Thatcherism

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There has been no other leader quite like Margaret Thatcher in post-war Britain.  And some will say praise the Lord for that!  No other post-war Prime Minister has been so admired, or so reviled.   She was the first woman to lead a major political party in Britain, the longest-serving Prime Minister of the 20th century, and almost the only Prime Minister whose name is synonymous with an ideology. "Thatcherism"

I will not join in the celebrations of the death of a frail 87 year old woman but I will celebrate  long and hard if it means the beginning of the end of “Thatcherism”

Thatcher's death is a private matter for her family and friends and should remain so and so should her funeral.  I find it arrogant beyond words that the government deem it worthy to provide a state funeral at such enormous cost when literally millions of our population despised everything she stood for. This was no nationally loved and revered figure, this was a divisive class warrior who dismissed with relish the dreams, hopes and aspirations of large sections of society.

It disappoints me that the national reporting of her death has been largely one-sided and lacking any real analysis, so far as I have seen. The rewriting of history by her jingoistic supporters is nothing new but we really should see her political life as a much more fuller  picture than that.

So the Falklands War once more becomes an example of her firm and decisive leadership, rather than the entirely avoidable 19th century style colonial war it really was.  It would have been comical if hundreds hadn't died.

Similarly, we hear from those who bought their council houses at knock-down prices, thus impoverishing local authority housing budgets, grotesquely inflating the housing market and sowing the seeds of many of our current economic problems.

We hear about "popular capitalism" and releasing the dead hand of the state from control of the nation's finances, but little about the Thatcher government's financial deregulation allowing the pension’s miss-selling scandal and causing so many to lose so much to the spivs and sharks that prospered under Thatcherism.  Nor do we hear much about the massive expansion of private debt that sees the nation now enduring years of stagnation that can all be traced back to the Thatcher years.

We are told she restored power to the people but that’s a lie. She was a centraliser, not a true democrat as most would understand the meaning of the word. Thatcher governments stripped local authorities of power and strengthened Whitehall control. Why? Because she couldn't control what local electorates voted for, so she simply removed their power.

Her foreign policy was an embarrassment at the time and is even more so with hindsight. Support for the murderous fascist dictator Pinochet and indirect support for apartheid, for example, yet condemnation of the "terrorist" Mandela and the ANC and intransigence over Ireland that arguably delayed the ceasefire and extended the hostilities for longer than perhaps needed to have been the case.

I cringe at the populist view that she put the "Great" back into Britain and all that "not for turning" blather. It grossly overplays her international importance for a start. The cold war was "won" as a consequence of the Soviet Union's internal problems, not because the west stood firm, still less because of any role played by the "Iron Lady". And the poverty of knowledge regarding our relationship with the EU goes back to Thatcher and the stupid "up yours Delors"-type nonsense that still passes for debate in the UK.

I don't doubt that some of the structural changes would have happened eventually, with or without Thatcher.  But the broad thrust of her policies was to enrich one section at the expense of another and with little concern for the effects.  We could have developed in a different, less antagonistic, way as many European countries chose to do. Our current, horribly unbalanced economy with its still bloated financial services sector and struggling manufacturing sector stems from Thatcherite "reforms".

It's understandable that some have asked why subsequent governments didn't reverse these policies if they were so damaging.  It's rarely possible to reverse a fundamental change. For a start, a new government has its own programme which, thankfully, is based on more than just undoing everything the last one did. Then there's time - Blair has probably been the only PM since with enough time to have undertaken a meaningful reversal but he didn't, mostly  because he was really just another a Tory anyway, and by then it was 7 years  too late.

So there will be no grave-dancing from me. It's all too late for that. I will remember the greed, inner-city riots, unnecessary war, "no such thing as society" selfishness and all the rest of it though.  I won't say good riddance to Thatcher but I wish I could say good riddance to Thatcherism.

 

Alan James – Branch Secretary