I came across a pamphlet I wrote 40 years ago called ‘Civil Defence in Humberside’ (where I was living then—a county which now only exists in the history books.) In the early eighties, with Thatcher at her most unpopular, before the Falklands, before the miners’ strike, the nuclear holocaust was the principle political object of left focus—a heyday for CND. My tack, not least when the government told us to hide under our kitchen tables in the infamous booklet ‘Protect and Survive’ was to investigate what their preparations were for this catastrophe. In many ways the then government’s approach was as creaky and ill-prepared as it is now in the face of the pandemic. Over many years civil defence preparations had been denuded of staff and resources, leaving in other words a chimera of preparedness designed largely to assuage the public that things could be kept under control, but also to convince our mortal Commie enemy that we were not to be cowed. I doubt that it would have taken the Soviets much effort to discover that our system of civil preparedness had all the hallmarks of a Norman Wisdom comedy. In Hull, where I lived, the civil defence personnel establishment was barely at 10%. It was my conclusion at the time “that the [civil defence] preparations in hand are less concerned with protecting the population in times of crisis than with protecting the authorities from the population in such times.”
There’s a kind of resonance between the advice given then and the advice we’re given now. In those days it was ‘stay put.’ Today, it is ‘stay put.’ Whenever shit happens, the government’s advice will always be stay put. It’s a lot less bother.
I remember the pamphlet.. Still have the old SCAG Newsletters as well.
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