Touchbutton 97 – ‘Future Legend’

Fifty years ago, on 24 May 1974, David Bowie released his eighth studio album ‘Diamond Dogs’. The opening track, ‘Future Legend’, is a chilling depiction of a dystopian urban landscape. The same year saw the publication of British writer JG Ballard’s novel ‘Concrete Island’, the plot of which is the struggle for survival by a wealthy architect who finds himself trapped in the ‘median strip’ between intersecting motorways. Both works conjure up images of urban and societal breakdown and a frankly terrifying future.

“As we enter the period running up to a general election… it is worth reflecting on the state of Britain 50 years ago.”

Seen against the backdrop of Britain in 1974, the output of Bowie and Ballard is not that surprising. As we enter the period running up to a general election, announced by Prime Minister (‘PM’), Rishi Sunak, on Wednesday, it is worth reflecting on the state of Britain 50 years ago.

1974 was the year of two general elections. PM Edward Heath lost office in the March after failing to secure a majority in that month’s election. Then came the first hung Parliament since 1929, with Labour PM Harold Wilson trying to govern with a minority in Parliament. Wilson was reportedly exhausted and starting to suffer the first stirrings of dementia. A subsequent election in October gave Wilson a tiny majority in Parliament. The Conservatives had been expected to win and the disappointing result for Heath initiated what was to become known as the ‘great sulk’ – Heath apparently did not take defeat particularly graciously.

The year also saw a national emergency in Northern Ireland, the introduction of the three-day week, numerous crippling industrial disputes, and a campaign of bombing in the British mainland by the Irish Republican Army (‘IRA’) including the M62 and the Guildford pub bombings. The proto fascist National Front was in the ascendancy electorally and there were frequent outbreaks of violence in the streets between that group and rivals on the hard left, such as the International Marxist Group.

Inflation was running at 17.2% and there were numerous corporate failures with company profits contracting by 13%. Indeed, 1974 was the UK stockmarket’s worst year since 1900. Interest rates peaked at 12.1% and gross domestic product fell by 2.25% (economic data courtesy of the Office for National Statistics).

“Sunak’s rain-sodden announcement… has already provoked some wry comment…”

Sunak’s rain-sodden announcement on Wednesday, almost drowned out by an off stage amplified playing of D:Ream’s ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ (Labour’s campaign song in 1997), has already provoked some wry comment the best probably being ‘Things Can Only Get Wetter’.

Seriously, though there is no doubt that the general environment both economically and socially is overall markedly better than it was 50 years ago, indeed the visions of Bowie and Ballard are very much of their time. Nevertheless, there is much to be said for checking in with your wealth planner to make sure you are as well positioned as possible to weather (no pun, Rishi) whatever the general election on 4 July brings.

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