Why Thatcher still matters.
A day I've been waiting for since the mid 80's when my teenaged brain started to take an interest in politics is here. She's dead. Finally.
I was never a great supporter of the IRA (although I would like to see a unified Ireland) but I must admit there were not many tears in my house when they blew up the Tory Conference in Brighton and Norman Tebbit was carried out on a stretcher with his willy hanging out.
The reason I didn't like the IRA was because they used violence to try and achieve their aim, for some reason however, when they blew up that hotel it felt like they were using violence to fight violent people.
The IRA have laid down their guns now - more or less but that is a different debate - the violence that Maggie Thatcher and the Conservative Party of the 1980's fostered upon us is still here, and it is not just limited to the UK.
Margaret Thatcher, even before she was Prime Minister, was known as "Margaret Thatcher the Milk Snatcher" because as Education secretary in the 1970's she had taken away free milk in schools. This alone should have been a warning sign as to the kind of personality you were dealing with; cruel and heartless.
She was an admirer of Milton Friedman, the economist who promoted the idea of "Monetarism". When Thatcher became Prime Minister she implemented monetarism as the weapon in her battle against inflation, and reduced it from 10% to 4.6% by 1983.
This was done by the mass closure of "inefficient" ( really meaning "unionized") factories, shipyards and coal mines, which resulted in in unemployment doubling from around 1,500,000 people to more than 3,000,000..
Everything had to be profit driven - people no longer mattered.. Milton Friedman believed that a certain unemployment rate was acceptable in order to maximize profits - Thatcher put his theories into practice and it got us where we are today - austerity, mass unemployment and decimated manufacturing communities throughout the world where governments followed her example. Go to Yorkshire, Merseyside or Central Scotland and you'll see the same thing you see in Troy, New York or Detroit, Michigan.
The steelworks went first, followed by the coal mines and the print workers. The greedy quest for profit leaves a long trail of human wreckage.
Not content with destroying communities through mass unemployment, she then went after public sector housing. She forced local councils to sell off housing dirt cheap to tenants and forbade them from putting the profits back into building new stock. This led to a housing shortage and for the first time in many years people went homeless. Not only that, councils lost the income from central government that covered their housing stock and estates became dilapidated and run down.
Now, there were strict rules covering banks and building societies that stood in the way of first time buyers. Banks did not do mortgages, and building societies were not allowed to hold savings accounts or borrow on the money market. Buyers were required to save a substantial portion of the cost of their first home, and then might have to wait in a mortgage queue. The Thatcher government lifted these restrictions, allowing building societies to convert into banks, and banks to become mortgage lenders, setting off a boom in house buying which crashed in 1989, and people were introduced to the concept of ‘negative equity’.
Any of this starting to sound familiar?
By the way, I have a caveat here. I grew up in a council house that my Mum bought under these regulations. Would I have done the same thing? Probably. The benefit of hindsight to see the destruction the policy wrought is a nice thing but obviously not available at the time.
Also, I mentioned the print worker union before because the Battle of Wapping was the really the beginning of Fox News. Without the collusion of the British government and their union busting police force, and because of his close personal friendship with Thatcher, Rupert Murdoch might not be half as big as he is today.
Obama said that Thatcher was "one of the great champions of freedom and liberty" and that "she stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered".
In her 11 years as Prime Minister, she hired exactly ONE other woman to be a Cabinet member and promoted no women above junior minister. The idea of her being a feminist icon is absurd to say the least. She actually said it herself: "‘The feminists hate me, don’t they? And I don’t blame them. For I hate feminism. It is poison.’
Add to this the fact that she froze child benefit and refused to invest in affordable childcare, instead criticising working mothers for raising a "crèche generation".
Obama's "Champion of Freedom and Liberty" let 10 Irish Hunger Strikers die because they wanted to be treated like the Political Prisoners they were and not common criminals. To see how cold hearted she was you only have to look at what the demands of the hunger strikers were:
1. the right not to wear a prison uniform;
2. the right not to do prison work;
3. the right of free association with other prisoners, and to organise educational and recreational pursuits;
4. the right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week;
5. full restoration of remission lost through the protest.
This is hardly a list unreasonable demands, it is a list that asks that prisoners, all of whom had been detained for troubles related offenses, be treated as the POW's that they were and not as thieves and criminals. This was not unheard of and indeed they had "Special Catagory Status" up until 1972 when it was withdrawn by Willie Whitelaw, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
From May through August of 1981, 10 men starved to death and Maggie Thatcher said: "Mr. Sands was a convicted criminal. He chose to take his own life".
Anyway, I could go on and on but I won't (I haven't even mentioned the Falklands War or the Poll Tax - I might add these later).
I'm glad she's dead. If that makes me heartless then so be it. Yes, she was human but she was also the Angel of Death to many communities in and around where I grew up and she won't be missed.
Tramp The Dirt Down 1989
I saw a newspaper picture from the political campaign
A woman was kissing a child, who was obviously in pain
She spills with compassion, as that young childs
Face in her hands she grips
Can you imagine all that greed and avarice
Coming down on that childs lips
Well I hope I don't die too soon
I pray the lord my soul to save
Oh I'll be a good boy, Im trying so hard to behave
Because there's one thing I know, I'd like to live
Long enough to savour
That's when they finally put you in the ground
Ill stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down
When england was the whore of the world
Margeret was her madam
And the future looked as bright and as clear as
The black tarmacadam
Well I hope that she sleeps well at night, isnt
Haunted by every tiny detail
Cos when she held that lovely face in her hands
All she thought of was betrayal
And now the cynical ones say that it all ends the same in the long run
Try telling that to the desperate father who just squeezed the life from his only son
And how it's only voices in your head and dreams you never dreamt
Try telling him the subtle difference between justice and contempt
Try telling me she isn't angry with this pitiful discontent
When they flaunt it in your face as you line up for punishment
And then expect you to say thank you straighten up, look proud and pleased
Because youve only got the symptoms, you haven't got the whole disease
Just like a schoolboy, whose heads like a tin-can
Filled up with dreams then poured down the drain
Try telling that to the boys on both sides, being blown to bits or beaten and maimed
Who takes all the glory and none of the shame
Well I hope you live long now, I pray the lord your soul to keep
I think I'll be going before we fold our arms and start to weep
I never thought for a moment that human life could be so cheap
Cos when they finally put you in the ground
They'll stand there laughing and tramp the dirt down