Monday, 8 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher - what can I say?

The recent series of Battlestar Galactica starts with a two part pilot
episode showing the nuclear destruction of the urban heart of
humanity at the hands of a heartless machine race. As the
survivors escape onto a few scattered spaceships one of the most
shocking details is the Education Secretary, attempting to
communicate with her government from Air Force One and discovering
she IS the government. One moment she is aspiring politician Laura Roslin
 (played brilliantly throughout the series by Mary McDonnell), the next she
stands stunned as she is sworn in as President.

There is a number of ways I could tie this into the Thatcher phenomenon,  not least of which would be the ambush of unsuspecting humanity by a heartless machine race etc etc etc but maybe the most amazing story is how Thatcher came to power in the first place. As  detailed in Seasons in the Sun: the Battle for Britain, 1974–1979 by Dominic Sandbrook (review will follow) the incredible rise through the ranks to win the Tory leadership election in 1975 must be one of the most momentous sequences of connected events in political history. It took her direct political mentor, Keith Joseph, to make a terrible gaff, another rival on the right, Edward Du Cann to suddenly retire (giving her campaign the brilliant leadership of Airey Neave) and the leader of the party Edward Heath to make a series of crazy mistakes for the Tories to suddenly wake up with a female leader in 1975. Had she been a serious candidate at the start of the campaign she would have been laughed out of the race, or crushed, but her slow emergence from the back to win really looks like it was always meant to happen.

Other things to note -

I will not speak ill of the dead. I admired her conviction and I am
glad she suffers no more. Others I am sure will feel differently.
Foreign readers needing an illustration of this may like to look into
the moment in Spice Girls history when Ginger Spice hailed cute old
Mrs T as "The First Spice Girl", and Sporty and Scary (from Liverpool and
Leeds respectively) nearly walked out on the group.The recent
movie, The Iron Lady, a historical biopic brought to you by the team
from Mama Mia, really provoked levels of anti-Thatcher loathing in
friends of mine that I thought had long gone. Will be interesting to
see if there is any backlash to the current media attention in a few

The first cheque for North Sea Oil revenues landed on the desk of the
PM the day Mrs Thatcher entered office. Without those oil revenues to
pay for police and two-three generations of benefit claimants (people
that used to work in the industries closed down by Thatcherism) the
UK would quite possibly be a failed state right now. Foreign readers
may like to refer to what I think will be the definitive record of
life in Britain, for the average Britain, during the Thatcher years,
Alan Bleasdale's magnificent BOYS FROM THE BLACKSTUFF, which
was riveting viewing for me even when the only thing I would watch was
the escapism of scifi and fantasy.
Yosser Hughes - a monument to Thatcherism less well known to the rest of the world
A couple of years ago I got into a blazing row with an Iranian, a
Spaniard and a Slovakian (all pretty hot ladies BTW) about the
Falklands War in a London pub. (It says a lot about the multinational
nature of London that I had no help from the rest of the pub). My
argument was that the fate of three thousand people living on a rock
in the South Atlantic, or even the opinions of flag waving
Argentinians means little compared to the millions world wide now
living in poverty because of the industrial slash/burn and
deregulation started by Thatcher and then Reagan, which might not have
happened if a idiot Argentine general had not decided to rescue Thatchers
career by invading the Falklands (ranted at some length here). Mrs
Thatcher was in 1981 the most unpopular PM in British
history and heading toward electoral defeat.

Quite possibly Argentina would still be run by a brutal junta, and
Britain would still be run by a chaotic mess of self interested Union
barons, but I'm willing to bet the average person, in their possibly
shakey country, would be better off now without 30-40 years of
worldwide Thatcherism/Reaganomics.

I am a terrible leftie but am also very anti-union. One thing we must
be grateful for is that Thatcher was stubborn enough to stand up to
the 'power' of the British unions when every other politician was
bending over to accommodate them. That's 'power' in quotes by the way,
as we now know that power was totally illusory and the supposed Union
'leaders' had little control over the thousands of local tin pot
Hitlers regularly bringing the country to a standstill with wildcat
strikes. A great Channel 4 documentary about the Winter of Discontent
asked one of the ex-shop stewards what he thought of his eventual
legacy - decades of Thatcherism via the Tories and New Labour- and
even after 30 years on the dole he was still sickeningly pleased with

Seasons In The Sun is generally quite a Tory view of politics 1974-79
but the author is surprisingly even handed when talking about the
Unions at the time. In a fascinating aside in the book on British
industrial relations vs very successful German industrial relations,
Helmut Schmidt, the leader of then-booming Germany, visits Britain in
1975 and describes the behaviour of British unions as actually Right
Wing rather than Left Wing, as they perpetually looked to further
their own interests at the expense of the rest of society. Looked at
it like that the Unions and the supporters of Mrs Thatcher actually
had a great deal in common.

The opinion of film maker Ken Loach

"How should we honour her? Let’s privatise her funeral. Put it out to competitive tender and accept the cheapest bid. It’s what she would have wanted."

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