philip Zeigler for the Silver Jubilee of 1977. True in this respect to the spark that initiated the original Mass-Observation – the Abdication crisis of 1936 – the subject of royalty and royal events has been a continuing theme throughout Mass-Observations’ incarnations.[28] The topic of royalty was not simply posited to glean information about peoples opinions of it, but rather – as this essay maintains – as a lens with which to explore far broader themes. As the directive from Autumn 1986 details;

“Mass-Observation has from the very beginning been concerned to record what people really experience and think as opposed to media assessments of the nation’s mood or, for that matter, what politicians say ‘people’ or the ‘British public’ ‘want’, ‘feel’ or ‘are fed up with’. [29]

Respondents were asked to record their day ‘from the moment of rising to going to bed…whether [they] celebrate[d] Christmas or not’.[30] 746 observers responded to this task; a large proportion of whom mentioned the Queen’s message. For many, however, it was noted as a somewhat contentious tradition, whilst others mentioned it to make it transparent to the audience that they avoided it. Many were not won over by the revised format of the speech, believing the location to be unorthodox. Others noted that the lengthy introduction, which featured roasting chestnuts and Father Christmas delivering presents to children in a horse-drawn carriage, as ‘pointless’ and ‘daft’.[31] Whilst many detailed whether they participated or not, others did so whilst also providing details of whether those with them did also. L1002, for example, details that she was a regular participant, but noted that ‘most of the men folk think this is a “bind” and want to watch something else’. Although she stated that she ‘likes to hear what she has to say’, she was not uncritical of the content. She wished that the Queen could ‘relax a bit more more’ and concluded that ‘this years speech was O.K. 10 minutes is too short though!’.[32] For others, such as respondent W633, the experience of listening to the message on the radio had a profound effect. Not only had she related to the message’s central thesis, ‘starting with love in our own homes’ had been the ‘thoughts going through my mind during the periods for private prayer in church,’ but the experience evoked the memories of Christmases past: the roots of her own ‘traditional’ family Christmas.[33] Respondent W729 noted that she watched the speech with her mother whilst the men, who didn’t wish to watch it, washed up. She mentions none of the content, nor if she enjoyed it, but states that it is nice ‘not to feel guilty about sitting down for 10 minutes.’[34] Perhaps the most revealing participant in this invented tradition was B1215, who recorded the experience thus;

“We all gathered to watch the Queen’s speech, as do most other people we know. It’s never particularly interesting, but it’s one of those traditional activities we openly scorn but secretly enjoy because of its familiarity.”[35]

Whilst the vast majority of the Mass-Observation respondents mentioned the traditional speech, the instances where they did so to state their non-participation and the instances where they indicated that they or numbers of their family had not participated are as plentiful as those who actually watched it. Whilst the Mass-Observation archives’ respondents are not ‘representative’ of the ‘nation’, the often cited statistic of viewing figures for that day are presented as such. As I have stated previously the figure that the BBC released, which has been often cited in the media and in retrospective accounts of the 1980s, was incorrect. In 1986, Stuart Hall suggested that the techniques used to collate viewing figures by the BBC ‘tell us more about what the producers and advertisers want to hear – and will pay for – than the fine-grained interrelationships between, meaning, pleasure, use and choice’ in relation to television.[36] The figures for the speech were estimated by the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board Limited (BARB), established in 1980, with contractors undertaking the actual research.[37] Estimates were drawn from samples which were claimed to be ‘representative’ from households in ‘BBC regions’.[38] The samples in these regions ranged in size from 40 to 550 households, depending upon the region. Collectively, these samples amalgamated to a total of 4, 484 households, representing the viewing behaviour of the approximated 23 million households in the UK in 1986 (approximately 56 million people).Numerical data was drawn from ‘set meters, and downloaded centrally each night.’[39] The required amount of time of an audience spent watching the programme for it to register was, in the case of The Queen, 30 seconds.[40] In the case of the BBC ratings for 25th December, 1986, the given figure was actually the estimated amount of people who watched at 3pm – drawn by this method – amalgamated with those who were listening to the radio broadcast that morning and those who viewed the repeat broadcast, which preceded the EastEnders Christmas special.[41] Moreover, the allowance of ‘units’ (people) was increased to ‘allow for an average increase in household occupants at Christmas.’[42] As is well-documented in the same retrospective accounts, the EastEnders special was the most-viewed programme of the day. Although its figures were also inflated – an actual estimate of 19.5 million viewers was combined with those of the omnibus repeat the following Sunday, published as 30.15 million viewers – the likelihood of those tuning in to watch this programme and unwittingly ‘viewing’ 30 seconds of the proceeding speech was certainly not accounted for, to say nothing of those who simply left their sets on. The same can be said for the main broadcast of the speech, with the 1982 film Annie being next in schedule – the second most popular programme of the day. Furthermore, the ‘imagined’ occupant increase, as the Mass-Observation day diaries showed, did not mean that all of those within a household participated.

“I want to go home, I don’t want to stay”[43]

queen-is-dead

In 1986 The Smiths released their third studio album ‘The Queen is Dead’. As the title suggests, its tone offered rather less deference to the institution of monarchy than those utilising the problematic BBC statistic within their narratives. The album spent twenty-two weeks on the UK album chart, peaking at number two.[44] The opening lines of the title track were not written or sung by lead singer Morrissey, but were drawn from the 1916 music hall song ‘Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty’, a song made popular on the Western Front during World War One.[45] The sample used was sung off-key by Cicely Courtneidge in a Christmas scene in the controversially reviewed 1962 British film The L-Shaped Room, the central theme of which was unmarried pregnancy and single motherhood.[46] The usage of this ‘nostalgic’ and ‘patriotic’ song, distorted with a slight delay and fading into Marr’s guitar feedback and Mike Joyce’s powerful drum beat, is suggestive of the decline of routine and unthinking compliance to archaic tradition into anarchic contradiction, interrogation and ridicule. The song’s lyrics make reference to Michael Fagan’s much-publicised, unwelcome and unorthodox audience with the Queen in 1982, when he had broken into the Queen’s bedroom at Buckingham Palace –  ‘with a sponge and a rusty spanner’ – and conversed with her for several minutes whilst she was in bed.[47] It imagines a cross-dressing Prince Charles on the ‘front of the Daily Mail, dressed in [his] mothers bridal-veil’ before repeatedly positing the question ‘has the world changed or have I changed?’.[48]  Although, as Fletcher notes, the song did not ‘match the political fury’ often associated with The Smiths punk-rock predecessors The Sex Pistols’ ‘God Save the Queen’ (1977), it echoed their political and institutional criticism at an equally salient point in time. Their 1985 album Meat is Murder had highlighted the role of the child in society and made a political stance against the use of Corporal-punishment in the songs Headmaster Ritual and Barbarism Begins at Home.[49]  This section will further question the Queen’s consideration of child-welfare within her speech, explore the place of childhood in 1986 and situate it within the broader Conservative ‘family values’ ideology.

radioTimes1986t87Xmas

As previously mentioned, the Queen’s broadcast was followed by the television premier of the 1982 film Annie: The Musical, which ran from 3:10pm. The Hollywood musical charts the adventures of neglected orphan Annie until her familial dreams are realised. Mass-Observer A883 ‘turned it on’, having avoided the speech, but ‘after ten minutes turned it off.’[50] R1321 began to watch it, but instead ‘dozed’ and turned over to watch the Pantomime ‘to be more traditional’.[51] W632 chose to play ‘a new video film’, whereas W633’s family opted for Dumbo.[52] [53] B1107, however, stated that the single mother of the children with whom he was spending Christmas did not like ‘too much’ television, as she liked to ‘chat and play games’ with them.[54]  The centrality of child neglect in Annie and within the Christmas message was of particular resonance during 1986. As Ayres suggested in 1962, the notion of ‘childhood’ is of fairly recent vintage, and the concept has different meanings at different times in history.[55] Firestone radically challenged the notions of childhood being a ‘Golden Age’ in his 1979 essay ‘Down with Childhood’:

“The myth of childhood flourishes so widely not because it satisfies the needs of children but because it satisfies the needs for adults. Children are repressed at every waking minute. Childhood is hell!’.[56]

Although discussed at length within feminist discourse throughout the 1970s and 1980s, most potently enshrined within arguments surrounding consent and bodily autonomy, the media spotlight only shone in earnest upon child-abuse in the mid-1980’s.[57] 1986, as Jenkins discerns, was a year in which physical and sexual violence towards children became a commonplace feature of tabloid journalism.[58] The Cleveland case of 1986/87 is perhaps the most vivid example, when twenty one men were arrested with charges for the rapes of over two hundred children aged between eight and sixteen. The press focus, as Beatrice Campbell demonstrated in 1988, was not that of the domesticated nature within which this abuse was facilitated, but rather the vilification of two female social workers, whose pleas for assistance had been ignored by a male-dominated system.[59] The overwhelming avoidance of the domesticated reality of child-abuse which, although continually proliferated in feminist thought and praxis, was systematically avoided by politicians and press,  speaks to the broader role that the role of ‘family values played in dissimulating the extent of male violence and sexual abuse of women and children within the family.’[60] Moreover, Conservative measures such as the Children Act (1989), the Criminal Justice Act (1991), the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994) – in their differing ways – emphasised parental responsibility as ‘binding’.[61]  As ‘determined by biology’ Harding argues that this shift to parental responsibility ‘carried serious liabilities – for example, an increased liability to be punished for a child’s offence.’[62] Conversely, the discipline of the majority of children in Britain shifted from public responsibility to that of a wholly domesticated one.

Graham Stuart revises the distinction between family values and Conservatism, citing the abolishment of corporal punishment for ‘school children’ as his example.[63] Unpopular within many organisations, within which a ‘family values’ agenda is clear, he attempts to make problematic the notion that such values were as potent within Conservative policy as is often held. However, in many respects the removal of the cane in 1986 was a shift from an increasingly public embarrassment into a private contradiction. The Education (No 2) Act, 1986, had removed the defence under Common Law to be acting in loco parentis when using physical chastisement.[64]  The law, however, did not protect all children from corporal-punishment. Those educated in private schools were exempt from consideration due to the shortcomings of the legislation, as were children in pre-school.[65] Recommendations that ‘[s]chools must be given clear discipline policies, supportive arrangements and other resources… if the policy and practice are to be more than a pious hope or paper exercise” were fundamentally ignored.[66] Exclusion from institutions replaced the ritual of the rod, with expulsion rates soaring since abolishment; increasingly so following the Education Reform Act of 1988, which prioritised policies on assessment, league tables and the demise of support services ‘traditionally provided by local authorities’.[67] Any funding for ‘the development of alternative sanctions to corporal-punishment had to ‘compete’ with the above demands. The removal of in loco parentis ‘rights’ over children, therefore necessarily reinforced the binding parental responsibilities that can be seen in countless other examples of parental legislation throughout Thatcherism.

 “Love is natural and real, But not for such as you and I, my love”[68]

Red Wedge 86

             If childhood and more specifically the child’s ‘place’ within family were ideologically placed as the central pillar within family values, then homosexuality was placed firmly and aggressively outside of it. The Smiths, in particular Morrissey and Marr, were openly critical of Thatcher’s government (indeed the working title for the album ‘The Queen is Dead’ was ‘Margaret on the Guillotine’) and supported Labour’s initiative to glean the vote of Britain’s youth during the Red Wedge concerts of 1986.[69]  The year was a crucial one for Labour, which was under increasing pressure to re-mould themselves into a viable alternative to the Conservative government. Whereas Red Wedge had a clear emphasis on lesbian and gay politics, Labour had yet to make the same stance.[70]  As the notions of an idealised family were intensified during this year, the maintenance of this ideology became of central concern. The Times published an article on 14th October, 1986, highlighting the presence of the educational children’s’ book Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin on the bookshelves of Haringey Libraries.[71] Having been published and used in Britain since 1983, the books sudden elevation to the pages of the press denotes a shift in acceptable ‘family values’. This final section will analyse those who were not afforded within the message that the Queen delivered in 1986 – those who were increasingly considered outside of the ‘family’.

jenn-cover-246x300

On Saturday 11th October, 1986, The Sun published a picture of ‘children’s telly star Christopher Biggins’ who they noted ‘sobbed’ for the ‘GAY Royal Valet’ Stephen Barry.[72] They noted that Prince Charles Valet had ‘gay sex with at least six royal servants’ before being ‘reduced to a grey, gaunt shadow by the AIDS plague’.[73] Stephen Barry’s former employer did not respond to his families funeral invitation nor, as The Sun added, were any wreaths sent from the Palace with which Barry had served for twelve years. The Palace did issue a statement to the press: ‘He was a valet, that is all we will say. We refuse all other comment on the matter’.[74] AIDS became major ‘media ‘concern” in 1986.[75] The introduction into one of Britain’s ‘most popular television soap operas’, EastEnders, of two gay characters, Colin and his boyfriend Barry, instigated, as Watney commented   a ‘predictable furore’.[76]  Those television programmes which addressed the perceived and prominently espoused ‘link’ between homosexuality and AIDS, controlled which ‘experts were allowed to give their views on the questions they deemed important.’[77] Thus, as Davies et al have summarised, ‘ownership of the epidemic was claimed by the establishment who dictated the agenda as medical and public health orientated’.[78] As Robinson argues, the ‘assumed correlation between homosexuality and paedophilia’ and the ‘wider context of fear of AIDS transmission’ increased a shared sense that ‘education was one of the key areas where children needed to be protected by homosexuality’.[79] The subsequent Local Government Act of spring 1988, which was ‘taken as a wholesale attack’ at any ‘discussion of homosexuality at a time when the emergence of AIDS called for precisely more education and openness’ was one of the key topics posited to the Lesbian and Gay Survey. It provides us with a vivid insight into the lives of gay men and women increasingly excluded from the ideals of the model family.

In 1986, Kenneth Barrow, inspired by Mass-Observation, launched a Mass-Observation-style project to collect autobiographical reports from gay men and women. The Survey’s aim was as highly political as it was archival: to gather material which would enable researchers of the future to understand what it meant to live as a homosexual in the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first centuries.[80] For David, a respondent to the survey, Christmas of 1986 was a year that all of his family traditions were absent for the first time, as he spent it alone.1986 had been when he had decided to come out to his parents. Inspired by the film The Color Purple, which he watched on the morning of his decision to do so, he notes that he had been given the courage by the films central character, a ‘black American girl growing up in the 1920s in the Southern USA.’ He notes how he remembered thinking ”if she can survive all that, I can survive much less’ and drove to my parents house.’[81] He continues;

“I told them how I loved them and, for that reason, wanted them to know me, all of me, and not just the bits I had let them see. Shaking like a leaf, though determined, I looked at my father and said ‘I’m gay'”[82]

His father and mothers reactions, of shock, anger and disbelief meant that he spent the Christmas of that year alone. It transpired that this exclusion meant that he missed his father’s last Christmas; ‘we had time to say what we needed to say to each other at the end. My only regret was that I hadn’t done it earlier so that we would have had more time together.’ Despite his Mothers refusal to accept his sexuality, and their alienation, he wrote that his ‘fears were totally unfounded’ with regards to his brothers reactions. He had been concerned that ‘they may have confused gay with paedophilia as so many people do and would not be happy for me to be with their kids’, but writes that he is ‘still the kids’ favourite uncle.’[83] For Susan, Britain under Thatcher had become unbearable. She felt that the ‘campaigns set up in opposition to Thatcherism lacked imagination and were based on outworn methods which provided safe avenues of protest’.[84] 1986 was characterised as ‘dirtier, poorer and sadder than ever, except for the rich’.[85] When Clause 28 of the Local Government Bill was introduced, she ‘joined the Stop the Clause Campaign’ and noted how politicised many lesbian and gay members had become ‘who had never been involved in anything political before’. However, the advent of the Clause was for Susan, her signal to leave Britain. Leaving for a life in Australia, she left her ‘supportive’ daughters behind to ‘reconcile [her] political energy’ elsewhere.

 Conclusion

Respondent B1106 of the Mass-Observation archive details in his day diary how in 1986 he maintained all of the traditions of Christmas that he had become accustomed to. They included hanging all ‘145 cards that the family received… a tedious job always saved for me.’ His duties for the day included ‘keeping the kids quiet’, ‘preparing the brussel sprouts’ and taking ‘charge of the wine.’ He notes that ‘both Mothers are in the kitchen’ and although he classes ‘C’ as an ‘aware woman’ she ‘actually enjoys the traditional wifely duties, certainly she does on Christmas Day.’[86] Rather surprisingly, his best part of the day is saved for after dinner and is an event that he looks forward to the most – washing up:

 ‘Never get to do it at home, as I live alone and use very little in the way of pots and pans. But Christmas is a festival of cutlery and crockery and I can’t resist it. So the tradition is I lock myself in the kitchen – no one else is allowed in – and I do it all, with music playing, gallons of hot water, soapsuds. My great treat!!!’

B1106’s Christmas was traditional. He had made it so. In a sense, it was his ‘invented’ tradition, but nonetheless, it was traditional. Unable to spend Christmas with his biological family because of his sexuality and the frictions that it caused with his ‘stoically heterosexual’ brother, he had been welcomed into the family of a friend for Christmas, which had become an annual event. As a single mother, she had asked would he like “to be a surrogate father to two babies who don’t have a father at Christmas?”.[87] It was a role that ‘he relished’.

This family’s tradition was fundamentally at odds with those upheld by those who espoused ‘family values’ and Thatcherism in 1986. The exclusion of homosexuality from education and considered discourse within the media, compounded by fears of AIDS transmission, had reasoned homosexuality outside of family ‘norms’, both socially in some cases, and fundamentally in legislative terms. The Children, from whom homosexuals were perceived to be a threat, were placed ‘as determined by biology’ (and ever increasingly in law) into the binding parental responsibility of their ‘parents’, with decreasing support for those who did not realise this duality of shared responsibility. Despite the law recognising and enforcing parental responsibility to and for their Children, they fundamentally ignored the prevalence of those who chose to abuse, neglect and rape their children in the seclusion of the institution of family – such as the children of the Mews that the Queen made as point of broadcasting ‘were fortunate’ in her 1986 speech and who, as it transpired, were being systematically abused by the Organist of the Royal Household.[88]

Fundamentally, the ideologically formulated ‘family’ that Thatcherism championed and strove to promote are the characteristics that are written into the myth of ‘family crisis’ and ‘decline’ that are espoused by the Right in the twenty first century, and echo those that were at the forefront of fears at the dawn of the twentieth-century. Moreover, I suggest that its content is indicative of contestations of class, gender, age, sexuality and the role of the state that determines social life, and which represses it.

 Bibliography

Primary Sources

Printed Primary Sources

Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association, After Strasbourg: A Policy for Discipline in Schools, (London, AMMA, 1985)

Attenborough, D, Life on Air: Memoirs of a Broadcaster, (BBC Books, 2002)

Ayres, P, Centuries of Childhood, (Vintage, 1962)

Campbell, B. Unofficial Secrets: Child Abuse – The Cleveland Case, (Virago, 1988)

Davies, P, Hickson, F, Weatherburn, P, Hunt, A, Sex, Gay Men and AIDS, (Routledge, 1993)

Hall Carpenter Archives Lesbian Oral History Group, Inventing Ourselves: Lesbian Life Stories, (Routledge, 1989)

Hobsbawm, E & Ranger, T (eds) The Invention of Tradition, (Cambridge University Press, 1983)

National Lesbian and Gay Survey, Proust, Cole Porter, Michelangelo, Marc Almond and Me: Writings by Gay Men on their Lives and Lifestyles, (Routledge, 1993)

Watney, S, Policing Desire: Pornography, AIDS and the Media, (Comedia, 1987)

Newspapers

Daily Mail – 1986 – 2012

Times – 1986

The Sun – 1986 – 2004

Music

The Smiths, ‘The Queen is Dead’ (Album), UK, Rough Trade, 1986.

The Smiths, ‘Meat is Murder’, (Album), UK, Rough Trade, 1985

Films/ Television

The Queen, Television programme, BBC, London 25th December, 1986

Internet Sources

Observing the 1980s – Responses to Autumn 1986, part 3

Archival Documents

Mass-Observation Archive – Responses to Autumn 1986, part 3

Secondary Sources

 Books

Arthur, M, When This Bloody War is Over: Soldiers’ Songs of the First World War, (Piatkus Books , 2001)

Ayres, P, Centuries of Childhood, (Vintage, 1962)

Attenborough, D, Life on Air: Memoirs of a Broadcaster, (BBC Books, 2002)

Bourne, S, Black in the British Frame: The Black Experience in British Film and Television (Continuum International Publishing Group , 2001

Bradford, S, Elizabeth: A Biography of Her Majesty the Queen, (Heinemann, 1996)

Brandt, G, British Television Drama in the 1980s, (Cambridge University Press, 1993)

Briggs, A, The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom: Volume II: The Golden Age of Wireless, (OPU Oxford, 1995)

Davies, P, Hickson, F, Weatherburn, P, Hunt, A, Sex, Gay Men and AIDS, (Routledge, 1993)

Fletcher, T, A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of the Smiths, (Windmill Books, 2013

Hobsbawm, E & Ranger, T (eds) The Invention of Tradition, (Cambridge University Press, 1983)

Jagger, G & Wright, C (eds.) Changing Family Values, (Routledge, 1999)

Jenkins, P, Intimate Enemies: Moral Panics in Contemporary Great Britain, (Aldine Transaction, 1992)

Olechnowicz, A, The Monarchy and the British Nation, 1780 to the Present, (Cambridge University Press, 2007)

Parker-Jenkins, M, Sparing the Rod: Schools, Discipline and Children’s Rights, (Trentham Books, 1999)

Pearson, R & Simpson, P, Cultural Dictionary of Film and Television Theory, (Routledge, 2001)

Robinson, L, Gay Men and the Left in Post-war Britain: How the Personal got Political, (Manchester University Press, 2007

Stewart, G, Bang! A History of Britain in the 1980s, (Atlantic Books, 2013)

Sheridan, D, The Tom Harrisson Mass-Observation Archive: A Guide for Researchers, (University of Sussex, 1991)

Essays in Edited  Collections

Cannadine, D. ‘The context, performance and meaning of ritual: The British Monarchy and the “invention of tradition”, c 1820 – 1977’ in Hobsbawm, E & Ranger, T (eds) The Invention of Tradition, (Cambridge University Press, 1983)

Hall, S ‘Introduction’ in Morley, D, Family Television: Cultural Power and Domestic Leisure, (Routledge, 1986)

Harding, L, ”Family values’ and Conservative government policy: 1979-97′ in Jagger, G & Wright, C (eds.) Changing Family Values, (Routledge, 1999),

Firestone, S, ‘Down with Childhood’, in Hoyles, M (ed.) Changing Childhood, (Writers’ and Readers’ Publishing Cooperative, 1979)

Film/ Television/Documentaries

“The Queen” The Rivals. Dir. Patrick Reams. Channel 4, 2009.

[1]W729, Autumn Directive, 1986, part 3.

[2]Bradford, S, Elizabeth: A Biography of Her Majesty the Queen, (Heinemann, 1996) p.454, Stewart, G, Bang! A History of Britain in the 1980s, (Atlantic Books, 2013) p.322

[3]The Queen, Television programme, BBC, London 25th December, 1986

[4]The Queen, Television programme, BBC, London 25th December, 1986, viewed 11th December 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2owwpRBRWQ>.

[5]* The Queen did not provide the commonwealth with a Christmas message in 1969, owing to the broadcast of the documentary film The Royal Family. A written message was issued in its stead.

[6]The Queen, Television programme, BBC, London 25th December, 1986, viewed 11th December 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2owwpRBRWQ>.

[7]Ibid

[8]Ibid

[9]Daily Mail, 23rd December, 2012, p.7

[10]* I would like to thank Martin Johnes for suggesting that the BBC viewing figures for 1986 may have been inflated.

[11]The Smiths, ‘The Queen is Dead’, on The Queen is Dead (Album), UK, Rough Trade, 1986.

[12]Daily Mail, 27th December, 2002, p.9

[13]Daily Mail, 23rd December, 2012, p.7

[14]Hobsbawm, E & Ranger, T (eds) The Invention of Tradition, (Cambridge University Press, 1983) p.1

[15]Ibid

[16]Ibid, p.2

[17]Briggs, A, The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom: Volume II: The Golden Age of Wireless, (OPU Oxford, 1995) p.375

[18]Hobsbawm, E & Ranger, T (eds) The Invention of Tradition, p.3

[19]Daily Mail, 27th December, 1986, p.15

[20]The Times, 27th December, 1986, p.17

[21]Attenborough, D, Life on Air: Memoirs of a Broadcaster, (BBC Books, 2002) p.313

[22]Ibid

[23]  The Sunday Times. 20th July, 1986. p.1

[24]The Queen” The Rivals. Dir. Patrick Reams. Channel 4, 2009. Time: 46:20secs

[25]Cannadine, D. ‘The context, performance and meaning of ritual: The British Monarchy and the “invention of tradition”, c 1820 – 1977’ in Hobsbawm, E & Ranger, T (eds) The Invention of Tradition, (Cambridge University Press, 1983)

[26]Olechnowicz, A, The Monarchy and the British Nation, 1780 to the Present, (Cambridge University Press, 2007) p.7

[27]Daily Mail, 27th December, 1986, p.13

[28]On the history of Mass-Observation, see Hubble, N, Mass Observation and Everyday Life: Culture, History, Theory, (London, 2005); Jeffrey, T, ‘Mass-Observation, a short history’, Mass-Observation Archive Occasional Paper 10, 1999 and Kushner, T, We Europeans? Mass-Observation, ‘Race’, and British Identity in twentieth-century Britain, (Aldershot, 2004). An introduction to Mass-Observation with a particular focus on the new project is provided by Sheridan, D,  Bloome, D and Street, B in Writing Ourselves: Mass-Observation and Literacy Practices, (Creskill, NJ, 2000) and Pollen, A ‘Research Methodology in Mass Observation Past and Present: ‘Scientifically, about as valuable as a chimpanzee’s tea party at the zoo’?’, in Hughes, J & Goodwin, J (eds.) Documentary and Archival Research: Sage Benchmarks in Social Research Methods (Sage, 2014)

[29]Accessed via Observing the 1980s: <https://docs.google.com/file/d/0Bz-9hs_TdzGPUmhLSHU2YktOV28/edit?pli=1> date accessed:  21/12/13

[30]Ibid

[31]H1578, Autumn Directive, 1986, part 3

[32]L1002, Autumn Directive, 1986, part 3. Also available via Observing the 1980s <https://docs.google.com/folderview?id=0Bz-9hs_TdzGPOUdYaF9BNWpSREE&tid=0Bz-9hs_TdzGPYnhjaE05YTlpWHM >.

[33]W633, Autumn Directive, 1986, part 3. Also available via Observing the 1980s <https://docs.google.com/folderview?id=0Bz-9hs_TdzGPbWxVWXQ5WGt6UkU&tid=0Bz-9hs_TdzGPYnhjaE05YTlpWHM>.

[34]W729, Autumn Directive, 1986, part 3. Also available via Observing the 1980s <https://docs.google.com/folderview?id=0Bz-9hs_TdzGPdko0ZXQzSV9MMEE&tid=0Bz-9hs_TdzGPYnhjaE05YTlpWHM>.

[35]B1215, Autumn Directive, 1986, part 3

[36]Hall, S ‘Introduction’ in Morley, D, Family Television: Cultural Power and Domestic Leisure, (Routledge, 1986)

[37]Pearson, R & Simpson, P, Cultural Dictionary of Film and Television Theory, (Routledge, 2001) p.40

[38]Ibid

[39]Ibid

[40]Ibid

[41]BBC, WAC file/ R95/548 – 1986  Cited in Brandt, G, British Television Drama in the 1980s, (Cambridge University Press, 1993) p.97

[42]Ibid

[43]The Smiths, ‘Headmaster Ritual’, on Meat is Murder (Album), UK, Rough Trade, 1985.

[44]Fletcher, T, A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of the Smiths, (Windmill Books, 2013) p.534

[45]Arthur, M, When This Bloody War is Over: Soldiers’ Songs of the First World War, (Piatkus Books , 2001) p.37

[46]Bourne, S, Black in the British Frame: The Black Experience in British Film and Television (Continuum International Publishing Group , 2001), p.153

[47]Fletcher, T, A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of the Smiths, (Windmill Books, 2013) p.477

[48]The Smiths, ‘The Queen is Dead’, on The Queen is Dead (Album), UK, Rough Trade, 1986.

[49]The Smiths, ‘Headmaster Ritual’, on Meat is Murder (Album), UK, Rough Trade, 1985.

[50]A883, Autumn Directive, 1986, part 3

[51]R1321, Autumn Directive, 1986, part 3

[52]W622, Autumn Directive, 1986, part 3

[53]W633, Autumn Directive, 1986, part 3

[54]L1002, Autumn Directive, 1986, part 3

[55]Ayres, P, Centuries of Childhood, (Vintage, 1962) p.125

[56]Firestone, S, ‘Down with Childhood’, in Hoyles, M (ed.) Changing Childhood, (Writers’ and Readers’ Publishing Cooperative, 1979) p.50

[57]Jagger, G & Wright, C (eds.) Changing Family Values, (Routledge, 1999), p.9

[58]Jenkins, P, Intimate Enemies: Moral Panics in Contemporary Great Britain, (Aldine Transaction, 1992) p.62

[59]Campbell, B. Unofficial Secrets: Child Abuse – The Cleveland Case, (Virago, 1998) pp.103-111

[60]Jagger, G & Wright, C (eds.) Changing Family Values, (Routledge, 1999), p.9

[61]Harding, L, ”Family values’ and Conservative government policy: 1979-97′ in Jagger, G & Wright, C (eds.) Changing Family Values, (Routledge, 1999), p.127

[62]Ibid

[63]Stuart, G, Bang! A History of Britain in the 1980s, (Atlantic Books, 2013) p.392

[64]Parker-Jenkins, M, Sparing the Rod: Schools, Discipline and Children’s Rights, (Trentham Books, 1999) p.165

[65]Ibid, p.166

[66]Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association, After Strasbourg: A Policy for Discipline in Schools, (London, AMMA, 1985) p.15

[67]Parker-Jenkins, M, Sparing the Rod: Schools, Discipline and Children’s Rights, (Trentham Books, 1999) p.167

[68]The Smiths, ‘I know it’s over’, on The Queen is Dead (Album), UK, Rough Trade, 1986.

[69]Robinson, L, Gay Men and the Left in Post-war Britain: How the Personal got Political, (Manchester University Press, 2007) p.169

[70]Ibid, p.170

[71]The Times, 14th October, 1986, p.2

[72]The Sun, Saturday October 11th, 1986, p.7

[73]Ibid

[74]Ibid

[75]Davies, P, Hickson, F, Weatherburn, P, Hunt, A, Sex, Gay Men and AIDS, (Routledge, 1993) p.28

[76]Watney, S, Policing Desire: Pornography, AIDS and the Media, (Comedia, 1987) p.121

[77]Davies, P, Hickson, F, Weatherburn, P, Hunt, A, Sex, Gay Men and AIDS, (Routledge, 1993) p.28

[78]Ibid

[79]Robinson, L, Gay Men and the Left in Post-war Britain: How the Personal got Political, (Manchester University Press, 2007) p.171

[80]Sheridan, D, The Tom Harrisson Mass-Observation Archive: A Guide for Researchers, (University of Sussex, 1991) p.16

[81]National Lesbian and Gay Survey, Proust, Cole Porter, Michelangelo, Marc Almond and Me: Writings by Gay Men on their Lives and Lifestyles, (Routledge, 1993) p.96

[82]Ibid, p.97

[83]Ibid, p.96

[84]Hall Carpenter Archives Lesbian Oral History Group, Inventing Ourselves: Lesbian Life Stories, (Routledge, 1989) p.88

[85]Ibid

[86]B1106, Autumn Directive, 1986, part 3

[87]Ibid

[88] ‘’Queen’s Organist Jailed for Abuse’ The Sun,24th August, 2004, p.1

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One response to “Christmas, Traditions and Family Values in Thatcher’s Britain

  1. Pingback: Cringe, in more ways than one, (but don’t tell my Mum) | Now That's What I Call History·

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