Here we go again.
If the Seventies, and specifically the winter of 1978/9, had been so bad, then where was the Tory landslide in 1979? They barely scraped in, and if the swing had been even throughout the country then they would not have won at all.
What was “Thatcherism”, really? What did she ever actually do? Well, she gave Britain the Single European Act, the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the Exchange Rate Mechanism. She gave Britain the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, and the replacement of O-levels with GCSEs. And she gave Britain the destruction of paternal authority within working-class families and communities through the destruction of that authority’s economic basis in the stockades of working-class male employment.
No Prime Minister, ever, has done more in any one, never mind all, of the causes of European federalism, Irish Republicanism, sheer economic incompetence, Police inefficiency and ineffectiveness, collapsing educational standards, and everything that underlies or follows from the destruction of paternal authority.
Thereby, the middle classes were transformed from people like her father into people like her son. She told us that “there is no such thing as society”, in which case there cannot be any such thing as the society that is the family, or the society that is the nation. Correspondingly, she mis-defined liberty as the “freedom” to behave in absolutely any way that one saw fit. All in all, she turned Britain into the country that Marxists had always said it was, even though, before her, it never actually had been.
Specifically, she sold off national assets at obscenely undervalued prices, while subjecting the rest of the public sector (fully forty per cent of the economy) to an unprecedented level of central government dirigisme. She presided over the rise of Political Correctness. That most 1980s of phenomena was so much of a piece with that decade’s massively increased welfare dependency and its general moral chaos. Both were fully sponsored by the government, and especially by the Prime Minister, of the day.
Hers was the war against the unions, which cannot have had anything to do with monetarism, since the unions have never controlled the money supply. Hers was the refusal to privatise the Post Office, thank goodness, but against all her stated principles. Hers were the continuing public subsidies to fee-paying schools, to agriculture, to nuclear power, and to mortgage-holders. Without those public subsidies, the fourth would hardly have existed, and the other three (then as now) would not have existed at all.
So much for “You can’t buck the market”. You can now, as you could then, and as she did then. The issue is not whether fee-paying schools, agriculture, nuclear power or mortgage-holding is a good or a bad thing in itself. The issue is whether “Thatcherism” was compatible with their continuation by means of “market-bucking” public subsidies. It simply was not, as it simply is not.
Hers was the ludicrous pretence to have brought down the Soviet Union merely because she happened to be in office when that Union happened to collapse, as it would have done anyway, in accordance with the predictions of, among other people, Enoch Powell. But she did make a difference internationally where it was possible to do so, by providing aid and succour to Pinochet’s Chile and to apartheid South Africa.
I condemn Pinochet as I condemn Fidel Castro, and I condemn apartheid as I condemn Robert Mugabe (or Ian Smith, for that matter). No doubt you do, too. But she did not then, and she does not now. Speaking of Mugabe, it was she who refused to recognise the Muzorewa government, holding out for the Soviet-backed Nkomo as if he would have been any better than the Chinese-backed Mugabe.
And hers was what amounted to the open invitation to Argentina to invade the Falkland Islands, followed by the (starved) Royal Navy’s having to behave as if the hopelessly out-of-her-depth Prime Minister did not exist, a sort of coup without which those Islands would be Argentine to this day.
There are many other aspects of any “Thatcherism” properly so called, and they all present her in about as positive a light. None of them, nor any of the above, was unwitting, or forced on her by any sort of bullying, or whatever else her apologists might insist was the case. They were exactly what she intended. Other than the subsidies to agriculture (then as now) and to nuclear power (now, if not necessarily then), I deplore and despise every aspect of her above record and legacy, for unashamedly Old Labour, and therefore ex-Labour, reasons.
The definition of New Labour is to support and to celebrate that record and that legacy, because it did exactly as it was intended to do. It entrenched, in and through the economic sphere, the social revolution of the 1960s, making the constitutional changes since 1997 logically inescapable. You should not so support or celebrate unless you wish to be considered New Labour.
Thatcher’s initial pit closure programme, in early 1981, was abandoned within two days of a walkout by the miners, and she had one of her closest allies, Nicholas Ridley, negotiate a transfer of sovereignty over the Falkland Islands to Argentina, to be followed by a lease-back arrangement, until the Islanders, the Labour Party and Tory backbenchers forced her to back down.
Was she “the Iron Lady” when, within a few months of election on clear commitments with regard to Rhodesia, she simply abandoned them at the Commonwealth Conference in Lusaka? Was she “the Iron Lady” when, having claimed that Britain would never give up Hong Kong, she took barely twenty-four hours to return to Planet Earth and effect a complete U-turn? Was she “the Iron Lady” when she took just as little time to move from public opposition to public support of Spanish accession to the Western European Union? Was she “the Iron Lady” when she gave up monetarism completely during her second term? And so on, and on, and on.
But then again, who cares these days? Who really ought to care? When the next General Election is upon us, people will have the vote who were not born when she was removed from office. At that Election, my own generation of post-Thatcher teenagers will first enter Parliament in some numbers, a few being already there. And by the time of the Election after that … well, you can finish that sentence for yourself.
Get over her.