Tuesday, May 28, 2013

RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: When they said fight them on the beaches, Dave... this wasn't quite what they meant

Crisis, what crisis? That was the headline which greeted Labour Prime Minister Jim Callaghan on his return from Guadeloupe in January 1979. Britain was shivering through the Winter of Discontent. It felt as if the whole country was on strike.

Rubbish was piling up in the streets, petrol pumps had run dry, bodies lay unburied in mortuaries. The stench of decay was real, not imagined. Yet at the height of the crisis, Labour Prime Minister Callaghan chose to jet off to the Caribbean for a meaningless four-day international summit.

Arriving back at Heathrow, he was ambushed by reporters. A tanned Sunny Jim attempted to shrug off the mounting chaos. He didn’t actually say: ‘Crisis, what crisis?’ But he might just as well have done. Those three words encapsulated the public perception and were to prove his epitaph.

Whatever Callaghan’s reasons for flying to the Lower Antilles that winter, the indelible impression was that he had deserted Britain at a time of national emergency.

So what are we to make of those pictures of Call Me Dave ‘chillaxing’ in Ibiza in the wake of the murder of Drummer Rigby?