Margaret Thatcher was no saint, but honestly, who really ever is; especially, in power-mongering politics. She came to power in ’79 as a raging bull and left, some would say, surplus-to-requirements in ’90. However, don’t forget her impressive, early legacy…
Where no less than 3 British, Prime Ministers tried and failed, Maggie Thatcher succeeded. Her predecessors couldn’t clean up the utter mess that post-World War 2, socialism-on-steroids made of Britain. The social welfare state had become too indulgent and public spending was out-of-control. By the late 70s, Britain was in a state of economic ruin and shutdown. Maggie did the clean job up, the very necessary clean up job, perhaps, some would say, a hatchet job. However, where others failed, she succeeded and has been hated for saving the economy, by many, ever since.
What has been the public response to Margaret Thatcher’s death? Well, the Wizard of OZ song ‘Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead‘ is climbing up to the No. 1 spot, for one. Apparently, a large portion of the nation is heaving a deep sigh of relief that Thatcherism is finally and unequivocally “dead and buried”. But, look back, why did the nation vote her in 3 times in a row, who were those rogue voters, if we are all seeming to be rejoicing in her demise? In her day, she was very popular, perhaps memories act like sieves at times?
Regardless, Maggie Thatcher must be smiling with Machiavellian glee in her grave. She is still managing to extract bile and venom from her arch, political rivals, the Left Wing. The unbridled dislike and, even rage, that her name still conjurers 23 years after she left office must provide her with a smug sense of a job well done. She always was the consummate politician; a real pit fighter. Maggie really was the last, great, Conservative leader. She changed the fundamental philosophy of governance of Britain, and in cahoots with her great friend, President Ronald Reagan, to the world as a whole. Since her demise as Britain’s leader, politicians around the Western world have eschewed partisan politics. Most have clambered to embrace the wishy-washy, populist, fence sitting of the Centre. She has been a major factor in the destruction of both Right and (transparent) Left wing politics. I say “transparent” for the Left as the Left Wing is still very much Left leaning. They just hide behind rhetoric of the Centre. The socialist, Statist agenda of the Left is very much live and kicking. It’s pathfinders like ex-Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who just repackaged the same old philosophy into a much more palatable New Labour style. Labour’s agenda never really changed, it just became more subtle and sophisticated. They push Statism through uncomprehendable, non-transparent mechanisms such as the hugely costly and fruitless Carbon Tax. But, I digress. The point is, no self-respecting, populist politico would veer to one “extreme” or tother for fear of voicing a real opinion and becoming, heaven forbid, accountable. As Mitt Romney famously said during the U.S., 2012, Presidential election, 47% of Americans won’t vote for me anyway, they are net, state welfare dependents and won’t vote for tax cuts. In general though, both sides of the House are fighting for the swing voters in the Centre whether by false rhetoric (Left) or desperation (Right).
So, I would claim Maggie was instrumental in the destruction of partisan politics. The West is riddled with hung parliaments, with marginal, minor league parities selling their deciding votes to the highest bidder. Thatcher was the last great and successful risk taker. I’m Right wing, take it or leave it. As stated in the Standard book of Left wing campaigning (Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals), you’re standard ripost to dissenting voices is to demonise the person. Use ad hominen attacks on the person to besmirch their reputation, create unpopularity and avoid, at all costs, real debate. So, this juvenile, but successful, tactic has made Maggie the evil, destructor Iron Maiden (not just Iron Lady) with images of swastikas behind her.
I agree by her third and final term, the Iron Lady (as coined by a Russian newspaper when she criticised the Soviet Block in ’76) was becoming a bit stayed. Perhaps, her alternative to “socialism-on-steroids”, “capitalism-on-steroids” was just as out-of-control as its predecessor. Capitalism lead to notable failures such as the Black Monday financial collapse of ’87 (which, as it happens, bankrupted my dad). Perhaps then, describing her reign as just “stayed” is a tad generous. Even her own Party eventually deemed her a “liability“? Moreover, when Thatcher proposed the hugely unpopular Poll Tax in’89, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back for many. That was never going to fly. The Poll Tax was a local authority, single flat-rate, per-capita tax on every adult; no sliding scale determined by wealth. That was just a little too Right Wing for even the generally pro-Thatcher Brits to palate, and rightfully so.
However, all-in-all, she was a great; Winston Churchill, the last great, would be proud. She saved a desperate, sinking country (as he did 40 years earlier).
Many of the British, video Obituaries I’m watching are a bit cagey about Thatcher’s record. So I’ll opt for the foreign perspective, which are generally for some bizarre reason, more sympathetic. Here’s Al Jazeera’s effort [edit: this was removed a few days later, so here's the CNN effort]:
The Falklands War of ’82 was a huge success for Margaret Thatcher and for the nation as a whole. Britain was a country in severe recession, with no “Great” left to justify its once illustrious name. The weakened British empire was taken for a ride by a equally weak and floundering dictator, General Leopoldo Galtieri of Argentina. He believed the British had no stomach left, or pride for that matter, and decided to take for Argentina something that never had been there’s, the Falkland Islands colony. If the home situation is looking tenuous, standard, military dictator practice is to unite the country against a common, foreign enemy; enter stage left, Britain and the piggy in the middle, the Falklands Islands. The conflict is a huge story unto its own. However, I would like to mention that this long-shot win for Maggie was more than just that. It was a huge win for British national pride as a whole. Ironically, the foreign affairs fracas was used as a tactic by General Galtieri to solve his domestic woes, but instead it destroyed him and secured his foes leadership. The win was a very important seed sown by Maggie to garner support for her own highly contentious, domestic, economic reforms. The fact that a close friend of mine, who survived the horrors of the hand-to-hand fighting of the Battle of Goose Green, is, in principle, anti-Falklands War these days is very lamentable. The anti-Maggie, Leftist ad hominen machine has been effective over the years. He, like many I know, believe the war to be an unjustifiable sham. A shame on British; selfish Imperialism. This is totally untrue. He should be very proud of his own achievements and what his actions stood for. Britain was not the aggressor and the Falklands were a pawn for a desperate dictator on the verge of over-throw by his own people.
Winter of Discontent
Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Shakespeare’s, Richard III, Act 1 Scene 1.
You know your country is in proper strife when it’s forced into a 3 day week. During the infamous “Winter of Discontent” (this term parodies Shakespeare’s Richard III) of ’78 the UK was properly up shit creek without even a tooth pick to paddle with. We were for all intents and purposes a Soviet-style state with a veneer of democratic elections. The whole economy was dominated by socialism, unions, nepotism and government control. Needless to say, inflation was rampant at 18% and government spending out of control. 1-0 to the trade unions, who prevented wage caps and any other attempts at sensible, fiscal tightening. There were widespread strikes by public sector, trade unions demanding even larger pay rises. These union strikes, predominantly in winter, hence the “Winter of Discontent”, were in protest to the ongoing pay caps of the Labour Party government, led by James Callaghan. Labour is, and especially was, in those days, the political wing of the unions. The Labour Party was the voice, the unions, the funds. They are two arms attached to the same body. So, any Labour Party driven, pay cuts to union members was deemed treacherous. Top marks to Labour Prime Minister, Callaghan, for trying such a bold move against his own power base. However, he paid the highest price and suffered the loss of his lofty position. We, the once industrious and illustrious British Empire, were 110% bankrupt and there was no way out. He realised this and boldly tried, but regrettably, failed to rectify this. Both Labour and Conservative Prime Ministers, one after the other, and in quick succession, went to the chopping block trying to rein in the public spending between ’75 and ’79: Edward Heath gone, Harold Wilson gone, James Callaghan gone. No one was able to get us out of the economic and social funk. It required a working class, Northern, lass, with vision, to kick start us out of the never-ending poverty and doldrums. Britain was in poverty; unionised poverty. Protecting workers rights is important, agreed, and there was good reason unions were formed in the “dark, satanic mills” of the Industrial Revolution. However, there’s fair wage and there’s down-right economic extortion. The battle lines were drawn; hard working and honest miners were to be the casualties. It took Maggie 4 years to break the miners strike, she tried in ’81, lost, then in ’84, won. She was better prepared the second time around. For one she had stockpiled the coal for the all-important, power stations. This time she was up against Arthur Scargill, the president of the National Union of Mineworkers. Thatcher, without enacting any draconian, anti-strike laws, finally broke the year long strike in ’85. This was the catalyst to the Grand Plan of opening up the economy to innovation. She dropped the taxes (in real terms) and stopped the brain drain abroad. She put the “Great” back into Britain. The economic engine was kick-started and national optimism restored. Hence, even one of her arch nemeses, Roy Hattersley, deputy leader of the Labour party from ’83 to ’92, gives her credence in his obituary to her. Hats off to Hattersley for being an old school gentleman:
“Thatcher was one of the two greatest prime ministers of the 20th century”
Roy Hattersley, deputy leader of the Labour party from 1983 to 1992.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is one of those we love to hate. Reading today all the obituaries about her from various politicians from various persuasions around the world has been very insightful. I feel their sentiments, whether reverential from Right wingers or thinly veiled digs by many Left wingers is indicative of the people they represent. The Left say comments like they admire her for being the first, female, British leader, but taint any support with mentioning her somewhat “divisive” nature. The Right laud her for bringing free-market capitalism to Britain and saving the British economy.
They are both right.
She was divisive and she was a pioneering capitalist of the Hayek and Friedman schools of economics. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an unequivocal fan of free-market Banking and believer in “greed is good“. However, warts and all, it’s the best system we have. True, “divisive”, read having a strong opinion, is not currently, very popular. Weak, coalition governments and “consensus” politics in much more the norm. But, being opinionated can be a good thing at times. Consensus has its place, but sometimes hard decisions have to be made and that requires force of will and radical conviction. Thatcherism may well have run out of steam by the end of her tenure. But, remember her for earlier glories. She was the only woman, in a vehemently man’s world, to be able to break the stifling stranglehold of the unions and allow Britain to reclaim the prefix, “Great”. Where many others failed, she succeeded. She rescued Britain from the brink of the economic abyss and made her industrious once more. Not perfect, true, casualties yes, but eminently better that the economic wasteland it was. We have much to be thankful for.
There is no shirking from the oft-forgotten fact: Socialism bankrupted Britain. Socialism created the mass poverty and sowed the seed for mass, trade union striking. Long-term, out-of-control, governmental handouts to cronies such as the unions created Britain’s woes. Maggie didn’t destroy the mining communities, ultimately, the union bosses did. Many people have always resented her for the strikes. However, the blame lies squarely on the fiscal recklessness of the Labour movement. The green grocer’s daughter from Up North did the hatchet job to fix up a Socialist, social problem and has taken the blame ever since.
Interestingly, when Labour’s Tony Blair finally came to power in ’97, and he had a chance to radically, reverse her policies, he didn’t – the essence of Thatcherism, foibles and all, lives on.