Monday, 8 April 2013

Get Over Her

What was Thatcherism, really? What did she ever actually do? 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, the Children Act, and the replacement of O-levels with GCSEs, the last so much of a piece with her closure, while she was Education Secretary, of so many grammar schools that there were not enough left at the end for her record ever to be equalled.

During the same period, she raised no objection in Cabinet to the European Communities Act, to the abolition of ancient counties, to metrication and decimalisation, to the de facto decriminalisation of cannabis, to the first attempt at Scottish and Welsh devolution, or to the only ever attempt to withdraw from Ireland, all under a Prime Minister who had previously devastated small and family business by abolishing Resale Price Maintenance. And she gave Britain the destruction of the economic basis of paternal authority.

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, the extension of the power of the State into the proper sphere of the family, collapsing educational standards, and everything that underlies or follows from the destruction of paternal authority. She did not come out against a single European currency until a rally 10 and half years after the end of her 11 and half years as Prime Minister, by which point it was far from clear that she knew what she was saying.

Thereby, the middle classes were transformed from people like her father into people like her son. Her humble origins were massively exaggerated. Her father was a prominent local businessman and politician who ran most of the committees and charities for miles around, sent her to a fee-paying school, and put her through Oxford without a scholarship.

She told us, and she really did, 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. 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. Meanwhile, she subjected the rest of the public sector, 40 per cent of the economy, to an unprecedented level of dirigisme. She compelled the local forms of the State to make gifts of considerable capital assets to people who were thus able to enter the property market ahead of private tenants who had saved for their deposits.

She invented the Housing Benefit racket, vastly more expensive than maintaining a stock of council housing, and integral to the massively increased benefit dependency of the 1980s. She presided over the rise of Political Correctness, part of that decade’s general moral chaos, which also included her introduction of abortion up to birth, and her mercifully unsuccessful attempts to abolish the special status of Sunday and to end Christian teaching in state schools.

Hers was the assault on the monarchy, since she scorned the Commonwealth, social cohesion, historical continuity and public Christianity, and called the Queen “the sort of person who votes for the SDP”, arrogating to herself the properly monarchical and royal role on the national and international stages, and using her most popular supporting newspaper to vilify the Royal Family.

She legislated to pre-empt the courts on both sides of the Atlantic by renouncing the British Parliament’s role in the amendment of the Canadian Constitution. On the instructions of Rupert Murdoch, she abolished the power of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to legislate for individual Australian states, she ended the British Government’s consultative role in Australian state-level affairs, and she deprived the Queen’s Australian subjects of their right of appeal to Her Majesty in Council.

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 subsidies, the fourth would hardly have existed, and the other three would not have existed at all. The issue is not whether any of them 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.

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, which it would have done anyway, as predicted by 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 the former as I condemn Castro, and I condemn the latter as I condemn Mugabe (or Ian Smith, for that matter). No doubt you do, too. But she never did.

Hers was the refusal to recognise Muzorewa, holding out for the Soviet-backed Nkomo as if he would have been any better than the Chinese-backed Mugabe, for whom she nevertheless secured a knighthood. Hers was a continuous, vigorously denied contact with the IRA, from whose apparent attempt on her life she escaped by something ostensibly resembling a miracle, which contributed greatly to her personal and political legend.

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. She had of course been about to sell the ships in question, at a knocked down price, to Argentina.

Nor did she experience any electoral bounce as a result of the war that she had caused in the Falklands; on the contrary, the figures make it crystal clear that the Conservative Party took fewer actual votes in 1983 than it had done in 1979, and won the 1983 Election only because it faced a divided Opposition, both parts of which had in any case supported the conflict that her incompetence had made unavoidable.

Was she “the Iron Lady” when, in 1980 and just before her “Lady’s Not For Turning” speech on, admittedly, a different issue, she capitulated completely to the threat of the Welsh Nationalist politician Gwynfor Evans to fast to the death unless a Welsh-language television channel were created?

Was she “the Iron Lady” when, in early 1981, her initial pit closure programme was abandoned within two days of a walkout by the miners? Was she “the Iron Lady” when 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 24 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?

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 insist was the case. Rather, 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 that record and legacy, for unashamedly Old Labour reasons.

Indeed, the definition of New Labour is to support and to celebrate that record and 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. You should not so support or celebrate unless you wish to be considered New Labour.

It is inconceivable that MI5 did not make her fully aware of the rumours around Jimmy Savile, whom she hosted at Chequers for all 11 New Year’s Eves when she was Prime Minister. She was also mesmerised by Sir Laurens van der Post, even though, again, and unlike Prince Charles, she will have been told all about him. Gary Glitter was another strong supporter and generous contributor. Unless, or even if, they had been saving her arrest for the Hillsborough round-up, Thatcher’s fondness for abusers of young girls now demands to be investigated very fully indeed.

As does her fondness for abusers of young boys. Jonathan King was another active and outspoken Thatcherite. And legally or otherwise, can we imagine someone who carried on with 16-year-old girls making it past all of MI5, Special Branch and the Whips Office in order to become Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister?

Thanks to David Cameron, as of October 2012 if Sir Peter Morrison were still alive then he would be guilty of no offence for having had sex with a 16-year-old boy. Even though it was a crime at the time that he did it. Give that a moment to sink in.

But then again, apart from that last point, who cares these days? Or, rather, who really ought to care? She has died having already been out of office for twice as long as she was in. People have already voted in a General Election who were not born when she left. The next Leader of her own party may be one such, the Leader after that is almost certain to be.

People born in the 1990s are now entering university and the world of work. Entirely dispassionately, they will ask who was Prime Minister when the principle of unanimity in the Council of Ministers was surrendered, or when the police were first deluged with paperwork, or when O-levels were replaced with GCSEs, or when the dole became something that large numbers of people claimed for years on end. Among so very many other things.

They might even ask why, if the 1970s were so bad, there was no Conservative landslide in 1979, when that party only just scraped in, and would not have done so if there had been an even swing throughout the country.

Or they might ask about how the combined Labour and SDP votes were higher than the Conservative vote both in 1983 and in 1987. They might even ask why her own party got rid of her and then went on to win an Election that it had been expected to lose.


  1. Well thankfully you can express your opinion. The fact that it isn't balanced or placed in any sort of context shows your clear bias!

    I vividly remember the dreadful and embarrassing state this country was in when her government came into power. The unions were completely out of control, the two previous administrations failed to make any form of stand or impact on them. Like it or not we vote for governments not unions.

    She exhibited everything required of a political leader, strength, personality and determination. Unlike the shabby examples we have today except maybe Nigel Farage.

  2. "She turned Britain into the country that Marxists had always said it was, even though, before her, it never actually had been."

    Well said.

  3. You bitter, sad individual. You don't choose the moment of a lady's death (may she rest in peace) to write this sort of diatribe.

    Not if you have the slightest bit of decency. Goodbye

  4. I wish you'd dropped dead instead

  5. drop dead Lindsay

  6. That's a tremendous denunciation, David. But you'd have done better to remove signs that you'd written it while she was still alive.

  7. Tim, done.

    I think that we can all see who are the bitter ones here.

    BillyG, in that case, where was the Conservative landslide in 1979? She only just scraped in. Although, against a split Opposition, she managed even fewer actual votes than that in 1983.

    Not a word on the UKIP website. Says a very great deal, does that absolute silence.