Peak Thatcher

14 Mar

At some point in the past, not consciously I must have reached my own Thatcher threshold. No more did I need to think about her and what she did. I didn’t even feel the need to make great statements on her death, other than reminding people of her warm words towards the Khmer Rouge and pulling apart the Spectators Thatcher special. ( The Thatcher special could be a train leaving at 19.79 stopping at no hope, destruction , misery and all stations to privatisation). However my thoughts were over. I spent so many years as a student writing all those essays about her government, the 81 reshuffle, M3, Falklands,BBC, Miners, GLC,Westland,etc etc

However earlier this year I got into a strange spat about Westland on twitter. My view on Brittan’s resignation, which was correct of course, was challenged by someone defending Britain’s now dubious personal life. Was I wrong ?

No. But it did open up a chink. So much so that I recently read Campbell’s excellent biography of Thatcher as Prime Minister. Its a pure political biography, takes in a wonderful narrative and although light on analysis of some motives reminded me of a few key things I may have been overlooking. As well as providing some excellent new bits of information.

1. Her personality really was that bad. That anyone could be Prime Minister who couldn’t really have a warm relationship with anyone is strange. She’s not the first and not the last, but would have fit the 18th/19th century better.

2. Everything that’s wrong with modern media was seeded by Thatcher. Its that concept that is put across in flat earth news. Telling frightened people about their own fears, reinforcing negative stereotyping and creating enemies. And she loved enemies(!)- IRA, Argentina, Miners,anyone with a left wing bent, Europeans,BBC, Wets,…however even those who were fitting the stereotype had to become enemies- Howe,Lawson, Unionists,. She was a walking Daily Mail.

3. The lack of cohesion. The philosophy is nothing more than a bunch of animosity and reactive “feelings”. However much they dress it up as Keith Josephs enlightenment or talk Friedman or Hayek they were moving with the wind to create fear and suppress the enemies. Free Markets only existed for money supply, not ideas, entertainment, thought or investigation.

Campbell catches all this brilliantly. I often wonder why Thatcher and her free market disciples never wanted a freer market in elections, given they exploited a rigged market in votes for seats. Why she never promoted women, and on and on. Campbell also captures her last 2 years in power as complete madness and a train crash waiting to happen. It felt like that at the time, and perhaps it was inevitable, perhaps not. There is no way of rerunning it.

Thatcher’s Britain-sadly yes. But its not an intellectually coherent philosophy. Its just one with no industry, no unions, little social capital, unemployment is something accepted and the agenda of the financial sector seems to control everything. Where the democratic process is crushed to the power of who can please the “market”. The nebulous and narrow ” market ” is seen as a moral compass and private equity a good irrespective of the outcome. Its Cameron’s Britain too, but its probably Millibands and all the airs and successors. Unless there’s a revolution we will live in fear as Stuart Hall analysed perfectly and Thatcher exploited for all it was worth.

Her demise is another story, but one worth looking at some point.



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