I have to warn readers of a nervous disposition that I am about to use two words that will create fear and trembling among you. The words are Margaret Thatcher. I’m sorry if you’re now hiding behind the sofa. The only reason for mentioning her dread name is that last week celebrations were held to mark the 25th anniversary of her general election victory in 1979.
The celebrations were muted. There were no street parties or gala concerts, no spontaneous demonstrations of love and affection. The only event of note was a dinner in London attended by posh people in evening dress, with the Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven as guest of honour. As they entered the restaurant, one alarming skeletal figure in a dicky bow answering to the name of Lord Tebbit said he was celebrating the occasion on the grounds that taxpayers were no longer bailing out inefficient nationalised industries to the tune of millions of pounds a year.
Spot on, Norm. Freed from the terrible shackles of state-owned industries, taxpayers are now pouring billions of pounds a year into a privatised railway system that is dangerous and grossly inefficient.
Our water bills will be massively increased to enable the private companies to invest in new sewers without having to touch the huge profits they make. The power companies are holding out the begging bowl for subsidies while their owners cream off enormous salaries and bonuses.
Privatisation-the flogging of state industries to crooks and swindlers-is one of the legacies of Margaret Thatcher that should be neither forgotten nor forgiven.
There are many more crimes. Thatcher, in love with the voodoo economics of monetarism, wiped out Britain’s heavy industries. This was done as part of a drive to destroy the trade unions and any vestige of working class opposition to her plans.
The attack on the unions culminated in the heroic miners’ strike, which was finally bludgeoned to defeat by the batons of a centralised state police force. The result of the assault on industry and unions was mass unemployment, the loss of skills handed down from one generation of workers to the next, and the destruction of working class communities.
Should we celebrate the squalid little war with Argentina for control of the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic? Even though one of Thatcher’s closest political friends, Nicholas Ridley, had argued that the islands should be handed back to the Argentinians, the electoral benefits of a brutish and jingoistic war were not lost on the Great Leaderene.
Back home there was the infamous poll tax, a form of council tax that imposed greater burdens on the poor than the rich. That tax-the brainchild of a certain Michael Howard-was defeated by mass demonstrations on the streets of Britain-an event not celebrated, I imagine, at the gala dinner last week. But there are grounds for celebrating the legacy of Margaret Thatcher. She turned the Tories into a party that represented the narrow interests of profit-hungry new entrepreneurs.
They had no truck with the attitudes of the old Tory toffs, who believed it was necessary to drop the occasional crumb from the dining table to the masses below.
In so doing, Thatcher ultimately destroyed the electoral base of her party. It’s a legacy that should not be lost on Tony Blair, who is destroying the flimsy roots the Labour Party has in the working class and trade union movement through his slavish devotion to big business and US imperialism.
Perhaps, after all, we should celebrate Margaret Thatcher’s legacy. As she once famously said, “Rejoice!”
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