Today, 23 March 2021 will go down in history as the day when a titanic struggle for justice finally came to an end. On that day the Court of Appeal overturned the convictions of 14 men sentenced for their involvement in picketing during the 1972 national building workers strike. Lawyers for the ‘Shrewsbury 24’ as they were known from the outset had argued the destruction of witness statements made their convictions unsafe. The appeal judge Lord Justice Fulford agreed saying that “what occurred was unfair”. Sadly six of the 14 who brought the action have since died, including Des Warren, who was jailed for three years. Best known of the pickets is the Royle Family TV actor Ricky Tomlinson who was among those convicted and was jailed for two years.
‘I believe the Union is over-democratised.’ Herman van Rumpuy EU President from 2009 to 2014 (quoted by Perry Anderson in ‘The European Coup’ London Review of Books, 17 December 2020)
I was fourteen at the time when on 3 February 1960, Prime Minister and old Etonian Harold Macmillan made his wind of change speech to South Africa’s parliament during his African tour. That day he said: ‘The wind of change is blowing through this continent and, whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact’. To many the speech is remembered as firing the starting gun to speed up the decolonisation of the British Empire in Africa, a rush for the exit you might say, whilst seeking to minimise Soviet influences on these emerging nations. But it was also an attack on South Africa’s system of apartheid which was only swept away some thirty years later. I did not realise at the time that this was the precursor to a long courtship with the then European Economic Community (EEC) which as we all know ended in an acrimonious divorce.
I don’t know how many extensions there have been during the government’s protracted negotiations with the EU to achieve (or not) a trade deal. The talks started at the beginning of March 2020 and yesterday after it appeared that a ‘no deal’ was likely, a joint statement by the parties announced that there would be a further extension, “to go the extra mile” but with no cut-off date this time (although there is the real date of 31 December 2020 –but they could ‘stop the clock’ I suppose). Wind back to September when Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposed a deadline of 15 October for a free-trade deal with the European Union. If missed, both sides should, he said, “accept that and move on”.