Minutes after Margaret Thatcher’s death was announced, a very young researcher – or maybe an intern – from a radio station was given my name and phone number and told to ring and ask if I’d do instant comment. He did, and I said I didn’t know she’d died.  He replied solicitously: “I’m so sorry to break it to you so suddenly.”  I couldn’t help laughing, and he must have thought I’d been made mad by grief.

Over the next few days I found myself unexpectedly and unusually in demand by broadcasters.   I used my intermittent few seconds of fame to debunk the increasingly accepted conventional wisdom that the seventies were utterly dreadful.

This myth suits both the Thatcherites and the Blairites, and it suits David Cameron.  Thatcherites need it to show that she hauled the country out of a great, deep pit.  Blairites need it to justify what they did to the Labour Party, and to  keep the frighteners on Ed Milliband.  Cameron needs it to justify austerity, as well as his decision to accord Thatcher a Churchillian funeral  (which he milked shamelessly for his own political profit.)

Since the myth suits every Prime Minister for the last thirty years, and every national newspaper proprietor, it is hardly surprising that it is now generally mistaken for hard fact.  Mostly, except for the programmes I was on, it went unchallenged in the many hours of broadcasting given to Thatcher’s death and funeral.

Actually, the seventies were a much better time to be young, and old, and maybe even middle-aged, than the present.  There were jobs, there was hope, there was optimism, and deference was dead.

The myth-makers tell us the unions ran Britain and Arthur Scargill ran the unions, but both these statements are entirely false. If the unions ran Britain, how come they lost easily their biggest battle of the seventies, the Grunwick dispute – where they were fighting an exploitative and cruel management - after throwing everything they had at it from 1976 to 1978? 

The unions didn’t have power.  They did have influence, which they used, more often than not, to avoid disputes rather than to cause them, and to help the government control inflation, as Jack Jones did when James Callaghan was at 10 Downing Street. 

As for the Scargill spectre, Arthur’s contribution to Grunwick was to turn up and get himself arrested, returning to his Yorkshire fastness, as he so often did, looking every inch the labour movement hero but having changed nothing.  He had a lot of publicity, and for a while he managed to persuade several trade unionists that he was synonymous with socialist principles, but the idea that he ever ran the trade union movement is entirely invented by those who wish the unions ill, from Thatcher to Blair.

There were jobs.  There were student grants.  Yes, there was also galloping inflation, but at least wages kept up with it, so your wages would buy you much the same in 1978 as they had bought in 1977, which is more than public sector workers can say for 2012 and 2013.  We thought our schools and hospitals were crumbling, and it was only in the eighties that we learned what crumbling meant.

By the end of the seventies, inflation and unemployment were falling and the balance of payments was strong.

Those are the things you can see or measure.  But the real difference is in the intangibles – in the taste and texture of life.  And for that, you’re reliant on ancient folk like me who were already adults in the seventies.

I was a teacher at the start of the seventies, in a huge south London comprehensive.  It was a tough school by seventies standards, but I did not have to deal with the sort of out-of-control classrooms and corridors that are commonplace in many schools now.

I worked all through the seventies, and the atmosphere at work – partly because we did have relatively strong trade unions – had none of the fear and deference that are commonplace in offices today.

Life may well have been rather tougher for financiers than it is now.  But for ordinary folk, it was a whole lot better.