1993 and all that…

UNISON turns 25 this month, but the merger of COHSE, NALGO and NUPE wasn’t the only significant event from a quarter of a century ago. Here’s a sideways look at some of the highs and lows of the classic year that was 1993

First off, as someone probably hasn’t ever said, history is just the same things happening with different people.

So a Conservative government led by a weak Prime Minister who had initially come to power on the back of an internal Tory election seemed to be on the brink of losing office and led a party obsessed with, and riven by, divisions on Europe. Replace Brexit with Maastricht and you get the drift.

But good news was that the “longest recession since the 1930s” was officially over and the economy grew by 0.2% in the first three months of the year. Meanwhile, unemployment hit three million and the Bank of England lowered interest rates to 6% in January, the lowest they’d been since 1978. It was all going swimmingly.

And then in October, John Major introduced his Back to Basics campaign. Years later it would emerge he was also having an affair with Edwina Currie at the time. Which gave Back to Basics a new meaning.

Northern Ireland dominated the headlines with the IRA responsible for two massive bombs in Warrington and Bishopsgate in the City of London. In December, the UK and Irish governments signed the Downing Street Declaration, a precursor of the Good Friday Agreement.

Then as now, the future of the NHS was a cause for debate as waiting lists hit one million for the first time. Two horrific murders shocked the nation; Toddler James Bulger was killed by two children on Merseyside and teenager Stephen Lawrence was murdered for being Black in south London.

Royal news!

And we can always rely on the Royal Family to cheer up the nation. Errr… But back then they weren’t getting married. Charles and Diana had already announced their divorce. A nation shrugged.

She then withdrew from public life (in a manner of speaking). And the Queen opened up Buckingham Palace for the first time to the public to have a good nose around and raise some readies for the repair of Windsor Castle.

Elsewhere, the Observer newspaper was bought by the Guardian; Bill Clinton succeeded the first George Bush as president of the US; Grimethorpe Colliery in South Yorkshire closed; Ford replaced the Sierra with the Mondeo, the World Wide Web was born and the Child Support Agency started chasing errant fathers for money.

As for sport, it was an odd year.

The England football manager was branded a turnip as the national side failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. There wasn’t a winner of the Grand National as it was declared void after two false starts.

For your entertainment

If the news was largely depressing in 1993, the music was cracking. C’mon mega-selling number ones: Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You and Meat Loaf’s I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)? Elsewhere there were the classics that were Boom! Shake the Room by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, No Limit by 2 Unlimited and Take That got their first number 1 with Pray. And the number 1 on the day UNISON was formed? The highly apt Dreams by eyepatch-wearing Gabrielle (who has new music out now, btw).

The nation was glued to their static television sets. Streaming? Netflix? You what? Although a sign of things to come is the launch of Sky Multichannels in December and shopping channel QVC.

Anyway we watched Casualty, EastEnders, Coronation Street and on Brookside a wife stabbed her abusive husband to death… Roy Hattersley was replaced by a tub of lard on Have I Got News for You and the IRA caused Noel’s House Party to be cancelled, but just for a week.

And on the big screen, Jurassic Park, The Fugitive, Mrs Doubtfire, Philadelphia and Schindler’s List were all big box office.

We said goodbye to, amongst others, Audrey Hepburn, Bobby Moore, Bernard Bresslaw, Anthony Burgess, River Pheonix and Les Dawson.

And finally these people are as old as UNISON: singers George Ezra and most of One Direction (Zayne, Liam and the Irish one); Spurs footballer Harry Kane; Olympians Jade Jones (taekwando), Max Whitlock (gymnastics), Johnnie Peacock (athletics and Strictly Come Dancing) and the marvellously named Katarina Johnson-Thompson (athletics).