Edwina Currie badgers northerners and Ron Atkinson gets the sack: A look back at 1986


It was the year, we said, when ‘the North/South divide became an abyss’ as junior health minister Edwina Currie badgered northerners about their drinking and smoking, saying they would die of ‘ignorance and chips’. The Jeffrey Archer book she’s brandishing on the cover, First Among Equals, was made into a TV series in 1986, and ‘Archer resigns again. Shock, horror, yawn,’ was our line on him quitting as Tory deputy chairman.

Hang on, what’s Ron Atkinson doing in the Good section? Ah, ‘good’ as in ‘riddance’ – ‘Poor old Ron Atkinson, the Flash Harry of football, was sacked from Man Utd in early November: nobody loves a loser and Manchester least of all.’ His replacement, Alex Ferguson, did rather better, but I see they’ve since gone back to sacking managers.

Other items were good or bad, depending on your view, including the news that Wham! had split up, to the ‘inconsolable grief of music lovers,’ apparently. The ‘People’s Party succumbed to the image makers, abandoning the red flag for the red rose,’ presaging New Labour. And there was a great in-joke with a deliberately distorted colour picture of newspaper boss Eddie Shah, which used to bedevil Today, which he launched that year.

In the Ugly section, not only had ‘a sinister new drug, “crack”, concentrated cocaine in capsule form, crossed the Atlantic to Britain’but there was also ‘the ubiquitous puffball skirt’, which ‘ inflated ugliness to new widths’.

In September our ‘future philosopher king’ first revealed to ITN, ‘I just come and talk to the plants… they respond, I find.’ Even more boringly, there’s a picture of Margaret Thatcher astride an empty middle lane opening the last stretch of the M25. ‘I cannot stand those who carp and criticise,’ she said. ‘Now you can go round London in 80 days,’ we carped.