Two developments of great historical moment were unfolding in October, 2017 whose repercussions were likely to remain unclear far beyond my looming, editorial deadline. For one, Kenya had had an election re-run on the 26th and, for another, Catalonia had declared autonomy from Spain on the 27th. However, although there were obvious parallels, chief among them the passionate encounters of entrenched standpoints and their unpredictable aftermaths, it was the ‘home grown,’ Kenyan situation which immediately engaged my thinking more. As I watched my TV set, I noted the ever increasing ascent of self-styled political analysts who held forth for hours on end about what needed to be done to restore sanity to our crazed country: ‘Firstly!….Secondly…..Thirdly…Fourthly…..Fifthly!....’they pontificated.
I remember the summer of 1976 well, as one of the hottest on record here in Britain, with day after day of scorching temperatures, relentless sunshine and water shortages. It was also when a strike at a factory called Grunwick in north-west London made it into frontline news. In normal circumstances, it would have been regarded as essentially an old-fashioned dispute between workers and their employers in the classic British tradition, during a decade when the country was often described as ‘the sick man of Europe’ because of a culture of poor industrial relations, but for one notable difference: the strikers were a group of South Asian women, many of them clad in traditional Indian attire. They were involved in a fight about their working conditions with bosses who refused to recognise their grievances or to permit trade union representation for them.