Monday, May 04, 2009


'Where there is Discord May I bring Harmony' ??

Today is the 30th anniversary of Mrs Thatcher's arrival in Downing St and I thought some sort of brief assessment was appropriate. She was the person who inspired more hate in me than I was aware I possessed. It got so bad I couldn't stand to see her face on the TV or listen to her ubiquitous condescending elocution coached tones. But that was then, what about the light of history since 1979? There can be no doubt there is a 'good' tale to tell as well as a 'bad' one.

Good Points

1. Trade Unions: Thatcher took on the unions and beat them. I was never a fan of the union hegemony nor of Scargill as I felt these sectional interests did not embrace society as a whole. If Thatcher had not tamed them someone like Blair would have had to grasp the nettle later on down the line. It was ugly, harmful but maybe necessary.

2. Privatisation: the nationalised industries were immensely inefficient, to some extent corrupt and very costly to the taxpayer. On balance- though definitive studies are lacking- privatisation, despite its cock-ups and absurd fat cat management- has been a preferable arrangement.

3. Courage and Clarity: Thatcher certainly had bottle and was not afraid to take on vested interests or, indeed, General Galtieri. She showed that this quality is a key to achieving things in politics and is all the more admirable for being vested in a woman who rose to lead the most male dominated right-wing party in Europe. Moreover, her limited powers of comunication were sufficient to convey her astonishingly clear ideas. We knew where we stood with her.


1. Divisiveness: Thatcher was the most divisive politician of the 20th century, possibly, even, since Cromwell. Her behaviour in office made a mockery of her famous words, spoken outside No. 10 which I use as the title to this post. We are still reaping the whirlwind of 1980s mass unemployment- a fair slice of it longterm- in the form of poverty, soaring crime rates and anti-social behaviour.

2. Free-for -all Capitalism: Her fetish for totally unregulated capitalism racked up economic inequality, invented the loathsome super-rich and led, via New Labour's espousal of the creed, to the miserable recession which we now suffer.

3. 'Presidentialism': Her hubristic determination to impose her personal will led to a tendency to bypass Cabinet and offer herself as a figure above party. So we saw her making decisions in small groups outside Cabinet and a consequent dimunition of that body. This was the legacy on which Blair chose to build, though, if Brown has done anything, he has presided over the exit of this style for the time being at least.

Do I still hate her? Not really. Not wishing to do 'therapy speak' but it is a foolish person who clings onto negative feelings. I rather regard her as being like a legendary Australian cricketer: Ponting, Warne, McGrath. I hated their achievements at the expense of the team I support, but I recognised their brilliance then and now? I am just glad I was able to watch them playing.

"So we saw her making decisions in small groups outside Cabinet and a consequent dimunition of that body. This was the legacy on which Blair chose to build, though, if Brown has done anything, he has presided over the exit of this style for the time being at least."

Sorry Bill, but Brown presiding over the exit of this style? He is one of the worst offenders deciding policy within his close knit cabal and bouncing cabinet into his decisions whilst brooking no dissent.

Look at the wording that Hazel Blears used in her enforced climbdown yesterday: "I fully support the collective decisions we take as a government." which for me is code for "and not for the decisions that we are bounced into or for which cabinet is bypassed and then retrospectively expected to rubber stamp"
I stand corrected on that(careless drafting). I should have emphasised more what I really meant which was the 'above party, presidential' style' aspect.

You are right that he has always been someone who prefers to run a 'clan' and I agree meetings invloving the likes of himself, McBride plus Balls have characterised his policy making style since the mid 1990s.
Very balanced piece. She was all of the things you said. The Trade Unions needed putting in their place. And probably still need a good kicking yet.

Some of the aspects of 80's capitalism were badly presented I grant you. Moron yuppies looking down on decent ordinary people and the rest. But I would dispute your argument that the current financial crisis. I would suggest that it was simply a uncurbed bubble. A government that did nothing, a financial sector that was badly incentivised and a public addicted to debt and ignorant of financial history and instruments.

Her leadership was only Presidential at the end. In the beginning she had to be more consensual that people realise. The story of her leadership is merely confirmation that power goes to the heads of even the greatest leaders.
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?