They say a week is a long time in politics. It feels like an eternity when the politician is dead.
Since the moment the Margaret-Thatcher-news-spectacle began, my Facebook feed has blazed with jubilation, Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead videos, and links to articles demonizing her and her achievements.
Par for the course among my intelligent middle class friends, for whom there isn’t an economic or social issue that can’t be addressed with a viral graphic, a hyperbolic Polly Toynbee article, or by ‘Liking’ a photocopied letter from a pissed-off pensioner.
I have no quarrel with somebody expressing disapproval of Mrs Thatcher or her policies, though on balance I admired the woman myself.
But the venom and ignorance of these 30- to 40-somethings goes beyond that.
My friends believe they are being engaged, but with their tribal mantras and kneejerk reactions they reduce themselves to bloc voters for career politicians and traffic conduits for linkbait articles.
They see the world not just through the prism of a media hyper-vigilant to any expression of truth or uncertainty, but also – thanks to the polarisation of the Internet – they see just one side of its manufactured debates.
Thatcher versus Kinnock has become Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and my friends all rage over rounding errors.
Wake Me Up Before You Go Go
I was on holiday when Margaret Thatcher died, which was why I was getting my news from Facebook.
I was also abroad when Diana died. Back then I learned the news from a discarded front page blowing across New York’s Central Park. Flying into London a couple of days later was slightly surreal – the city seemed quieter, and changed. Conversations were edgier, and unexpected people took offence. The mood passed and may have been an illusion but it was scary while it lasted.
This time I was prepared to find the UK in uproar. Going by my Facebook feed, the country was at war.
But no, it was just my friends – or my generation.
As I watched Question Time that night, I was relieved to hear a sane and balanced account of the Thatcher era. Even Polly Toynbee made an effort to be reasonable.
Phew! From my arguments on Facebook, I had begun to wonder if I’d invented the 1970s that sowed the seeds for Thatcherism.
My friends seemingly had no idea about the union brigands who’d helped run the country into the ground or the corporatist fat cats sitting on top of dying manufacturers like so many little King Canutes squatting on sandcastles as the water rose.
What about the economic transformations that swept the globe in the 1980s?
Question Time confirmed I didn’t invent globalisation and technological progress, either – though my friends seemed to think Mrs Thatcher did, given everything they blamed her for, including that life isn’t a Hovis bread advert of cobble streets and sunshine.
That would certainly come as news to the rest of the world that saw exactly the same economic forces at play. Even China was presumably a Thatcher side-project.
Thatcher’s critics imbue her with supernatural powers. It’s always easier to hate the player as opposed to the game. There’s a very good argument that she moved too far, too fast, but perhaps we only really know that through hindsight. I’d like to think it could have been less bitter, but I certainly don’t believe the bitterness was all her fault. Again, see the 1970s.
(Oh, and by the way, UK factories make more cars than we did in the late 1970s – and last year we exported a record number.)
After availing my friends of such facts, my Facebook comrades inform me that even if the 1970s were that bad – which they doubt – why couldn’t we have modernised like Germany, which they regard as some kind of have-it-all Nirvana?
Because Labour tried to negotiate with the unions and James Callaghan was destroyed for his troubles.
Who? You can almost hear them tapping away on Wikipedia.
As it happens, my hosts this week were German, so I was on hand to see what some of them thought about the Iron Lady.
One septuagenarian aunt demanded to know why I wasn’t wearing a black armband.
She gripped my shoulder. “What Maggie did in the 1980s, Schröder could not do until 2004. You were the lucky ones!”
Still, Mrs Thatcher didn’t have to destroy the welfare state, did she?
Indeed she didn’t – the first thing she did was raise taxes, and state spending never fell much. Welfare spending actually rose sharply, although for all the wrong reasons.
And heaven forbid anyone should aspire to buy their own milk.
Pass The Dutchie
My generation – the Children of Thatcher who were born in the 1970s and came of age as she was booted out of office – appear certain of everything, but unwilling to learn much about anything.
Am I right to be so scared of what they represent?
I suggested to one that he considered the choices the country faced three decades ago before condemning Thatcher as evil incarnate.
Michael Foot’s Labour, for instance, wanted to withdraw from NATO and the EU, to hand over our nuclear weapons unilaterally, and to nationalise anything that hadn’t already been run into the ground. It wasn’t until New Labour that there was a credible alternative – and I voted accordingly in 1997.
Within seconds he was condemning Tony Blair as Thatcher in disguise.
The Land of Make Believe
Let’s not split hairs. My friends are idiots.
I love them, but they’re idiots.
They express or admire what would have been seen in the 1970s as hard leftwing views, but are now defined in the language of “fairness” and defined through opposition.
- All profits are bad, all welfare is good.
- All cuts are bad, but taxes are good (so long as they’re not paying).
- Capitalists are bad, engineers and doctors are good.
- Politics is bad, Twitter hashtags are good.
All fair enough if you’re a member of the 1970s loony left who has read Marx (as I have) and you believe in a socialist utopia.
But my friends haven’t read Marx, and I don’t believe their heart is really in the logical consequence of what they’re demanding.
My friends buy cheap trainers made in China, take cut-price flights around the world, switch energy providers with a moan when their bills rise, and job hop with abandon. They enjoy rising house prices, and they complain about council tax bills. As I say, they are Thatcher’s children.
Three of the biggest spouters of hard-left claptrap run their own businesses. They make extensive use of low-cost freelancers. They sell their wares across the world. Naturally and sensibly they structure their affairs tax efficiently. One was apoplectic in the hiatus before Entrepreneur’s Relief was introduced.
You cannot make it up.
Do they think they’d be doing this with 1970’s Labour in power, a Union shop steward squaring up against every staff decision, capital controls and more red tape than you’d see at an International Worker’s Day parade?
I’m certainly not saying they should vote Tory. But they could at least be realistic about where their business success and lifestyle springs from – and I honestly can’t see why they’re not all for Blair’s New Labour.
But no, they’d rather believe in some Ealing Comedy-accented economic Disneyland that never was.
The disconnect – between why we live the way we do today and their fantasy politics – is by turns pathetic and terrifying.
But I shouldn’t be surprised by it – it’s been building for years.
The ink was not dry on the Coalition document before my friends started accusing the Conservatives of “taking a sledgehammer” to the welfare state. They sounded like a bunch of teenagers singing the UB40 favourites of their parents at a reunion concert.
One of them – one of the business owners – linked to a hysterical Toynbee article, calling it a: “Superb, dark, desperate article about the Conservatives’ barely-hidden agenda to tear down the state”.
He went on as usual to cite the devastation that had been caused by cuts, the millions unemployed, and so on.
I pointed out that state spending was still rising, and that Labour had (rightly) been committed to curbing spending, too, following the financial crisis – at least until it conveniently lost the election. (I suggested he read Alistair Darling’s excellent biography for more).
I even pointed him towards this graph showing state spending as a percentage of GDP was still rising. So much for destroying the State!
He looked at the graph and changed his tune to “most of the cuts are still to come”, which was at least accurate.
Presumably the mere sight of the sledgehammer in the box was what caused all the damage he claimed to have witnessed earlier on?
I am no apologist for the current government, who I consider timid and low-calibre. But tyrannical destroyers of the State they are not.
Stand And Deliver
I regularly go through the same rigmarole: some news event grabs my friends’ attention, they deposit a fanatical take on it on Facebook, and it is debunked by me or a handful of others until one of us loses interest.
But most are not debunked because there are only so many hours in the day. Instead there’s an orgy of agreement and the world gets a little dumber.
I find the Daily Mail unreadable and its coverage of Mick Philpott was no different, but I do think there is a point to be made about the extremes of benefit abuse. People need to trust the system to ensure its support.
My friends replied with graphs about tax avoidance.
I believe in the welfare state as a comprehensive safety net. If even half what my friends claim was true I’d be on the streets. But I also think the State has the clear capacity to enfeeble its citizens – and I don’t want to pay when it does.
If you want a welfare state, then you need to defend it against its abusers, as well as its opponents. My friends should be the first to demand action against those who exploit the taxpayer – and deprive the deserving – just as how as a believer in capitalism I have railed on Monevator for years about egregious bankers.
And incidentally, I didn’t have a spare bedroom until I was 33, and I pay about £200 a month for it. Is then the invidiously re-branded “spare bedroom tax” of £14 a week such a terrible deal? Resources will always be limited – wouldn’t it be better if extra rooms are directed at those who need them most?
Don’t bother asking my friends. Details. Don’t I know someone in the City lives in an expensive house somewhere or other?
It’s A Sin
Have you ever been down a coal mine? I have – in a highly sanitised form – and it was ghastly.
Mining coal was a dangerous, unhealthy, and basically dreadful occupation and I’m glad I’ll never have to do it.
But the left (and many on the right) love their sweatshops – and the very best worker is a sweating worker with a top unbuttoned and chest glinting.
I’m not going to presume to tell anyone who was mining coal in 1981 that Thatcher was good for them. Clearly the sense of community and camaraderie that made the mining life even half bearable was torn apart when the mines closed. They lost their jobs and many never got new ones. It must have been devastating. I am not surprised they hate her.
But my air-conditioned friends? If coal mining still existed, they’d be campaigning against it.
All Lost In The Supermarket
My friends remind me of shoppers in the meat aisle of Tesco.
They pick their way through the packaged bacon and the various cuts of chicken, and the thought of the screaming death of a pig or a chicken hanging from its feet to be electrocuted never enters their heads. Perhaps they occasionally march against fox hunting.
It’s the same with politics and economics. They don’t want to think about reality. They just want to enjoy the good stuff, and forget or dismiss what delivered it. Think of the last milkshake-guzzling humans going around in circles in Pixar’s Wall-E.
Like KFC has had the word chicken stripped from its name and the bones removed from many of its finger licking good products, so my friends aren’t capitalists or communists or socialists or anything else with a name, a face, or a spine.
They just want things to be “fair”. Anything can hide behind that innocuous word.
It’s the same with every hard problem they run into. Even the age-old question of religion was reduced to a one-liner by my generation, as this recent Spectator article points out:
“When such questions arise, a big bright ‘Complicated’ sign ought to flash in one’s brain. Instead, in the wake of 9/11, many otherwise thoughtful people opted for simplicity over complexity.”
If the meaning of life can be reduced to a joke poster stuck on a bus, what chance does politics stand?
Don’t Stand So Close To Me
To understand my generation, you have to see them as modern consumers who want to feel good at all times.
They want to eat everything they can, shout slogans about the dignity of the hooded-classes they cross the street to avoid, fly 5,000 miles to eco-resorts, and thrive in a system they claim to despise.
By and large they do nothing different to anyone who votes any other way. Perhaps they drink Fairtrade coffee, and like all of us they sponsor someone in the office when she does a charity run.
Sacrifice is conspicuous by its absence. They are not going without, nor are they out there campaigning. They’re pressing a button on a web page, and turning off a switch in their brains.
This is the generation, remember, who greeted the fall of communism by going on a ten-year bender in Thailand.
When they marched against the invasion of Iraq, I imagined they were marching against the indignity of the party ending.
‘I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand “I have a problem, it is the Government’s job to cope with it!” or “I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!” “I am homeless, the Government must house me!” and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing!
There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first…
There is no such thing as society. There is a living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.’
– Margaret Thatcher, 1925 to 2013
Note: I’ve said my bit here and I’m tired of arguing, so while I’d love to read your views below I won’t be responding. I appreciate some of you will entirely disagree with me and disliked Margaret Thatcher. I’ve got no problem with that – she was a divisive figure. But know your reasons. I’m more interested here in the demonization – and the social media ‘debate’ around modern politics. Be aware that anything abusive or flippant will be deleted.
Excellent, level-headed article – so nice to see in the midst of such intense mudslinging. Her politics aside, I don’t think that death should ever be celebrated: especially when her death did nothing to prevent any undesirable political situations.
Best article I’ve read on this subject.
Excellent summary of today’s malaise. It’s not only your generation that has this ‘Life must be simple, don’t give me complicated, don’t make me think’ and ‘government is there to take responsibility when I get unfairly treated’ attitude. I see at all ages, except perhaps some of the over 70s.
1. Message to your generation: Life isn’t fair. Get over it.
2. An amplification of the ‘All profits are bad’ idea. With the state of financial understanding/education in this country, I’m not surprised that many people (a majority?) believe that profit = what the bosses take home. Try and explain the difference between profit and remuneration – and see how quickly the ‘too hard, too complicated’ blinds come down. They are just certain that if a company makes x billion profit, the bosses get x billion and that’s NOT FAIR (insert cry of thwarted baby here).
Hats off to you, Sir. That was masterful.
I lived through most of the 60s and all of the 70s and things were so far from rosy that I don’t think that many in the post-Thatcher can really grasp how long overdue (though admittedly painful) the changes were that she had resilience and honesty to drive through.
Truly magnificent. My (30-something) friends sound like carbon-copies of your friends, and I despair of them. It is that word, “fair”, you capture it perfectly there. Can’t things just be… “fair”? I always think of the P. J. O’Rourke quote:
Her great enemies were the fascistic generals in Argentina, the Communists in the Soviet Union and the NUM, and the terrorists of the IRA. You should ask your friends why they prefer such people.
Thatcher stands like a colossus over today’s politicians – she was always principled, decisive and courageous: three characteristics almost wholly lacking in the current party leaders. She consistently put principle before popularity – the radicalism of her first term was remarkable and in the light of her later victories it is easy to overlook how unpopular her radical economic reform programme of 1979-1981 really was.
As one of the 30-something children of Thatcher you mention it is sad to see such infantile and ignorant reactions to her passing. Some of this may be due to the juvenile nature of social media like Facebook/Twitter – what can we expect when everything has to be condensed into 50 word nuggets? But I think it is also due to the dumbing down of political debate – in the 1980s the Cold War helped to sharply illuminate the choices between socialism and capitalism – today when the political creeds are so anodyne debate is increasingly reduced to ad hominem attacks and spin.
That said, it is a bit glib though to dismiss the anger of Generation Y with ‘life isn’t fair – get over it’. For many young people, faced with the worst unemployment since the early 80s, falling real incomes, house prices at such extreme levels that they have no hope of owning a home, and pensions fast evaporating, their financial situation is worse than that enjoyed by the baby boomers. But the fact is the demons they should be slaying are Gordon Brown, Mervyn King, Callum McCarthy and other more recent fools who were grossly negligent in their oversight of the economy, not Thatcher.
I accept that youth unemployment rates in the UK are high, and that this might not “be fair”, but I’m also *very* aware that my company is struggling to recruit. We are getting some good UK applicants, but are increasingly having to pull people in from all over the globe. We even fly in (at our expense) people from Greece, Italy and beyond to attend interviews for graduate engineering positions starting at £26k-£27k because we can’t find local talent.
This irritates me. A lot.
I’m afraid that “degrees for all, please take one” doesn’t really cut it with employers. I’d love to be able to take bright A-level kids (who we now take on briefly for work experience) and put them on an apprentice programmes, but they need that piece of paper.
Meanwhile, UK universities keep asking us (at length) what they should be teaching their grads. When we tell them, they say that it’s much too hard and their admission numbers would suffer if they adopted such an up-to-date and challenging syllabus.
Words fail me.
Well said. That is all.
For what, it’s worth, I was there during the 50s ,60s, 70s and 80s. I struggle to find much in the above comments with which I can agree.
A couple with which I have some sympathy are:
“That said, it is a bit glib though to dismiss the anger of Generation Y with ‘life isn’t fair – get over it’. For many young people, faced with the worst unemployment since the early 80s, falling real incomes, house prices at such extreme levels that they have no hope of owning a home, and pensions fast evaporating, their financial situation is worse than that enjoyed by the baby boomers. ”
“I’m afraid that “degrees for all, please take one” doesn’t really cut it with employers.”
As for my own generation who are 60 years and older, I’m appalled by the selfish attitudes and bigotry which are so prevalent.
How come you don’t have any right wing friends? I do!
Fair enough on the article.
Frankly though, what a strange collection of straw men, half truths and hypocrisy in the comments?
@david – why is FTSE100 executive pay far outstripping investor returns?
@grumpyoldpaul- a baby boomer calling others selfish? Pull the other one pal!
School milk was originally brought in to supplement the poor working class diet rife through out our society. It occurs to me that the withdrawal of this nutrient may be the reason the writer has such an annoyance with 30 somethings who were disadvantaged by the lack of school milk. This I fear may also be a root cause to why we have so many social problems, poor diet equals poor intelligence.
I was a child of the 60’s and am now and was as a youngster anti Thatcher, did the demos and got the T-shirt. I am personally sick of the smothering social control now being almost enforced on our right to free speech by those too chicken shit to voice an honest opinion for fear of upsetting her supporters and slagging off those who are against her. If we had abused a frail old lady in life we would have been aborant individuals, but in her death (alone in a hotel room) where were her family, who we are supposed to be respectful of? Why did her own children abandon her if she was such a nice person?
This article is better than any national newspaper commentary I have ever read.
Enjoyed the article but, as you’ve so deftly demonstrated, without polarisation you don’t get air-time, you don’t get a reaction. Like this one.
I take exception to the tarring of an entire generation with the same brush just because the average joe doesn’t devote much energy to political self-education and needs to scream from the rafters to get heard. It was ever thus.
Still, as long as your putty-brained comrades are in the game there’s just a chance you may still be able to mould them. God forbid that we go to back an era when people didn’t feel they could contribute because they hadn’t passed the exam.
As for Mrs Thatcher. People love to have demons. And if she’s a cipher for where we are now then I hope her passing helps us to process whether we’re still on the right track. Perhaps it’s time to drive down a different road: one where we have the confidence to challenge winner-takes-all capitalism and to challenge the overweening belief in individual expression through consumption.
What a great article and rant. Your friends are classic examples of hypocrite faux-socialists, who make up the majority of Guardian readership.
Most of my friends of the same generation, and whether middle class or working class, take the opposite view.
So I don’t think it is an age group or class thing at all. Just the fate of who you hang with.
I have a couple of lefty chums, but they are remarkably tax efficient in their own affairs…
This is a really tough one for me because Mrs Thatcher was the first person I truly hated. I was 12 when she was first elected and live in South Wales. My father had left school at 14 and drove trucks in the opencast mine. He lost his job. He was unemployed on and off for the next 4 years. Sadly he then became ill and after a few years on invalidity he died when I was 19. So my teenage years were spent in a household with very little money. And rightly or wrongly I blamed Thatcher for that.
But at the same time my father strongly believed that education was the key to escaping poverty and he endlessly supported myself and my brother in doing that. (Something that sadly seems to have been lost in Welsh culture recently). And also for a man born in the 1920s he never believed being female meant you could not do something (Thanks Dad!).
I got my degree in the late 80s – ironically I had a full grant and it was more money than I’d ever had in my life.
20 something years later I have a well paid job in the NHS (which hopefully I’ll keep) and I’m doing alright. I am very lucky.
So what did I learn? – that you can live on very little money indeed, that s**t happens and you need to be ready for it, and that education can lift you upwards (at least in the 80s-90s it did). It also gave me a morbid fear of being unemployed.
So while I didn’t like Mrs Thatcher and won’t mourn her, I won’t celebrate her death either. No one deserves that – she wasn’t Hitler after all. [Though I might make an exception for that nutter in North Korea 😉 ]
I’ll never vote Tory but Labour won’t get my vote as things stand either. They are really lost – they don’t know which way to jump – left wing, right wing, puddle about in the middle and thus not stand for anything. I think the wealth inequality between London and the rest of Britain is wrong but probably not solvable. But what really frightens me is the increase in votes for BNP and UKIP – that is truly scary – that those sort of parties can gain power through indifference and appealing to the lowest common denominator. Aided by the muck of tabloid journalism.
Reading this back and compared to the society quote in the article, I am slightly scared to see that I am more Thatcherite than I ever realised. But one thing I’m very sure of – we’ll never know whether things would have worked out differently without her. We’d probably just have a different set of problems. And problems mean you’re alive.
I always had an ambivalent attitude to Mrs T because she made so many mistakes. I think the general thrust of economic liberalism that flourished under her rule was broadly beneficial and I am not sure it could have been prevented, even if she had wanted it. It was drastic because it fixed issues that MacMillan, Douglas-Home, Wilson, Heath and Callaghan had avoided for so long.
She broke up the cosy self-regulated world of finance and reregulated it under the rule of law. Sadly this was (and is) badly misunderstood by New Labour. On the other hand, she distorted the housing market, the consquences of which we still feel today. Local taxation policy wasn’t exactly a triumph, either.
The current crop of protests are amusing and inconsequential. The voices of angry people who have lost the argument and won’t admit it.
An interesting piece. Two thoughts.
First – Yes the 70s were really that bad and change had to happen.
I studied for my O-Levels by the light of a Tilley lamp as the electricity was switched off several times each week due to the strikes. And as Ken Clarke reminded us on QT – there were also bodies going unburied! The UK was truly at the meltdown point. I guess we either turned right or became a communist state and I don’t think any politician today would think turning further left at that point would have been a good idea – even Polly.
Second – sounds like you need a better mix of friends. Some intellects to balance out those idiots.
Being in the UK in the 1980s I remember that Magaret Thatcher was a deeply tribal politician – you were either one of “her people” or you weren’t
If you were one of her people you did very well that decade and if you weren’t you might well not do
Its very difficult to say someone was “great” when a very large section of the UK population visecerally loathed her
I would say that a lot of the outpouring of bile on the internet is a reaction to the “official” government/media line that she was universally adored by the nation during her rule – which simply isn’t true
Ever since Margaret Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister – after being pushed off the “cliff” by her friends – I’ve always dreaded the inevitable day she would die because underneath I knew that I’d never got proper “closure” from the horrors of the 1980’s.
I was in and out of temporary employment contracts in Liverpool during that decade and was in despair of ever finding a permanent job. If you total up all the time I was unemployed it came to exactly 5 years. The longest period of unemployment was 20 months.
I went to around unsuccessful 60 job interviews in London and the South East during this time. Quite a few of these interviews seemed to be with sadists – for want of a better word.
This kind of thing is totally soul destroying. And so is watching so many of those around you having their lives ruined too.
However, before the sad violins start to play there was a happy ending to this story in that I was finally offered a post as an economist giving advice on regeneration policy.
The miscalculated “Lawson Boom” had sucked all the new economics graduates out of the labour market, meaning that employers had to recycle some of the people on the scrap-heap (like myself).
One of the results of all the previous miserable job insecurity was that I vowed to become financially independent.
I scrimped, saved and learned everything that could be learned about investment.
Three years ago at the age of 52 I was able to retire from the rat race.
All this celebration about Maggie Thatcher’s death totally disgusts me.
During the period of Mrs Thatcher’s government the unemployed were pretty much told that they would just have to put up with it – whilst we were not so subtly demonised by that same government.
Current supporters of Mrs Thatcher seem to believe that all the bitterness that has poured out since her death is just a case of sour grapes by committed socialists.
This is not so.
Millions of people did very badly during the 1980’s and incurred deep psychological scars – as I’m suddenly finding out since she died.
Margaret Thatcher had her successes and failures – but was not a good person.
She seemed to take great pride in being hard faced and callous to the suffering that was happening in the great transformation of the economy.
…….. And she never said sorry for her indifference. As long as Maggie was assured her place in history, she was happy.
I apologise if the ramblings above are an unpleasant read. It’s just that in the stampede to praise Mrs Thatcher there are many of us that have a different tale to tell of her government and our voice is in danger of being written out of history.
As for succeeding in becoming financially independent, I think this has been achieved in spite of Mrs Thatcher and not because of her.
May your investments always prosper.
No mudslinging here – more than enough of that elsewhere. I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading that. Thanks.
Neverland: where is the “official ” government/media line that she was universally adored to be found? At age 72 and retired, I have read and listened to almost six days of analysis, most of it pretty balanced between left and right-wing. You seem to be saying the obvious – that she wasn’t universally adored. (Who is?)
A very large section of the UK population viscerally loathed Scargill too.
An intelligent and witty post, Mr Investor!
@Elizabeth – I didn’t say she wasn’t universally adored I said she was viscerally loathed
Have a read of the comments by Robert Harrison above
That was the reality of that decade for millions of people
There hasn’t been much balanced analysis of Thatcher’s legacy just right wing analysis OR left wing analysis
My husband and I were unemployed off and on during the 80s; it was worrying and terribly stressful but it never occurred to us to blame Thatcher. We blamed the world economy.
I will quote this directly from Bob Harrison’s post:
“Margaret Thatcher had her successes and failures – but was not a good person.
She seemed to take great pride in being hard faced and callous to the suffering that was happening in the great transformation of the economy.
…….. And she never said sorry for her indifference. As long as Maggie was assured her place in history, she was happy.”
Crikey. That, sir, was a top rant and a cracking good read. Brilliant!
“As one of the 30-something children of Thatcher you mention it is sad to see such infantile and ignorant reactions to her passing. Some of this may be due to the juvenile nature of social media like Facebook/Twitter – what can we expect when everything has to be condensed into 50 word nuggets? But I think it is also due to the dumbing down of political debate”
I’m afraid many of the briefer comments above illustrate precisely that point.
I normally enjoy reading your blog and the comments which are usually polite, stimulating, have factual content and are often well-argued and nuanced.
Sadly, I’m afraid this is an exception.
@ Neverland – I’m with Elizabeth, there is no official media line telling us what to think. I too have listened to several days worth of commentators from left and right, eulogising or demonising depending on their leaning.
Thatcher not a good person? She spent years in the service of her cause, plainly did what she thought was right and was, by all accounts, very generous on a personal level.
On the other hand, breaking through the glass ceiling doubtless taught her to show no weakness, she had personal mannerisms guaranteed to get up your nose and she was soft on Pinochet and Apartheid.
Who knows if she was indifferent to the suffering of the communities that her policies devastated? I suspect she believed she had to do it and that things would only get worse if the days of reckoning were delayed any longer.
Political leadership is about making hard choices not about being loved or universally admired.
I am not well informed about the details of Thatcher, but I currently hold the belief that she was someone one ought to despise because she supported and befriended (materially and personally) an *evil* person, someone responsible for the murders, tortures, and rapes of thousands of people, Pinochet.
Have I got this wrong, factually or ethically?
My dad and granddad together ran a haulage business through the 60’s and 70’s, until my granddad’s untimely death in 1984 at 59. My granddad left school at 14 and joined his father down the pit. Ten years later in 1948 he left the mine to start his own business. My dad tells me stories of union power in the 60’s and 70’s, yes it was hard work running a business in that period.
80 people turn up Glasgow/George square and celebrate Thatchers death,the media have a field day and report it as Scotland/what I could see most were students who weren’t even alive when Thatcher left office.
I was on the anti Iraq war march 2003 Glasgow,80,000
nowadays you get 80 people showing up an media go manic
ding dong the witch is dead sums up the banality of politics today,if that’s there best argument play the song
I am of your generation. You don’t speak for me. We life in a neoliberal existence of greed and selfishness, which Thatcher embodied.
@Joe — Absolutely I do not speak for you. That was the point of my article. I’m likely speaking out against you, based on the few words you’ve written here.
There are many ways to define “a neoliberal existence of greed and selfishness, which Thatcher embodied” and I’m sure your definition would be different to mine. If you’re anything like my friends on Facebook, it would involve pointing to people with more money than you and repeating a few things you heard Billy Bragg say. (I have no beef with Mr Bragg, for the record. He seems a superb and committed advocate and campaigner to me. Unlike many of his followers).
But obviously we don’t know each other so I shan’t presume.
Let’s look at a few statistics to see if we’re living in some nation of gross selfishness without regard for others.
UK international aid budget as a % of GDP
(Source 1 / Source 2)
We are the first G8 nation to hit this target (achieved in 2013) and join a very small group with Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark and the Netherlands.
Ooops! Not so greedy after all.
What about UK welfare spending?
Perhaps we give overseas but neglect welfare at home?
Total welfare expenditure as % of GDP (DWP figures)
(Source) (Also: We’re pretty typical for Europe)
Oops! Not so greedy after all.
Yes, wealth inequality is a big and growing issue, but I don’t believe it’s caused by “a neoliberal existence of greed and selfishness”. I think it’s caused by everyday human greed and selfishness, that I, everyone I know, and likely you but I shan’t presume, exhibit every day, plus the impact of globalisation and technology, especially network effects that amplify the tendencies of winners to take more and more.
@All — Thanks for all your comments and especially the generous compliments. I’m sorry Grumpy Paul, but I don’t really recognize your sentiments on reading these — I think people have been far more polite and balanced than I’ve read elsewhere (though I have deleted a handful of abusive ones on both “sides”, but you won’t have seen these — I delete them before they cause offence).
Thank you Investor for the time taken to think about then write this article. As a UK citizen living in NZ, I have been appalled by the contrite attitude of the vocal few.
I will admire any leader that has the courage to stick to their principles and make hard changes happen despite the backlash. These qualities are severely lacking in this generation of politicians.
I wish you hadn’t told us that you’ve had to delete comments; the thread thus far was doing a lot to rebuild my faith in human rationality after it had been somewhat damaged by reading comments to articles elsewhere on the same subject.
Note to self: stop reading comments threads other than here.
Additional note: must prune facebook friend list real soon now!
“I will admire any leader that has the courage to stick to their principles and make hard changes happen despite the backlash.”
Any leader, really ?
Would you include Pol Pot, Stalin, Lenin or Mao ?
Of course he wouldn’t… In light of your previous comments Pot Kettle Black springs to mind Grumpy Old Paul!
A glib response to my own glib response. Have a read of Thatcher & Sons, The Spirit Level and Capitalist Realism. Then have a walk around Liverpool, Belfast, South Wales, Glasgow and Newcastle and share your views. Thatcher did an awful lot of harm. I struggle with your denial of neoliberalism as a force of inequality and greed and if you are suggesting that this country is fair you are wrong.
Thankyou for moderating this thread.
It’s always difficult to become a censor when one supports free speech.
However, we are all your guests here and you are showing us proper consideration in making sure we all leave our computer keyboards emotionally unscathed.
I’ve just realised that the last sentence above can be read as endowing computer keyboards with emotions. :o)
So , to try again……
However, we are all your guests here and you are showing us proper consideration in making sure we’re all emotionally unscathed when we leave our computer keyboards .
So this is what retirement does to you!
@Bob — Thanks very much, I appreciate the support. It’s not nice to wake up in the morning to abusive comments that have apparently been written by Burnley’s answer to Quentin Tarantino or — worse — wholly inaccurate ones that attack fantasy statements I never said.
I’ve had a mini-barrage in the past 24 hours claiming I wrote that “I’m rich, everyone else can ****” and that as I’m deleting abusive comments “Thatcher would be proud”.
There’s no point me posting them then retorting that I believe in redistribution and the State sufficiently to vote for Labour in the late 1990s — as I said in the article — and would again in the right circumstances, or that I’ve pointed to say the international aid giving as an achievement — something that I think we should be more proud of as a country, actually. (As for Thatcher, she deregulated the media).
They don’t listen, and prefer to attack ludicrous straw men.
It is almost tempting to put them up because they make the point of this article so well for me, but with regard to the bigger picture I’ve seen countless websites ruined by abusive tit-for-tat. So I long ago decided my own website would be a benevolent dictatorship. (I rarely have to delete anything but spam, thankfully).
I’ve not deleted one single comment in this thread because it disagreed with me, as the sensible comments from yourself, Joe, Sarah, and others demonstrate.
You have my full support too. On rereading my comment (29), because of my sloppy wording it may have been open to interpretation as a criticism of you. It was absolutely not intended to have been.
It cannot be much fun receiving a barrage of abuse in your inbox. And I can also see that some people don’t read what you actually write. Keep up the good work!
Cheers Paul, much appreciated! 🙂
Another brilliant piece of writing (with a great 80’s soundtrack). It is actually a lament and one I was utterly drawn into, a bit like the way a beautiful bagpipe lament completely takes over you, tears your heart and settles into your bones.
@Minikins — Very definitely too generous, but thank you.
I came across this post today on a link.
It stirred a very particular memory for me as Thatcher’s death was announced by the captain (Dutch) during a sailing trip across the South Atlantic. There were about 45 of mixed (mainly European) nationality on board. I found it quite difficult to accept (on the UK’s behalf so to speak) the heartfelt condolences of Dutch, German and French for the loss of our former great leader. It was something I did not feel in any shape or form. It was remarkable to me how well she was known abroad and what a great figure she was thought to be so many years after her period in power.
I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and have a clear recollection of not only the problems of that era but also of the widespread denial of the true state of our country and it’s place in the world.
There is no doubt in my mind that she was a remarkable woman who tackled difficult and serious problems with determination and resolve. The country would without doubt be in a very different (mostly worse) place without her.
I moved to Scotland from the South East a few years before Mrs T came to power and have stayed up here ever since. Her divisiveness across the whole of the UK was brought into sharper focus in Scotland by the poll tax debacle. Her legacy here apart from a widespread personal loathing of her, was of a decimated Scottish Conservative Party and a bloated nepotistic Scottish Labour Party filling the vacuum. I found it all too easy to share that personal loathing. No good came from Thatcher or the Westminster parliament by association – the emotional separation of Scotland from the rest of the UK had begun.
The fruits of that legacy have been seen in the Referendum campaign and will likely also be seen reflected in a landslide for the SNP in the forthcoming election. Who can tell what will follow….. It is interesting to see the current almost complete lack of understanding in England about what is happening in Scotland and why the SNP is so strong.
My apologies if my comments are a bit off the general thread, but it just may yet be that Mrs T’s greatest legacy will be the breakup of the UK??
Well written and argued.
Having lived in a northern mill town from Birth to the early 90’s I watched the decline that my region suffered under Thatcherite policies, I was of the age when a job would have been nice in my 19th year but I was in the queue with 200 more, many with families to feed for every one worth having. I saw 30 mills close down in a town of 25,000 people and queues twice around the block come signing on day. I saw skilled engineers and toolmakers idle or doing anything they could, crime rise, illegal cash in hand work rise and then, to add to the indignity, had to watch Harry Enfield in that there London proclaiming that he had loads of money, Yuppies become a thing (down south, they regularly got “Twatted” up north) and the banking sector (in London) produce silly people with a propensity to wear red braces (suspenders if you are reading this over the pond), again, with loads of money and arrogant attitudes!
Obviously I moved out of that town, I had to… And now live in a delightful place that did well under Thatcher. And still is doing well!!! We are still reprocessing and dealing with the half spent waste that the nuclear power stations produced from running over capacity to keep the lights on when the miners went out on strike. It got put into cooling ponds and forgot about because we didn’t have the capacity to do anything with it at the time, degraded beyond use and we will be cleaning up and de-commisioning it for lifetimes.
You may be getting the feeling that I’m not too positive about Mrs T, I have done fine in her legacy, and some of the things she did have improved my life. I still remember the class war though, and it felt bad to lose it. London is not the only part of Britain that matters.