1997 General Election

On 1May 1997 – 18 years and six days ago – the Labour Party under Tony Blair came back to power after four successive Conservative governments with a majority of 179. They gained 146 seats from the 1992 election and won 43.2% of the popular vote.

18 years before that, the beginning of May 1979, and we were in the closing stages of another election campaign, the first of those four Conservative governments. Jim Callaghan was the Labour leader and Margaret Thatcher was a few days off winning a majority of 43 with 43.9% of the vote.


1915 Gallipoli


Today, 25 April, is Anzac Day and the centenary of the start of the doomed Gallipoli offensive, when British, Australian, New Zealand and Irish troops attempted to force the Ottoman Empire out of WW1.

On 18 June this year it will be 200 years since the Battle of Waterloo. That means the troops who fought their way ashore at Gallipoli are closer to Wellington and Napoleon, to the Scots Greys and the Imperial Guard than they are to us.

1971 Frazier/Ali


On 8 March 1971 the ‘Fight of the Century‘ took place between “Smokin'” Joe Frazier, and Muhammad Ali. Ali had been stripped of the World Heavyweight title for refusing to be enlisted for the Vietnam War and Frazier was the current holder. Both men were undefeated in their professional careers.

After the full 15 rounds, Frazier was given a points victory. Ali later defeated him – twice – in 1974 and 1975 before becoming World Champion again with his victory over George Foreman (who had taken the title from Frazier in 1973) in the “Rumble in the Jungle”. It is estimated 300 million people watched the live TV broadcast of the bout.

44 years before that takes us back to 1927 and the fight between Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey – the ‘Long Count Fight‘ – with Dempsey trying to regain his heavyweight title from Tunney. Again a points decision, with nearly 105,000 spectators watching Tunney retain the title. The newsreel footage is black and white, and silent.

1978 The Clash



In March 1978 The Clash began recording (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais (which, if you don’t know it – shame on you – can be found on YouTube here).

With its line up of “Dillinger and Leroy Smart, Delroy Wilson, your cool operator” the Hammersmith Palais had obviously changed a bit in the previous 37 years. In July 1941 you could have watched Noel Coward debuting Could You Please Oblige Us With a Bren Gun.

1962 John Glenn



On 20 February 1962 John Glenn became the first American astronaut to circle the earth, and the fifth man in space, when his Mercury spacecraft – called Friendship 7 -completed three orbits of the planet.

We think of astronauts and cosmonauts as being of our time – the Space Age. What could be more modern, more contemporary than journeys into space.

In July 1909 Louis Bleriot made the first flight across the channel in a heavier-than-air craft. Glenn’s mission is therefore closer in time to Bleriot than it is to the present day.

1973 The Godfather



The Oscars take place next week and it will be 43 years since Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Godfather‘ scooped the Best Picture award and Marlon Brando his Best Actor statuette.

There’s a couple of things here. The first is that the film is set in the late 1940s, so is much closer to the time it is portraying than we are to the film. The second is that if we cast back to the Academy Awards of 1929 – 43 years before 1973 – the winner of the Best Picture was The Broadway Melody of 1929. This was the first talking picture to win an Oscar.

And if you’re wondering, the Best Actor in 1929 went to Warner Baxter for his portrayal of the Cisco Kid in “In Old Arizona”. The first talkie to be filmed outdoors.