An anti-tribute to Thatcher

I would not usually use this space for this type of political comment. However, with the double demise (of Thacher yesterday and Posterous at the end of the month), I thought Why not?

OK, here is a list of Thatcher blunders. (And she does not have the excuse that we didn’t know at the time that this stuff was bad; plenty said so then.) Some of these are routinely listed among her successes, so they should be debunked.

 

 
Northern Ireland:
  • Shoot to Kill policy, and collusion between security forces and loyalist terrorists. The republican community could not  forgive her this.
  • handling of the IRA hungerstrikes of 1980 and 1981. She was given the solution to this in 1980 but preferred a showdown which left 10 men dead and handed an enduring propaganda victory to the terrorists.
Unions and manufacturing. It is said that, by taking on the unions and winning, she rescued the ‘sick man of Europe’. What is sometimes forgotten is:
  • the Winter of Discontent of 1978-9 was a series of legitimate protests, on behalf of workers whose pay and conditions were being trounced.
  • Yes, it was the Labour Govt who went cap in hand to the IMF (having inaccurately calculated UK GDP), but the resulting slash and burn demands were implemented by her
  • Thatcher believed that the unions were holding the country to ransom; instead she placed the bull whip in the hands of banks and corporations – with consequences we can all see today
  • By removing from unions rights to organise in some sectors, and restricting their striking tactics, she made them less relevant and effective – so we need our unions today, but they are incapable of standing up to government.
  • It was her strategy to shift Britain from an economy which built (cars, ships, coal, engineering), to one which ‘served’ (banks, insurance, hospitality, consumerism). This destroyed entire towns, and she did it with a glee (‘This lady is not for turning’).
Social Division:
  • Section 28.
  • ‘There is no such thing as society’.
  • Tebbit’s cricket test.
  • Riots in Bristol, Brixton, Toxteth, Tottenham caused by a toxic mix of sudden economic misery, inter-racial tension and a collapse of community policing – all stirred up by her polecats.
  • denigration of single-parent families.
  • Loadsamoney, shoulder-pads and Yuppies.
  • Sale of council houses unmatched by a council housing building programme – this led to a house price bubble which caused at least 2 recessions.
  • selling the ‘family silver’ (MacMillan’s phrase) – privatisation did NOT lead to a ‘share-owning democracy’ as is often claimed – the utilities were bought up by multinationals, insurance companies and banks.
  • handing the media to Murdoch.
  • The Poll Tax, which charged the rich the same as the poor, which was a levy on the right to vote.
Foreign policy:
  • I remember her trip to Poland in 1980s, where she lectured the Communist govt (from whom she had bought coal during the miners’ strike) on the contribution of free trade unions to democracy!
  • Support for Suharto in Indonesia, Zia in Pakistan, Botha in South Africa, Pinochet in Chile, the House of Saud.
  • She campaigned FOR the yes vote in the 1975 EEC referendum, and she signed the Single European Act (on free movement of goods, capital, labour and services), but then did everything she could to undermine the project.
  • Having identified Gorbachev as a Russian she could do business with, she then supported a raft of Reagan Cold War ventures (Contras, Star Wars) that ensured the Cold War endured.
Stuff she is responsible for, which she (probably) never wanted:
  • Her hand in the end to the Cold War, led to the reunification of Germany – which she actively argued against.
  • A beggar-thy-neighbour individualism.
  • A consumer credit-card boom, which had nothing to do with sound housekeeping.
  • A dis-uniting of the kingdom, with Scotland closer than ever to voting for independence.
  • Some pretty great films (Boys from the Blackstuff, Full Monty, Educating Rita, Billy Elliot) and music (The Specials, Pet Shop Boys, The Jam, Billy Bragg), commenting on the damage she was doing.
  • A boom in left-wing satire and alternative comedy.
 
I’ll take a breath there.
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