Last Night's TV: The British at Work/BBC2
Love Thy Neighbour/Channel 4

Towards the end of his second term, while reeling from public anger over the Iraq war, Tony Blair did a curious thing. He used the announcement of a new crackdown against crime to start a debate about the role of the 1960s in our culture.

Inveighing against that ever-ready phantom, the 1960s "liberal consensus", Mr Blair said it was time we confronted the law and order problems it had bestowed on us. Nor was the 1960s anything like the flower power brigade would have us believe, he argued. Far from being one long summer of love, Mr Blair said, the decade should be seen as mixed blessing.

Great advances were made in equalising opportunities and extending precious freedoms. But it was also a time of stubborn inflation, constant industrial dispute, and Britain being labelled the sick man of Europe. On this line of thinking, the 1960s began an economic stagnation that culminated in the Winter of Discontent. Sure, meritocracy had marched hesitantly on, and unworthy deference had declined; but "meanwhile, some took the freedom without the responsibility".

As with many of Mr Blair's cultural proclamations, this view would soon become the prevailing orthodoxy. He was understood as saying, in political terms, that though at the time the Left clearly won the cultural argument, in retrospect they completely lost the economic one. And now maybe they should be relieved of the cultural prize too.

For those of us who weren't around for all the free love it's hard to know where to stand in this debate. But a better guide than Kirsty Young provided last night could hardly be imagined; and though she was studiously neutral in her politics, as the BBC would want, you got the sense that by the end she was strengthening Mr Blair's argument rather than weakening it.

She certainly addressed his concerns very directly. Last week, the first part of this series documented how Britain's wartime slogan, "We Can Take It", was adapted in the post-war years to "We Can Make It", and in that single transferred consonant was a bold declaration of our reliance on manufacturing, as well as an insight into British stoicism. This week, we began to see the consequences of the great egalitarian thrust of post-war governments.

So in another set of endearing interviews, now with many more women, we had a sense of female emancipation – in the workplace. This irony was far from lost on our presenter, who made the point that there was something charming about women asking for the right to work as many hours as men, if that meant they could have as big a slice of the financial pie. One consequence of this was that a bigger supply of labour boosted productivity. But when that labour force asked en masse for higher wages, a wage-price spiral set in, and the inflation monster would prove difficult to tame.

Again there was clever use of archive footage, and a helpful dash of Young's family history, but the soundtrack was much too literal. Shipbuilders on the Clyde were exhibited to the tune of John Lennon's "Power to the People"; American enterprise was given the Steve Miller Band's "Fly Like an Eagle"; and bossy managers and bureaucrats received Jethro Tull's "Living in the Past". Subtle association this wasn't.

If one important lesson is learned from this series, I hope it concerns how misunderstood unions now are – not trade unions, but unions. As Young showed, long before the Winter of Discontent forever tainted them with militancy and public disruption, unions were institutions born of trust and common affections. They were vessels for solidarity, often very conservative, and not merely instruments of political agitation.

The period covered by this show was one in which unions went from embodying the post-war spirit of national pride and diligence to becoming – in the public's imagination – sworn enemies of enterprise and industry. In other words, they went from preventing social atomisation to being blamed for it. Maybe it was just her East Kilbride accent, but you got the strong sense that Young regretted all this too.

If anywhere could still boast a sense of social solidarity, it ought, of course, to be Grassington in the Yorkshire Dales. Even the name sounds so English and homely as to evoke shared membership of one big happy family. In the third instalment of Love Thy Neighbour, in which a dozen families compete for a chance to move into a £300,000 cottage in the village, eco-worriers Kate and Corwen went up against consumer-crazy Jay and Steph.

It's the easiest trick in television: put very different characters into the same small space, and watch the fireworks go (think Big Brother). But there was a charm to proceedings, because despite being a small and self-contained community – with solid Tory credentials, naturally – there was a real willingness to engage with the newcomers. In this spirit, Jay and Steph had the advantage of their children, which caused a local doctor to remark: "It would be lovely to increase the gene pool a bit."

Others were more resistant; but several had the good grace to admit that their nimbyism carried costs. If in the end their small-mindedness prevailed, as it was bound to, that was because in their own micro way, the people of Grassington yearned for solidarity too. Goodness knows what they make of the alleged 1960s liberal consensus, but Mr Blair was probably on to something.

a.rajan@independent.co.uk; twitter.com/amolrajan

Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific