Thatcherism-A British Obsession!

Posted on April 9, 2013

The great thing about social networks such as Twitter and Facebook is that you can get a real sense of public feeling when a major figure in British history passes way. A mixture of widespread adulation and total vitriol has had Twitter and Facebook at breaking point in the last 24 hours, proving that Margaret Thatcher remains a controversial figure 23 years after she was drummed out of Downing Street by her own peers who could no longer cope with her increasing desire to take on anyone and everyone in an eye for an eye combat.

Thatcher came into power when I was 11. I can remember it clearly, my Dad voted for her and there was huge nationwide optimism about how this immensely strong willed woman would take on the corrupt unions in the manufacturing industries and regain Britain’s status as a world super power. No-one would stand in her way as she crushed the unions, fought toe to toe with the IRA and the Argentinians, allowed people to purchase their own council houses and set about privatising industry and de-regulating the banks, thus allowing opportunity in world markets to instigate a credit boom of biblical proportions. It is little wonder she will go down as adored and despised in equal measure.

My opinion is based on some facts, personal experience and what I regard as reasonable social conscience to my fellow man. Margaret Thatcher in her pomp was single minded and had immense strength of character to tackle the forces against her in her quest for what she thought would make Britain a great place again; there can be no doubting her patriotism. However, whatever strength she may have shown against the likes of the often corrupt, ill efficient unions and the likes of IRA, she and her chief advisers, in my opinion, lacked any creative political ability to foresee what lay ahead once her war on a union or a terrorist was won. For someone who was a patriot, she seemed to have either little care or little knowledge of what her actions would cause future generations. That said, she was not the first or last to indulge in short term politics.

There are several examples of this and of course, the very personal battle she entered with Arthur Scargill and the NUM is an excellent one. Miners went unpaid for eleven months in one of the bitterest industrial disputes this country has witnessed before eventually being starved and beaten into submission and a brief return to work as swathes of collieries and communities shut down in Wales, the Midlands and the North East. It was indeed a Thatcher victory of sorts but one with tragic socio-economic consequences that the benefit system is still reaping today. Working class became under class and under class became chav class as swathes of communities who would have otherwise worked in factories and mines were now living in a world where unemployment and destitution was the perceived norm. The problem was there was no plan beyond the victory. I was always of the opinion that to keep a community you need to keep it working and keep it spending, that’s how Capitalism works, surely?

The battle with the IRA is another good example. We all know that one man’s terrorist is another man’s (or woman’s) freedom fighter and in the case of the IRA, if you lived in a provincial town in England there was the very real danger of being blown up in a shop, office or a public house; the IRA were widely despised and rightly so, no-one wants to face an innocent and bloody death when all they want to do is live a peaceful existence. It has been many peoples opinion that Thatcher, by going into eye for and eye battle with the IRA, started the process of defeating them as an organisation.

This is not true and a blanket ban on interviews with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness fuelled the flames of hatred to such an extent we were effectively at war in our own High Street and the Tory conference was obliterated in the 1984 Brighton bombing. It was actually her successor, the centre right conservative Prime Minister, John Major, who stepped up to the plate and started off a complex and controversial peace process that as fragile as it sometimes is, at least gives us hope of a future with stronger relations with Ireland. If the Thatcher policy towards terrorists/freedom fighters was still in place, bombs would still be going off from Belfast to Birmingham. To say that Thatcher defeated the IRA is a terrible myth. Remember, this was the lady who was a strong backer of Apartheid in South Africa.

It is without doubt, that the people who champion Margaret Thatcher are the ones who benefited from a window of opportunity that opened in the mid ’80’s credit boom that finacial deregulation allowed. This offered people access to credit that had never been imagined before and allowed us to buy new homes, new cars and holidays in the sun. The High Street was booming, houses and offices were springing up all over the place and whether you were a builder or a banker the opportunity to make quick money was very real; it was hedonistic stuff and Thatcher to many people, was the darling of free enterprise and I can get that, I really can. I know a lot of people who did very well at that time and will always love Thatcher for it.

Of course we all know now that deregulation got out of control and became a runaway train of credit that would splutter and choke in the crash of 1992 before finally ploughing into the buffers in 2008 when the money from mortgage repayments and toxic loans stopped coming in. I’m not saying this was just a Conservative ideology, it was also embraced by Tony Blair and New Labour; it was just going to be a matter of coincidence who was in power when it all came crashing down…That is why Tony Blair was happy to pass the time bomb to Gordon Brown and fuck off around the world doing speeches at £50k a pop. Ultimately though, the credit boom began in the mid 80’s and by the time the banking industry was controlling all the money in the country, it was too late for any politician of any party to do anything about it and it was left to the tax payer to pick up the pieces. Since the crash, the welfare state has cost this country £15 billion whilst the banking crash has cost £60 billion, yet we are cutting child benefit and tax credits whilst allowing bankers bonuses again; It’s total madness.

So, as places like Germany and the USA are manufacturing their way out of recession, we have nothing much left to manufacture because we shut it all down out of spite towards Left Wing unions. It is noticeable to me that countries like Germany have huge industries with a strong social conscience; the workers are treated fairly and are respected  by their employers and whole communities are built around car and pharmaceutical plants and as a nation they gain the strength to overcome adversity. Because of corrupt unions and a Government that liked nothing more than a good fight with anyone who was prepared to stand up to them, we don’t really have much industry to speak or be proud of;  instead we must become a prostitute to the emerging super powers just to survive. Our safety net is that we seem to be an attractive place for oligarchs running away from danger, so at least we have some dirty money coming in.

To blame all the countries ills on one woman is a bit churlish, but hearing all these people saying that she was the greatest leader of all time and that she returned our country to greatness on the back of a war against a tin pot Argentinian general, is like saying we can remember when every summer consisted of baking hot days with picnics down by the trout stream. It is also unfair to lambaste people for daring to be critical of Thatcher by saying that now is a time for mourning and sparing our thoughts for her children, Carol and Mark (an international arms dealer). What a load of old bollocks; I would like to ask what those who feel we shouldn’t speak critically of the dead what they think of Adolf Hitler, Joszef Stalin or Saddam Hussein? To not be allowed an opinion is not democracy and if certain people were popping the champagne corks last night, that is entirely up to them to do so.

I can see why some people loved her and others hated her, but to say she was our greatest ever Prime Minister is in my opinion, ambitious in the extreme. From all the bullshit, nostalgia and condemnation I have heard today, the best story I have come across so far, came from John Seargent on Radio 5; it apparently happened after a defeat at a by-election at the hands of the Liberals.

Thatcher’s adviser told her take the defeat light-heartedly by referring to the “Dead parrot sketch.”

“What’s the dead parrot sketch?” Said Thatcher.

“You know, the Monty Python sketch”

“Who is Monty Python…is he one of us?”

For my part, I have a vivid memory as a middle class teenager travelling on a National Express bus to see my Grandmother in Kirkcaldy, Scotland. On my way out of the beautiful south I witnessed from the Midlands northwards, a plethora of towns shutting down forever and I couldn’t help but wonder one thing.

“Is this what makes a Kingdom United?”

2 Replies to "Thatcherism-A British Obsession!"

  • Warren Sadler
    April 9, 2013 (5:57 pm)

    Bob, that’s an interesting comparison with Germany. Wish I was German!

  • Lorna
    April 11, 2013 (7:24 pm)

    Thanks for that Bob! Very balanced view of the times! Dette read your blog to Georgia last night whilst I was preparing a delicious stir fry. The economics of the situation led Dette to explain to G the origin of ‘money’. Printed ‘IOU’s’ basically. Thus leading to the wealth of a few, (those in control of ‘money’) and those in debt, leading to profit for the money lenders. For some with good jobs and a mortgage this was manageable to less fortunate, loss of work etc, the encouraged debt has led to misery and heartache and feeling of failure. Watch ‘Capitalism, A Love Story’, Michael Moore. Georgia was so distressed at the inequalities inherent in the production of money, and debt, as a product with value, that she ended up in tears asking why we couldn’t go back to bartering for goods and services. Ask yourself, what actually is ‘money’?

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