Sunday, April 21, 2013
A Couple of Thatcher Reflections- on her Legacy and her Sanity
It took about two decades after t he last war for modern historians to decide we were living in time of a 'post war consensus'; maybe it's taken till now for us to realise we've been living in a 'post Thatcher' period of consensus. Mrs T claimed her most precious achievment was Tony Blair- who, with Gordon Brown, quarried New Labour's macro-economic policy from the Lady's legacy. Unlike her he applied social democratic values to the distribution of wealth. Cameron and Osborne, on the other hand are seeking to apply both economic and social wings of Thatcherism in a doomed attempt to pull off a Thatcher type 'rescue' of the UK economy, and, they like to think, its soul as well.
What seems beyond a doubt, is that Dave and George both calculate that hijacking Maggie's demise for the party- effectively politicising her funeral- will pay a political dividend. Well initially the polls showed no movement though I see that today the polls show Labnour's lead pegged back by a few crucial points, so maybe it has worked to a degree. But as Jonathan Freedland pointed out, it could back fire.
"Cameron has seized upon Thatcher's passing as a chance to do himself some good, or at least avoid trouble, with the Tory right wing. Giving the warrior queen the works has proved an easy, cost-free way to throw some red meat in their direction. Short of a British veto in Brussels, there's nothing they'd want more."
However, banging on about Thatcher might encourage even more of his colleagues to conclude that poor old Dave is but the most feeble imiotation of the great lady. Moreover, digging too deep into Thatcher and all her works, might exhume the toxic effects she was certainly felt to have in the mid to late 1990s. Whatever her achievements as a politician she in no way brought 'harmony where there was discord'.
The final thing about Thatcher is offered by Simon Hoggart Saturday 13th April when he concedes that she did well to reclaim the Falklands and to curb the unions but cannot hold up her deindustrialisation of vast tarcts of the country on the assumtion capitalism would as if by magic, move in and create more industry. It didn't and her callous disregard to the consequencs of her actions will forever out trump her achievements as far as I'm concerned.
He goes on to suggest, on this occasion seriously, that Maggie towrds the end was virtually certifiable:
"What seems to have been left out of all the obsequies is the fact that, by the end, she was going mad. I wrote as much while she was still prime minister and heard it from several of her colleagues. Neither the evil witch nor the saviour- of-our-great-nation brigades could cope with that because it challenged their certainties.
But look at the evidence. The way she would grab a microphone from a TV reporter whose questions she didn't like. The predilection for tiny gestures at irrelevant times. (In his memoirs, Cold Cream, Ferdinand Mount recalls her breaking off an important and over-running meeting to fetch him painkillers he didn't need and had specifically said he didn't want. He also recalled her obsessive concern for "the mill girls of Bolton", even though, thanks to her policies, there were no mill girls left in Bolton.)
"We are a grandmother." Bonkers! Her unbelievable rudeness to colleagues, including Geoffrey Howe, who later helped destroy her. The way she came to speak about the government as if it had nothing to do with her. (The late John Biffen said she resembled a woman sitting under the hairdryer saying to her neighbour: "I blame the government, don't know what they think they're up to …"). The way she re-wrote her own history, obliterating things that hadn't worked, imagining those that had.
Most of all the poll tax, which might have come out of some ancient legend. "Once there was an unhappy land governed by a cruel queen. She decreed that everyone, from the richest lord to the poorest serf, should pay the same taxes, whether they could or not. So the people rose against their wicked ruler…"
And she didn't see it coming. Being off her trolley she had come to believe that whatever she believed must be right merely because she believed it.There is a nice line about that in John Major's memoirs: "Why did Margaret press ahead with what turned out to be an act of political suicide? Even lemmings have their reasons."
See Margaret Thatcher: the woman, the legend … and the myths
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