Monday, April 08, 2013

On Thatchers Legacy for Better and For Worst and More Worst....

To be frank, I thought the auld battle axe was dead already. I can't say it is with any particular bitterness, neither is this with any tears I write.

As a vehement anti Thatcher student in the late 80s, it made my blood boil as she removed housing benefit from us while forcing people in need of social housing into over priced private housing paid for by of course, housing benefit as a massive subsidy to the Rachmans and rip off merchants.

On the other side the UK benefits greatly by having competitive modern industries, a unique financial sector and a large private service economy. There by a net tax income which was able to fund ambitions of the last three Labour governments until the finance crisis ( which they seem to get the blame for when it was bankers, not known for their societal sympathies, who actually caused the collapse in the credit system). Also enough of the good old Keynsian economic cycles to help maintain one of the lowest unemployment rates for Europe, excluding oil rich Norway and countries like Switzerland and Lichtenstein where unemployment is illegal....

Later I discovered both that private industry is best left to flourish and  the efforts of business people is more important to the economy than the actions of government. Also I discovered a lot of the hypocrisies of the Thatcher years and subsequent governance, which have  lead directly, to the finance crisis and so much social inequality in the Uk and much of the world.

I believe that Thatcher deserves far less credit for for the changes in the economy than she gets, and far more credit for the negative effects on poor communities and marginalised people than is attributed to her reign: Tories blame those people for their own fate, while they are the weak people government should set about providing for where the market mechanism will never.

However, the tory landslide of 1979 was as deterministic in the future wealth on the one hand, and the bad health of the country as that of Clement Attlee defeating Churchill in 1945. Victory over the fascists at the end of WWII, and in 1979 victory over the communist fringes of the labour movement who commanded too much power even by the Labour party's own admission then (with the failure of Ted Heath to tackle the unions in the energy crisis years) and the creation of new political climates under which the country could recover and eventually thrive.

The one dire legacy is the "I'm alright jack" view point of life I touched on above:  which is now pervasive in the UK, especially England: a view that everyone should be nice middle class Christians who run small businesses and don't have any need for the devil of social workers and the NHS.  The view of life of denial that any other life is acceptable and that people who aren't "successful" in middle class terms are failures. A self centred view point, as Thatcher had also to the positive in ignoring the old public school gaurd of stodgey conservatives. A view point like that of Queen Victoria, who deemed that Homosexuality amongst women need not be illegalised because lesbianism did not exist in Britain.  An affluent middle class, and the coy working class small business people,  that fail to understand people who are not just like them.

That is a very fundamental conservative weakness which limits social mobility and demonises people with long term illness: A weakness in being myopic. A lacking by  having no empathy for people who are different to them: ordinary working people, people with mental health problems, poor families with intelligent kids, single parent families, people of non Christian religion, gay people, starving people, dying people.

"Labour isn't working" was the poster, lots of young tories queuing up in 1979. More people were on benefits when she left office than when she entered, and inflation and the national debt were only eventually offset by the IT revolution enabling growth, and knowledge based industries emerging as competitive on a world arena.

Thatcher did some hard, proper work against the unions and against subsidies to manufacturing industries." As our first female Prime Minister She Achieved Much Against All the Odds" which is true. However she got really lucky at several points in her time in office: Britain was almost bankrupt in her first couple of years, as companies who were on the brink, went under and people were paid to be inactive rather than economically active in subsidised industries. ITN had a job counter. In Scotland long before the coal pit closures, it was ship building, tyre plants and biscuit factories that fell in the early 80s and that was due to a lack of long term investment more so than them being unionised.
She and Reagan are kind of being given more credit than Gorbachev himself for the Glasnost-Democracia-Perestroika reforms, which have lead to what? They didn't help when he was dumped in favour of drunken puppets and eventually an anti democracy leadership. That is the legacy there. Better the bear we knew and a slower revolution than the belief he was given by the vaneer of those strong personalities. Gorbachev became over confident in relation to his political personality and wieght he could punch to alone: He killed the monster of the old politburo  while  his rather academic personality, his discursive nature and even a kind approach to reform were weaknesses and he  was not strong enough to contain the wolves which rushed into the power vacuum he had created himself on the flames of belief which were ignited by the other two world leaders.

House ownership: an over priced bubble housing market only held up from catastrophe by labour policy on repossessions. A large proportion of the country with more than four times family income
'invested' in this rash-and-crash market. Social housing as I say, becoming a subsidy to landlords with little caps on housing benefit available for local authorities to impose.

 Today marks a passing of an era to which we live in debt to now: literally, we live in the debts created by a run away banking system which was open to abuse and corruption in both the private sector and the interface to governance vis a vis the sub prime catalyst

Who can manage capitalism best?

On my labour party membership card, bourne also by the self confessed marxist-leninist hijacker loony left fringe, there was in black and white clause 4 of the constitution, " the means of production should be owned by the state except where industry can deliver better" . Really this should have been turned by 1984 into " the means of delivery of social services, education and health should be owned by the people and industry should be supplied with nothing more than roads, rails and healthy, well educated people".

I think it was inevitable that industries like Rover would go under, run by the stock market or by the government. The miners striked, the coal came from communist poland and also coal from New Zealand: subsidised. Followed by closing the industry in massive swathes and allowing american protectionism to continue while aritficially denying British Steel value adding capacity such as the strip mill Gartcosh. Basically then forcing many communities who had no culture for enterprise or migration for working, into being benefit center dependents

On Europe, well there she has had some of her own way: dominant national interests demanding that weaker members pay their way. An obsession with privatisation and compulsory tendering. Strasbourg being a paper tiger and token to democracy, a lost chance for a europe who's citizens are involved with its running, while instead the strongest national interests call the tune. She would like that, but of course little Davey Cameron isnae in the driving seat and can be an unruly teenager to appease the eurosceptics, the island monkeys who have some strange belief that the UK would be better off without access to the EU markets on an even basis. Those who beleive in the British Empire,  expanded once by military conquest and commercial piracy and reigned over by the largest beaurocracy the world will ever see.

Her victory in 1979 was as inevitable as the right's defeat in France in their last election for President: the last epoch had run its course and needed radical change, even if some of that change was going to be unpopular and cause long term damage to society. The damage would be larger if the old epoch had continued.

Today the old epoch in need for change is the result of Thatcher-Reaganomics: they started the long run to anarchy in the banking sector and over borrowing on the promise of liberalised economy return in growth ( public borrowing went grossly up in the 1980s to pay the dole and for Trident). We are seeing countries facing austerity across Europe and further a field, and we will see the resulting rise of political movements who want to redress the imbalances of distribution of wealth.

With Margaret Thatcher's death then we can also lay to rest the excesses of the laisez faire and weak governance of the financial markets and at some point soon, the public will re-examine social justice on a national and global scale and ask what it is we want to acheive with democracy and good governance, and not what we want to achieve with allowing the rich to run the place.

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