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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An Orwell, The Middle East And Boycotts Round Up

There is never enough time to read, reflect and blog, so whilst I think over other posts here is a quick round up of stories that caught my eye.

I was surprised to find that George Orwell had a piece on antisemitism. In many respects, it is as if it were written yesterday:

“I could fill pages with similar remarks, but these will do to go on with. Two facts emerge from them. One — which is very important and which I must return to in a moment — is that above a certain intellectual level people are ashamed of being anti-Semitic and are careful to draw a distinction between “anti-Semitism” and “disliking Jews”. The other is that anti-Semitism is an irrational thing. The Jews are accused of specific offences (for instance, bad behaviour in food queues) which the person speaking feels strongly about, but it is obvious that these accusations merely rationalise some deep-rooted prejudice. To attempt to counter them with facts and statistics is useless, and may sometimes be worse than useless. As the last of the above-quoted remarks shows, people can remain anti-Semitic, or at least anti-Jewish, while being fully aware that their outlook is indefensible. If you dislike somebody, you dislike him and there is an end of it: your feelings are not made any better by a recital of his virtues. “

At Liberal Conspiracy, Sunny Hundel is direct in his criticism, Publicity-hungry extremists to protest at US Embassy London.
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Tony Blair at Leveson Inquiry

The Guardian’s coverage of the Leveson Inquiry is good and they have allocated a slot for Tony Blair’s contribution.

Update 1: Surprisingly. the Leveson Inquiry doesn’t seem to have an official channel on YouTube, but there are others.

The Leveson Inquiry by ITN News Channel.

YouTube – Leveson Inquiry auto-generated by YouTube.

Update 2: CNN has a good summary:

“The Leveson Inquiry was established after British public anger at Murdoch’s News of the World about the hacking of voice messages of a missing teenage girl who turned out to have been murdered.

The case of Milly Dowler came on top of apologies from the tabloid for the hacking of the phones of celebrities and politicians, and proved to be the last straw for the paper, which was shut down in July.

Cameron set up the Leveson Inquiry to explore press ethics in Britain more widely, alongside a police investigation into phone hacking, e-mail hacking and police bribery by people working for Murdoch’s British newspapers.

More than 50 people have been arrested. Prosecutors this month announced charges against six people, including Rebekah Brooks, a former News of the World and Sun editor who later became chief executive of News International, the British newspaper publishing arm of Murdoch’s News Corp.

She, her husband and four others are charged with interfering with the police investigation.

Blair’s former director of communications said this month that the relationship between the press and the political elite in Britain was too cozy.

“I’ve been arguing for some years (that the relationship) got itself into a very, very bad place, and I hope it can lead to change,” Alastair Campbell told CNNI’s Christiane Amanpour.

“It’s not just about Rupert Murdoch,” he said. “We have a lot of newspapers in a geographically fairly small country. … And I think any political leader has to take account of the role they play in the political debate.”

Campbell, a former newspaper editor who became Blair’s spokesman when the Labour party was in opposition in the 1990s, said he hoped “some form of proper regulation” would arise from the hacking and bribery scandal. “

Update 3: My mistake, the Inquiry’s web site does provide video even if it is not obvious, on their hearings page. Still, a pity you can’t download them without a degree of mucking about, etc etc