Dave Douglass, An Almost Final Word On Thatcher’s Funeral

When next someone ask you about what it was like to live under Thatcher and what she did, please refer them to Dave Douglass.

His dignified and measured interview on Channel 4 is one man’s summation of Thatcherism, which speaks to us all.

The Absurdity Of The Margaret Thatcher Memorial Library

There is some discussion in the media of a Margaret Thatcher Memorial library, as a way of preserving her memory. It is common for retired presidents of the United States to create a library where their monumental decisions, which could have affected a world, are recorded.

They are mostly vanity projects, but may as with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s or JFK’s libraries be of wider significance and they do fall under the supervision of the NARA.

Whilst the American tax system encourages philanthropic gestures from the excessively wealthy to help create and maintain such libraries, that is not true in Britain. booksmess1

That is part of the reason why I can not see it coming off, at least in the short term. There is a significant reluctance amongst the obscenely rich in Britain to put their hand in their own pockets for the benefit of others.

We are going to witness this next week, as Margaret Thatcher’s funeral will be paid for, mostly, by the State, which is extraordinary.

Not for nearly 50 years taxpayers have had to pay for an ex-Prime Minister’s burial and then only for the exceptional Winston Churchill, when he died in 1965. Even the matchless Clement Attlee, creator of the NHS along with Nye Bevan, had private funerals, which their families paid for.

It is more probable that any Thatcher Memorial library be sponsored or maintain, in part, by Her Majesty’s Government, directly or indirectly. Those who made a packet out of Thatcher’s misrule, bankers, speculators and spivs would only begrudgingly part with money if they can share in some of the reflected glory.

Even if it gets built, with private money and no state sponsorship, then how would it continue running? Who would bear the costs?

Certainly, Thatcher’s estate rumoured to be worth in excess of £60 million could afford it, but her mean spirited offspring are unlikely to give up any significant funds. And if it could be built, money found to keep it going, what would it contain?

Some tawdry copies of the Daily Mail? Or perhaps the knife, which the Tories plunged into Thatcher’s back in 1991, causing her resignation, would be made a prime exhibit?

All in all, it is a terrible idea, based on questionable assumptions, for a political philosophy more accustomed to closinglibraries than opening them.

Update 1: Apparently, the political comedian behind the Thatcher Memorial library is Donal Blaney. He’s a questionable individual, only too willing to make excuses for the fascist dictator, Augusto Pinochet. This link to Tory HQ shows the political pathology at the heart of British conservative thinking, the relativising of Pinochet’s atrocious regime.

Update 2: The Beeb seems to approve of this idea, or at least that is the tone of this news piece.

Railways: A Manifestation Of Thatcherism

During the post-war period the railways were nationalised after years of neglect by private owners, in many ways they were seen as key to building and enhancing Britain’s infrastructure.

Thatcherism changed all of that.

Two of its key aims were to sell off the family silver and enrich its supporters, so it was with Major’s breakup of the railways.

The net result is a poorer, accident prone railway system which rewards management failure and pays individual workers a pittance.

More examples of this Thatherite attitude has been seen recently:

“Network Rail has paid out £630,000 to four of its executive directors as a portion of their long-term incentive plan (L-tip) to reflect the organisation’s performance in the period 2009-12.

However, Network Rail’s remuneration committee decided to reduce the award by 20% to take into account specific safety and train performance issues.

Patrick Butcher, finance director, was awarded £168,000, while Robin Gisby, managing director of network operations and Simon Kirby, managing director of infrastructure projects, were awarded £158,000, and Paul Plummer, group strategy director was awarded £148,000. Chief executive David Higgins did not qualify because he was not with the organisation in 2009.”

In July 2012 even the Torygraph was moved to comment:

“The taxpayer-backed company is once again at the centre of a political row, after it put forward plans to pay five directors an extra £2.6 million under two new schemes.

Under the proposals, three directors at the company will get payments of £300,000 each in 2014 just for turning up to work for the next two years.”

It pointed out the dismal record of Network Rail’s management:

“Two months later, the operator was fined £4 million over the Grayrigg rail disaster that killed one person and seriously injured 28 others.

Within the last two years, Network Rail has also been fined £1 million over the deaths of two school girls at a level crossing in 2005 and £3 million over the Potters Bar crash in 2002 that left seven dead.

The company is also under pressure over its punctuality, leaving it in danger of a £42 million fine. It has a target of running 92 per cent of trains on time – or less than ten minutes late.

At the moment, it is only providing 89.2 per cent of services within these limits, risking a £1.5 million fine for each 0.1 per cent below the target. “

Continue reading

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.

Tory_cab2

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.
Continue reading

An Occasional Murdoch, NHS and Misogyny Roundup

Rupert Murdoch ate a mountain of humble pie at the Levinson inquiry and looked distinctly uncomfortable with his newfound humility.

That’s a thing of the past. Murdoch reveals his true feelings on Twitter:

“Told UK’s Cameron receiving scumbag celebrities pushing for even more privacy laws. Trust the toffs! Transparency under attack. Bad.”

Charlotte Church was a bit annoyed.

Over at the NHS they are not happy, according to one of its honchos:

“The head of the NHS has laid bare his fears that the government’s controversial reforms of the health service could end in “misery and failure”.

Women in the media, why the disparity?

An ex-Wikileaks supporter explains why:

“For a long time now I was a strong supporter of Julian. I used to donate regularly to him. I defended and supported his actions because I believed in the cause that he was fighting for. Since the days of the original attack I ran the primary South African Wikileaks mirror (www.wikileaks.za.org). Back in those days thousands of us rallied to support Wikileaks when it was under constant DDOS attack.

Now I see the absolute disdain the Assange`s treat this cause with I can no longer put my support behind the idea. To the Assange’s it has become the Assange Road Show. Wikileaks is all about them and their own personal agenda. “

Malatesta covers the activity of the British Far Right with humour, look out for Mike Mosley, yet another neo-Nazi that likes guns.

This is a piece of understated reporting if ever there was one.

French antisemitism comes to the fore on Twitter.

An indicator, if one was needed, of Tory failures, food banks serving more.

In Australia, the definition of misogyny is being updated.

When Universal Credit is introduced in Britain, the disabled will lose out.

Radovan Karadžić’s lying know no bounds.

When you think about buying an iPhone remember that Foxcon are still using youngsters to make their bits.

Worried by Americanisms? Linguistic traffic is not one way, as the Beeb shows.

Good news, neo-Nazi’s plans for social media thwarted by Twitter.

Tens of thousands have disappeared in Syria.

Paramilitary abuse and raped in Colombia, one woman’s tale.

Thanks to the UK Human Rights Blog and Irène Solomon there is an unofficial English translation of the Rachel Corrie judgment.

The Beeb and its mistakes over the Jimmy Savile investigation.

The New Yorker on Romney:

“Romney’s conviction is that the broad swath of citizens who do not pay federal income tax—a category that includes pensioners, soldiers, low-income workers, and those who have lost their jobs—are parasites, too far gone in sloth and dependency to be worth the breath one might spend asking for their votes. His descent to this cynical view—further evidenced by his selection of a running mate, Paul Ryan, who is the epitome of the contemporary radical Republican—has been dishearteningly smooth. He in essence renounced his greatest achievement in public life—the Massachusetts health-care law—because its national manifestation, Obamacare, is anathema to the Tea Party and to the G.O.P. in general. He has tacked to the hard right on abortion, immigration, gun laws, climate change, stem-cell research, gay rights, the Bush tax cuts, and a host of foreign-policy issues. He has signed the Grover Norquist no-tax-hike pledge and endorsed Ryan’s winner-take-all economics. “

Finally, the CST’s Online radicalisation. ‘Lone wolves’ of all stripes.

The BBC And The NHS

I think Martin Shovel doesn’t get the recognition that his wit and drawing skills deserve.

In this case he details with the BBC’s attitude to the NHS:

Those readers unfamiliar with the issues would do well to read Oliver Huitson’s and openDemocracy contribution:

“The BBC’s coverage of the NHS bill represents a profound failure to inform the public on an issue of the utmost importance. To summarise, it appears that:

– the BBC never questioned or explored the lack of democratic mandate for the changes to the NHS

– they consistently presented the bill using the government’s own highly contested description

– expert critics were not given the space and opportunity to highlight the true nature of their objections

– financial links between healthcare firms, the Conservatives and the House of Lords were never reported

– the significant role of the private sector in Lansley’s new health market was never explored

– fears over privatisation were occasionally stated but never explored or explained

– the role of private firms in commissioning care was not properly explained, if at all

– the role of private firms in creating the bill was never examined or reported

– sources with significant links to private healthcare were presented without a disclosure of their interests

– the BBC censored key stories, particularly as the bill reached its final stages. On 19 March 2012 when the bill was finally passed in the Lords, BBC Online published not a single article of news or analysis on the bill. “

Continue reading

The Nasty Party In 2012

I suppose, like many who take a passing interest in politics, that I have watched a fair few party political conferences, but what we see on television is only part of it.

Decca Aitkenhead ably reveals the Nasty Party:

“It’s a very different story at an Adam Smith Institute fringe meeting on economic growth later that afternoon. It’s not just standing room only – people can’t even squeeze into the room – but still they hover at the door, hungry for the narcotic blast of high-grade, free-market rhetorical cocaine. “Remember: low taxes and low spending. If you just remember that,” urges a speaker, “a lot of our difficulties will be removed.” The chair despairs of Osborne’s warning that morning to people who don’t pay their taxes (“Why is tax avoidance a priority?”). The mantra is relentless: cut taxes, cut spending, roll back the state.

Only a few years ago this sort of session had been exiled to the fringes of the fringe, confined to diehard followers of John Redwood, but now meetings such as this dominate the week, like a runaway Thatcherite express train hurtling back to the 80s.

Every party conference can become a bit of a parallel universe, safe behind its G4S security cordon, but this takes the bubble mentality to a whole new level. In the real world outside, austerity is hurting and voters are complaining about cuts, but here inside most people put the government’s problems down to being too wet and leftwing. A Populus fringe meeting delivers an avalanche of bad news about the party’s poll ratings, but to a half-empty room; in previous years, when the polling news was good, the Populus meeting was always well attended. Now the party doesn’t seem keen to hear what voters think of them.

Ann Widdecombe’s anti-gay marriage rally, on the other hand, is packed and excitable to the point of pantomime, with Widdecombe on her feet conducting the audience from the stage. “Is that how we want our country to look?” she trills. “No!” everyone roars. “This is not an anti-gay rally, it is defining marriage full stop!” she shrieks. “Yes!” everyone cheers. “

(H/T: @jomccarron)

Toynbee on Cameron And Thatcher.

Polly Toynbee is right to argue, despite its supposed fluffiness, that the Cameron administration is even to the right of Margaret Thatcher:

“When Cameron assumed leadership of a party that had lost three elections, the focus groups warned him to embrace welfare state values. Or at least to pretend to. How consciously he dissembled we don’t know, perhaps he doesn’t either. He retains the misleading aura of a pragmatist, disguising the fervour of his anti-state dogma. He may be no great ideas man, but for his Tory generation it’s a reflex: they instinctively breathe free-market Hayek and Schumpeter on “creative destruction”, applying it to government itself. Their Americanism takes the form of shipping in Tea Party Republicanism – how readily they would have let Murdoch create a British Fox News.

Only dogma explains why Cameron risks all by stripping down the NHS, Britain’s holy of holies. The only serious obstacle to his intent has been his own ineptitude at implementation. Yet for all the bungled U-turns, there has been no deviation from the great austerity.

How ironic that he should be assailed from his right. In misleading voters as to his intentions before the election, he seems not to have let his own party into the secret. They only heard they were to be disinfected, detoxified, turned green and never be nasty again. The reality of welfare cuts the Institute for Fiscal Studies calls “without historical and international precedent” seems to pass by the likes of Fox and Davis. “

Did I say I didn’t like the Tories? With reason.

Liberal Conspiracy’s Ten key NHS privatisation stories the BBC barely reported on, is a useful reminder.

Update 1: How Tory Peers will financially benefit from the privatisation of the NHS:

“More than one in four Conservative peers – 62 out of the total of 216 – and many other members of the House of Lords have a direct financial interest in the radical re-shaping of the NHS in England that is perilously close to being enacted. These peers have been able to vote on the crucial divisions that will determine the immediate and long-term future of the NHS and the coalition’s Health and Social Care bill.

The peers – who have personal interests in insurance companies, private health-care and private equity groups – have placed themselves into a position in which they are in danger of voting on behalf of the personal and private interests that stand to gain from the bill rather than in the public interest. “