Friday, 14 July 2017

Visions of a better world .......... nu 2 the campaign badge

The campaign badge has been around a long time.

It is one of those instant bits of political activity which makes the point cheaply and effectively.

A round bit of cardboard, some sticky tape and a safety pin and you have a badge.

Easier than that and just as effective is coloured ribbon, so loved of election rallies in the early 19th century, and the Suffragettes, and before ribbon there were bits of plant, flowers and bush stretching back into the past all of which were designed to mark out your political preference.

My first was “Lets Go with Labour” which I wore in 1966 but must have been a remnant from the ‘64 election.

It was a shinny plastic badge with a plastic pin which fixed into the back and I wore it throughout the campaign knocking on doors in Well Hall.  I was just 16 and such are the things you cut your political teeth on.

Today the badge machine has made it all the simpler and allows almost anyone to turn them out for next to nothing in just a few minutes.

But for me it will always be those enamelled badges which take pride of place in the collection.  I have a few none of which date back before the 1950s.

Of these the old fashioned Labour Party badge is my favourite with its torch, pen and shovel representing all aspects of the labour movement combined with the torch of progress.

The newer version never really caught my imagination in the same way.

Of the remaining enamelled ones it is that of the Sutton Manor NUM badge which stands out because of the contribution  made by many local people to their struggle during the Miners Strike.

And if like me you bought or picked up badges in support of campaigns they now have a place in our history.

Some were deadly serious, a few used humour and others were celebratory, and many today now seem to belong to a landscape that has long since vanished although that said it always seems that gains made in social progress do sometimes have to be fought all over again.

So for those of us who argued against a divided South Africa, wore  the Anti Apartheid badge can now look back on twenty years of that new rainbow nation.

But other campaigns  like the attempt to save the Greater Manchester County Council failed and many more like Justice for Pensioners and the defence of the NHS remain real issues.

Looking back at my collection I cringe at some of the things I supported in my teens and early twenties, are saddened by those that were defeats but also remember how much I learnt by taking part and of some good friends I made along the way.

So each of the badges does represent an important moment in someone’s history and I think I shall return to some of them and explore their stories in more detail.

Many are almost all that is now left of an impassioned moment when people came together to defend something they thought important.

Long after the paperwork has been lost , the newspaper stories discarded and the memories faded these badges record that moment.

They also point to that other simple observation that history does not always turn out the way you would like.

The years since independence in Zimbabwe have been difficult but I still remember the pleasure many of us felt at its promising start as a new country.

And I bet out there there are lots more badges and even more stories.

Pictures; badges from the  1950s to the 1990s from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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