Badgeland by Steve Rayson

Hearing about Steve Rayson’s book, I knew I wanted to read it. I was a member of the Labour Party Young Socialists in 1987, joined the Socialist Workers’ Party briefly in University and attended many marches and protests, including ones with the Anti-Nazi League. So although a bit younger than Steve Rayson, I trod a similar path and was fascinated to read his memories of being political in Thatcher’s Britain.

His book is written in a chatty, accessible style which is often funny. I could relate to the cultural background of it all – Doctor Who and Debbie Harry were big influences in my childhood too and my earliest political thoughts happened during the “reign” of Margaret Thatcher. His LPYS meetings led by Militant supporters were very reminiscent of my experience with the SWP. I also had constant pamphlets to read, telling me what I should believe and why.

The issue of class is a strong theme in the book too and it comes across as a very honest depiction of a working class upbringing of the time. Like Steve, I was the first person in my family to go to university – back when we had student grants. We had an avocado green phone in our hallway too!            

I happily kept reading the book, turning page after page. I think I read about fifty pages in one sitting. It really is an engaging and charming read, written with wit and describing the era with authentic references. I loved the scenes when he went to the pub with his dad and his dad’s blokey mates who really didn’t want to talk politics. You could really see it all happening; it’s a very visual book.

It’s interesting to see how Steve’s views change as he gets older and how his priorities alter over the decades. It’s a really good book and one I would recommend, especially to those of us who were into political causes around this time.


Steve Rayson believed working-class people had everything to gain from….. socialism. The only problem was they didn’t agree with him.

In 1979 Margaret Thatcher was threatening to change Britain forever, and not in a good way. Determined to defeat her, Steve joined the Swindon Labour Party, pinned protest badges to his chest and marched against mass unemployment, apartheid and nuclear weapons. His radical generation was going to change the world but, bewildered by consecutive Conservative election victories, he had to reassess what he had been taught by his Badgeland comrades.

What do you do as a young socialist when your dad’s mates in the working men’s club buy their council houses, drive Austin Metros (a British car to beat the world), read the Sun, and vote Tory? He would come to realise that politics isn’t all it seems at seventeen.

Badgeland is an insightful, warm and frequently hilarious memoir about coming of age, politics, class and social mobility in the 1970s and 1980s.

‘Steve Rayson’s depiction of British politics in the 70s and 80s is pitch perfect but this book is much more than that. It’s a tender reflection on father/son relationships in working class communities and the fault line that can develop between them through a university education. The best memoir I’ve read in years.’ — Alan Johnson, Former Health Secretary

‘Steve recalls with warmth, insight and wry humour a time when everything seemed possible’ — Lord Paul Boateng

‘Funny but poignant, brutally honest yet endearing’ — Mark Fern

‘Funny, charming, well observed and a joy to read’ — Giles Palmer

‘One man’s personal journey, … delivered with a warmth and affection that has the reader yearning for the place and time that Rayson describes’ — Charlie Downes


Steve grew up in Swindon and joined the Labour Party Young Socialists at sixteen. He believed working-class people had everything to gain from socialism. The only problem was they didn’t agree with him.

He would learn later that politics isn’t all it seems at seventeen and would surprise himself by becoming an entrepreneur. It is an underappreciated fact that teenage Trotskyists make the best entrepreneurs.

He now lives in West Sussex with his wife Chris and their excitable Labradoodle Mabel.

His first book The Fall of the Red Wall became an Amazon bestseller in 2020.

His second book Badgeland will be published in February 2023. It is an insightful, warm and frequently hilarious memoir about coming of age, politics, class and social mobility in the 1980s. 

Published by karenlouisehollis

53, lives in Lincoln, England. Published writer, book blogger and reviewer, mum, grandma, cat owner, vegetarian. Loves reading and sewing. My novel is out - WELCOME TO WHITLOCK CLOSE.

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