Tuesday, April 09, 2013

We Shall Not Look Upon Her Like Again

Ken Livingstone summed her up well, although he had a lot more negative things to say about her :

Ken Livingstone, Labour’s former London Mayor who clashed with Lady Thatcher during his time running the Greater London Council in the 1980s, said her personal “courage and drive” made her “the most admirable prime minister of modern times”.

“She didn’t worry about focus groups, she didn’t read the newspapers,” he said.

“There was real courage.”

However, Mr Livingstone said it had been “a tragedy for Britain” that her policies had been so badly flawed.

The Thatcher years were the start of the world we live in today. Her Premiership saw:

a) The start of the debt-fuelled culture which crashed in 2008 - remember "takes the waiting out of wanting" ?
b) The rise of the UK underclass, bastardy and drug use
c) The rise of the deregulated financial “economy” and decline of manufacturing
d) The rise in house prices
e) a collapse in the birth rate as
f) more women participated in the workforce (so they could afford a house!)
g) a dramatic rise in crime – linked to b)
h) the sell-off of vital infrastructure – power generation and distribution being the most important

While winning her economic wars, she was defeated in the culture wars – I’m not sure she even realised she was fighting one, let alone that she was losing. At any event, the Britain of 1990 was a lot further from Alderman Roberts’ Grantham than the Britain of 1979.

But the thing is – every government since has overseen the continuation and perhaps intensification of all the baleful trends above – with the one glorious exception of the Blessed Michael Howard’s noble reversal of the previous 50 years penal policy.

And, of course, Blair added a few more baleful trends all of his very own - including massive immigration and stopping all nuclear development in 1998.

We see in the Thatcher years yet again the contrast between the post-68 left's total dominance of the social agenda and their defeats on the economic agenda. A former girlfriend was a trainee social worker in 1980 - those girls hated Thatcher, more for her conservative social beliefs and her personal style than her economics. Such a straight !

Thatcher’s small-town conservative social values were almost redundant by the end of her reign, with rocketing rates of crime, bastardy, drug use, STIs.

The 80s were when the 60s went mainstream – I can still remember finding a bunch of lager-drinking ‘lads’ from my local picking magic mushrooms one September – their counterparts of ten or fifteen years before would have avoided such things like the plague.

So why did Mrs Thatcher’s social agenda fail so dismally while her economic agenda – at least as regards crippling union power – succeed?

Because individual capitalists – especially in the financial sector – found that none of that made much difference to their profits. Some things, like the influx of women into the labour market, and a move from manufacturing to services, were a positive boon as far as reducing militancy and strikes were concerned. The destruction of the existing cultural landscape was no problem to people who didn’t particularly identify with it – like Rupert Murdoch.

Bastardy, crime and the underclass were much more of a problem for working class people than the elite, who didn’t have to live with it or send their kids to school with it. Not much anti-social behaviour in Roy Jenkins’ Oxfordshire village – plenty in the Valleys where he was born.

Sure, taxes were quite high to pay the benefits bill – but they were coming down, and compared to the 1960s they were massively reduced. And North Sea oil paid the bills and enabled us to keep the balance of payments deficit getting too outrageous – while the City tax take climbed ever higher. You can only take one step at a time – IIRC Mrs Thatcher’s share of state spending was around the same when she left as when she arrived – remarkable when you think what the state no longer did – steel, coal, gas, water, power.

It's arguable (I tend to agnosticism) that Mrs Thatcher's curbing of the unions may have been a good thing in a relatively closed society. But when that was combined with immigration on the scale of the Blair years, it was an invitation to capitalists to fill their boots, then grind them in the faces of the poor. The toxic synergy of capitalist economic ideas (up to a point - would Adam Smith have bailed out the banks?) and post-68 left social ideas have between them created the Britain we see today - and it's not a pretty sight.