Review of ‘Badgeland’ by Steve Rayson

I enjoyed reading this memoir of a young socialist in 70s and 80s Britain. It will not be everyone’s cup of tea and if you’re a fan of the Conservative Party then definitely not. However, you don’t have to agree with all of the author’s opinions to find this an interesting read, evocative of the political atmosphere of the time and also what it was like to be a university student from a working class background. There’s quite a lot about the author’s home town of Swindon, so if you are familiar with the place then this memoir may appeal to you also.

Book cover of Badgeland by Steve Rayson showing political badges pinned to denim jacket.

The book is narrated with humour and is mostly free of complicated politics-speak. It traces how the author became involved with the more radical left of the Labour Party and eventually became disillusioned. He worked for the Greater London Council, which was abolished in 1986. Not everything in the book is politics, as it’s a memoir of his youth, so there are girlfriends, football and fashion. I liked how every so often, there would be a interlude at the pub or the working men’s club which served to show the political differences and contradictions in various sections of society. Personal events were also related to the wider picture, such as early on when the author was given the role of milk monitor only to have it taken away by ‘Thatcher the Milk Snatcher’!

The title, Badgeland, refers to the slogan badges he would wear (or put in the drawer for lost causes…) but also describes the section of society who wore them.

A recommended read.

Independently published in 2023.

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