A Few Thoughts on Thatcher’s demise

Had you asked me five or ten years ago what I thought of Margaret Thatcher then I would have let forth a stream of invective and only subsided as my blood pressure reached a critical point.

But now on reflection I am not sure I could do the same. That is not to say I do not loathe every facet of Thatcher’s governments, but I feel we should avoid overly simplifying our reactions to her demise.

I think it is necessary to separate out the person from the politics and the wider consequences.

Consequences

Looking at the latter first. It is hard to describe to contemporary generations what Britain was like some 40 years ago. Not only in terms of lack of technology, variation or the comparatively insular nature of society back then. Whole books have been written on the political, economic and social legacy of Thatcherism, instead I would sum those changes up in two words, privatisation and profit.

When you look at fragmented British society with its extremes of wealth and poverty that is a legacy of Thatcherism. Where other European countries have public utilities running public services Britain has a range of private monopolies, which yearly attack people’s pockets. Other countries have joined up transport and infrastructure, Britain has Thatcher’s legacy.

Nevertheless, she cannot take all of the blame, numerous politicians, some even found in public life today (Michael Portillo is but one example) were key advocates of Thatcher’s myopic policies back then.

The politics

Thatcherism has had a profound political influence in Britain, all major political parties eventually succumb to its ideas, one way or the other. The notion that the market could fix everything, or nearly everything, has been adopted by both Conservative and Labour Party. Tony Blair, was obviously from the outset an admirer of Margaret Thatcher, brought those maligned policies into the Labour Party. This can be seen by the fool hardly and dangerous changes to the NHS over the past 16 years.

But the adoption of manic pro-market politics cannot be blamed solely on Thatcher. While she was a vehicle and obvious face of those wretched ideas, others chose to pick up the policies and articulate them, with the resultant mess that we see in Britain today: scarcely any manufacturing, poor public services, poorer infrastructure and a seriously divided society

The person

Margaret Thatcher was a singularly clever individual, who crawled her way to the top of the Conservative Party. When they had no use for her she was stabbed in the back and thrown aside.

If newspaper reports are to be believed, she suffered numerous ailments, the loss of a husband and serious dementia which is punishment enough for one person

But the other individuals, who articulated or benefited from her policies, have greater culpability.

Thatcher alone was not to blame for Britain’s adoption of vicious pro-market attitudes. Thatcher alone was not to blame for profiteering. Thatcher cannot be blamed, solely, for a financial sector, which is a law unto itself. She, alone, cannot be blamed for the lifelong misery, unemployment and destitution which resulted from her and subsequent governments’ policies.

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Many, many others are to blame, as well.

She died as a sad, confused individual. A failure.

More is the pity that the pro-market nonsense she articulated can not be buried at the same time.
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IDS: Iain Duncan Smith And His Wikipedia Entry

Whilst having a laugh at Iain Duncan Smith’s wiki entry (notice his profession), please sign the change.org petition to make him live on £53 per week.

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Genteel Racism at Liberal Conspiracy And Cranks Around Up

We tend to think of anti-Jewish sentiment as coming from the Far Right, yet nowadays it is fairly common to find examples of it on liberal or left wing web sites. It is not overt or blunt as found amongst the extreme racists, but there are tell-tale signs: conspiracy theories and strange terminology.

Some posters at Liberal Conspiracy indulge in such activities without a moment’s recrimination or actions from the site’s moderators or post’s author.

I am not surprised that racists mount their pathetic hobbyhorses, rather that the non-racists who read that material at Liberal Conspiracy can’t see a problem or are willing to let it go unchallenged. If I were charitable I might conclude that most at Liberal Conspiracy don’t understand racism, and in particular anti-Jewish racism.

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Shorter version: maligning Israelis and Jews gives the game away. Particularly if there is a pejorative reference to the “Chosen”, or consciously linking to Rense, a site which proffers conspiracy theories, anti-Jewish racism and approvingly advertises David Duke.

This is not an isolated incident at Liberal Conspiracy as I have covered such poor behaviour before.

Even George Orwell spotted this form of usage in the post war period.

In an under reported topic on the British media, Asiya Islam looks at discrimination faced by Muslims, as seen by five women:
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Orwell, Atos and The Tories

Like many, I have read most of Orwell’s work, discussed and debated what he was trying to get at and even questioned some of his later decisions. Not unsurprisingly there is a lot to get to grips with. He was a multifaceted character living in turbulent times and profoundly affected by it.

David Aaronovitch does an excellent job in presenting the views of various scholars, friends and associates of Orwell. Nicely balanced. Over at the BBC Iplayer, The Road to Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Readers will remember how the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) outsourced to Atos, eligibility assessments of the disabled. Atos, in return, have been roundly criticised for declaring people to be “fit for work” only to have them die a few weeks later. Charities and other organisations connected with disabilities have pointed out the flaws in Atos’s methodology.

But now, in a bizarre twist, Atos are outsourcing many of those assessments to the NHS.

So the Public sector outsources to the private sector, a nasty task, who in turn outsource it back to parts of, the once, Public sector.

Atos is using this to deflect criticism on how many of those declared fit either die or end up destitute, whilst Atos rakes in millions.

From Lebanon, Hezbollah has been attacking Syrians with rockets.

Mapping child poverty, not something the Tories or their LibDem allies will welcome.

In other news, a UN official wonders about food banks in Britain. I am just waiting for some idiot Tory to trumpet them, saying “…at least we are world leaders in food banks!”

The privatisation of education continues a pace as Gove brings in help to sack people.

Polly Toynbee on the bedroom tax and housing.

Not above shelf stacking.

Finally, NHS privatisation: Compilation of financial and vested interests, well worth a read. I can’t even imagine how scathing George Orwell would have been, of a society which attacks the poorest and weakest whilst selling off the family silver, and for once a Tory was right about something.

French Imams, Sellafield Dumping And Syria Round Up

So much to blog so little time to do it. I have been meaning to do a couple of posts and roundups, but never finally get round to finishing off. In the interim, this is a meagre effort.

Given the background to recent events, this visit was a very positive move:

“(JTA) — Dozens of imams have commemorated the Holocaust at a monument near Paris.

Monday’s event took place at Drancy, a suburb of the French capital where tens of thousands of Jews were confined in 1942 before being transported to extermination camps during the German Nazi occupation. The French paper Le Figaro called the event unprecedented.

France’s interior minister, Manuel Valls, who also attended the cermony, said the imams’ presence there made for “a very strong image that speaks better than words and speeches,” according to the website of the French television station TF1. He added: “The world needs peace and harmony, people who engage in dialogue and listen.”

Hassen Chalghoumi, the imam of Drancy and a veteran activist for dialogue between Muslims and Jews in France and against anti-Semitism, hosted the imams.

Le Figaro reported at least 100 imams were expected to arrive to Drancy. The event, according to the report, was the initiative of Chalghoumi and the French Jewish novelist Marek Halter.”

Despite six decades of experience, the management Sellafield (Windscale) do not really understand their duties and responsibilities. They have been dumping nuclear waste in landfill sites.

Even Centrica are walking away from these failures.

The tame Public Accounts Committee have criticised the inability to deal with nuclear waste:

“An enormous legacy of nuclear waste has been allowed to build up on the Sellafield site. Over decades, successive governments have failed to get to grips with this critical problem, to the point where the total lifetime cost of decommissioning the site has now reached £67.5 billion, and there’s no indication of when that cost will stop rising.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority believes that its decommissioning plan is credible but it has not been sufficiently tested and uncertainties remain – not least around what precisely is in the waste that lies in the legacy ponds and silos. “

The situation in Syria worsens by the day. The International Rescue Committee’s report made grim reading. Only recently some 800 people were killed in one week. Eight hundred.

Coverage in the Western media barely reflects the seriousness of the situation. Nearly 5,000 are estimated to be killed, every month in Syria. The Daily Beast’s coverage is better than most, but hardly what is needed.

In other news, Chris Huhme won’t be expelled from LibDems for bare faced lying.

Charley Windsor screws the workers.

The F-Word’s Caring and living in poverty is an absorbing piece. Robert Reich’s new documentary, Inequality for All, looks at the issues from an unconventional angle.

Finally, NBC reports on the full-on crisis in Syria:

“”This is a full-on crisis,” Adrian Edwards, spokesman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told a news briefing in Geneva. “There was a huge increase in January alone; we’re talking about a 25 percent increase in registered refugee numbers over a single month.”

Since the conflict began two years ago, more than 787,000 Syrians have registered as refugees or are awaiting processing in the region, mainly in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Turkey, he said.

In Syria, water shortages are worsening and supplies are sometimes contaminated, putting children at an increased risk of diseases, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned on Friday.”

The US, Food Banks And Real People

Gary Younge’s description of real Americans discussing their once well-off circumstances and the need for food banks is a reminder of how precarious existence can be:

“Mark’s fortunes began to change in the summer of 2009 when was a human resources manager in a company with 1,500 employees. He was let go and replaced by a colleague 20 years his junior on half his salary. He could have found other work elsewhere in the country, but that would have involved uprooting his three children, and he didn’t think that was fair. He got another job in a start-up that involved a long commute and eventually collapsed owing him money. With his mortgage paid off and no debts, the biggest expense for a family of five was healthcare. Since everyone in the family was healthy they contemplated doing without it.

Then his youngest daughter got bitten by a rattlesnake. “That would have been a six-figure healthcare bill,” he says. “If we’d gotten rid of healthcare at that point we would have been sunk.” It was around that time he started going to the food bank. He stopped after he got a job at a major bookstore as a night-time accountant and head cashier paying just $9 an hour but with good health benefits, and is now getting a human resources consultancy practice off the ground.

When Pezzani heard the tape of Romney referring disparagingly to the 47% of the country who don’t pay taxes she was unimpressed. “It’s very difficult to see the folks that we’re serving maligned in that way,” she says. Beck-Ferkiss at the HPI has similar reservations. “It’s hard for me to believe that Romney is focused on the population that I serve,” she says.

Mark, however, says it just confirmed everything he already thought. “It doesn’t surprise me about Romney because he’s always struck me as a stuffed shirt. He’s arrogant, and it’s hard for me to get past that. It didn’t change my mind about him because I always thought that about him. It was exactly the same as Obama saying “You didn’t build that”. Those were exactly the words I would expect to come out of his mouth.” “