Saturday, April 13, 2013

Thatcher: The Female-Führer.

Looking back at the rhetoric and actions of Mrs T, one side of me and many respects the tackling of man ills in Britain and the rise of meritocracy she was both a symbol and protagonist for. The other side of me now remembers the bitterness she spoke of many landsmen and the lack of compassion for those once called " the enemy within"

"We had to fight the enemy without in the Falklands. We always have to be aware of the enemy within, which is much more difficult to fight and more dangerous to liberty"

which coupled to her middle-class-bourgeois "kulturkampf" can be easily likened to :

"Those nations who are still opposed to us will some day recognize the greater enemy within"

: from another democratically elected leader, who also chose to demonise an otherwise productive sector of society, Adolf Hitler.

So in remembering her rhetoric and lack of respect for communities which had once paved London streets with golden stock traders salaries, I think of her also then as the Female Führer, with the miners and steel workers as her enemy within, her Jews and gypsies.

A culture of a life and family commitment to the two industries which subsidies or not, had built Britains wealth: the raw supply for value conversion which finds reward on the stock market. Only the investment-. ROI was biased. The industries weren't modernised. The ironies are abundant: we imported subsidised coal from New Zealand and from the then communist Poland during the miners strike. After the planned downsizing, the command economy of reducing world capacity for steel closed one of the most productive mills in the world, Ravenscraig, it took only a few years for there to be a shortage of steel and a protected market in the US conserving its own capacity. That the union jack waving privatisations of Rover, and the stock market freedoms lead to the Germans and Chinese raking out our brands and technologies.

In the same way as Jewish citizens in 1920s Germany were often the most productive and enterprising of peoples, who made many Christian Germans wary and lead to them being an easy target, so the steel and coal workers were a productive backbone from the industrial revolution, through to the war years and into the last great epoch of Britain as an manufacturing giant from the 50s to the early 70s. She demonised this class of workers who were dependent on their pits and mills.

As a prime minister, Margaret Thatcher had two full terms and was then ousted while in her third,  not by the country who had by then voted over 50% of votes cast against her government, but by her own party. A betrayal but just like tackling the overly powerful unions of the late 70s, the overly powerful "female Fuhrer" had to be toppled because she had become an obstacle to policy making and progressive governance.

This is what really points to the symbolic Boadecia she was: a great figure head, great at showing the decisions the back room wanted to make, great at doing what her city advisors asked as long as she understood it in the context of a small british business. When the Frankenstein of education minister to party leader to PM began to show she was coming off her own rails, she was elbowed by the gray non event that was John Major, the only man who ever ran away FROM the circus to live a very dull life indeed.

Her legacy is like a glowing memory for many as we wade in the ashes of a Britain which is now based on funny "fictitious trading" money, power companies who cheat the public, and keynsian circles which help float the British Isles still owned by London.

Put another way, fewer people were on government benefits when in 1979 than when she left office in 1990. Britain entered full recession in the early 80s and it was more private companies who went bust than the public "failures" of mining, steel and car production. Companies which had never been propped up by the government and which had never had large scale industrial relations issues. It was biscuit bakeries, tyre plants and toy factories I remember on the ITN weekly toll and when ever we drove past Drumchapel in west Glasgow.

Just as now that an ambitious, high income, high spending  Labour party get the blame for the ills of an equity trader's construct, the finance crisis, the biggest recession since the 30s, in fact a depression in most of southern europe, so did all this get blamed on the unions. Like the jews in 1920 and 30s Germany they became the scapegoat for the ills of a wider econo-cultural malaise.

Back to more on benefits once she left office: Big Bang and the relaxation of personal consumer credit, was of course going to both inject huge amounts of money into the south eastern economy of England and create a long term monster of paper-card-house building and legalised, neigh encouraged pyramid-selling.  In the period 1980-1983 the UK did not fair well at all, when compared to socialist France and the centre right Germans. As I say, this wasn't because of the terrible public owned industries, it was that the old capitalist ways of unde-rinvesting, under-training, unmodernised and basically mediocre quality production had come to a crashing end as world demand for British products dived. Domestic demand also crashed. Without the Falklands War, Maggie may have lost to a lib-lab pact or at least been ousted. Public spending went UP as a proportion of GDP but the public sector borrowing requirement was addressed by selling off BA and shares in Rolls Royce amongst other tactics to pay off and restructure national debt.

So the Thatcher government set about firstly having to pay the dole bill for hundreds of thousands of workers from failing private industries which had collapsed under their own inertia. Also the government had to fund the Falklands war. First term Thatcher years: High public spending and Keynesian circles floating the country.

Second term: This is when the back room boys from the Adam Smith Inst, and the city got their way. Firstly, big bang would be allowed to go ahead and even accelerated. Also then consumer credit would be liberalised. More debt would be paid by further sales of public shares in "nationalised" companies and  it was clear that GDP would swell from the City getting deregulated and of course yes, by the few strong industries enjoying less strikes, union disruptions and government intervention. Trident was also on the order books of Barrow in Furnace, Rolls Royce and Tarmac amongst many others as the biggest single spend in renewal of "assets" since WWII. Canary Wharf, at least a billion pounds of tax payers money, and more over, ideologically motivated public funds into an empty office block post black monday and the right sizing of the later eighties.

From a purely Nationalist right wing point of view, a UKIP stand point: what did Thatcher actually leave as her legacy? Well all that stock market freedom which helped investment in UK industry, also meant of course that UK brands- the embodiment of wealth creation, the big value-add to the bottom line, could be sold off to the Germans, the japanese and later of course, the Chinese - a crypto capitalist dicatatorship.

Also all that sabre rattling at Europe and the castration of Strasbourg as a potential democratic tool for harmony: She got her way, that strong national interests represented through Brussels and not Strasbourg, would get their way as we see today in 2013, five years into international crisis. So now that monster is eating away at the meaning of the EU: Germany is the strongest caller and the pied piper for now, with little Davey Cameron cocking his hat to that, while in fact a democratic body in Strasbourg with real powers and real accountability may have laid enough in the way of Eurozone to slow the introduction of the Euro, in so many lands, in terms of questions like those...well....those now actually answered - yes it can ruin your health. Strasbourg then could have tempered the ideology and  put in place controls, rather than playing to the big drum beat of the dominant national governments.

Now we stand again on a knife edge and the end of an old epoch, with the old epochers standing there like the Unions of the late 70s, and saying " we need more of the same!! Yes !! More disease is the cure for the disease!!" in otherwords, we need less regulation of financial markets and businesses, we need less democratic accountability and we need more divide between rich and poor by tax breaks to the wealthy and cuts in wages, welfare, schooling and state benefits to the masses.

Like 1979, we stand in need for leaders who will say no, more disease is not the cure, we need a new epoch with some bitter pills for some people to swallow in terms of credit and regulation.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Criticisms of Thatcher - My Opinions Are From Experience!

I had one obviously geriatric commentator in a short but interesting queue of those to be read ( usually spam so I ignore or block comments on blogs but not this one)

The patronising old git or Ada, said I didn't know what I was talking (blogging) about in a "young man "tone. I know very much what I was talking about because I lived through the times and those years influenced my life of course. In fact some of "thatcherism" had a positive influence directly, and some had a pretty negative influence.

I paid a lot of attention to the news and the Rhetoric at the time. Back then political fights could be won and losers could be really hit hard. Wars of course too, could still be won. The Argies got rightly kicked out and they should be grateful that the UK precipitated the fall of fascism there. We had a feeling that things could be achieved and that Britain was somewhat transparent or tangeable in power and economics. Not like today with all the "funny money" and diffuse politics and lobbying, not to mention the castration of Strasbourg in favour of the trichotomy of the three biggest powers, with England as the unruly and impertinent would-be actor for reform. (which is maybe not a bad position, but being out of  Europe would be a bad thing IMHO)

I began life in a pretty well to do middle class family, in fact a crossing of the ways of my Father's side which had been some old quite rich and bourgeois family and my Mother's side who had apparently been steel workers in the Clyde valley, landing in Riddrie and then edging up into the Scottish middle classes. My Dad worked in the technical department of the most famous shipyard of them all, John Brown's.

There was nothing hugely egalitarian in me as a primary school child and I was both shy and a bit snobby with some of my rather dull class mates from working class backgrounds.

The first big change in my life was when I developed two best friends over a period who were both working class. Their parents I remember had a rather lackluster view on life and work, but set a price on their kids having friends and thoughtful, expansive hobbies. I had always loved travelling by train and seeing loco hauled trains in particular as a wee laddie. On a school visit to St Rollox railway works I got really hooked on railway engineering of loco's and rolling stock and after dabbeling and getting thoroughly bored with train spotting, travelled instead to experience railway lines across Scotland and eventually further a field in the UK. I was interested in the different diesel electric locomotives and the technology in their "power units" vis a vis engines, and power delivery and control, a life long on-off obsession. In my travels I soon met a band of "super train spotters" who chased favourite locomotive types around to "score" them when they hauled trains. I then became said type of rather ecletic railway buff and wasted many a happy hour on the West Highland Line, the routes north of Inverness and also on forays to Bristol and the Midlands.

Anyway to elongate a long story made long there, i met a lot of people from different backgrounds and young railwaymen, indeed also some women, who were married to the railway more or less. Bus man's holidays for them on  a "Freedom of Scotland" ticket. I learnt a lot of respect for their camaraderie and candor of their banter on their lives outside the hobby.

1984 we middle class peoples saw down our noses at what were portrayed as drunken secondary pickets, clashing with police and trying to stop blacklegs or "scabs" getting into collieries in particular.  I did however become disgusted at the scenes of police on horse back charging miners who seemed to be a bit rowdy and like Scots at Wembley reallyl. It looked like a civil war and that in fact is what it was: the last English Civil War, 1984.

It struck me that Scargil was a nut but he was fighting for his people. Also it was our own experience that the clyde valley in the 1970s had suffered and housing estates had become ghettos of high unemployment following the large scale collapse of several private industries in the late 60s and early 70s, somethign I attribute to chronic under-investment.

I realised that for these communities  in the coal mining areas there would be nothing. I saw the heartlessness of Thatcher aiding and abetting George McGregor at British Steel to close one of the most productive steel mills in Europe in favour of the German capacity, which the UK had so much helped modernise in the early post war years, just 30 years previously.

It was cynical and the press in Scotland knew this: Gartcosh the strip mill plant in the same vale was closed to deny Ravenscraig one route to a profitable market and allow the Consett works to take that. My godmother lived pretty much under the shadow of Ravenscraig by some strange coincidence, she being a very lovely working class nurse with a fruity clyde accent.

That was it: entire communities on the dole having dedicated their lives to these industries with their peculiar skill sets, un wanted in the general labour market. Unemployment  figures were  massaged.

So I became pretty quickly a left winger. As did the whole of Scotland, decimating the number of Tory seats in 1987 election. Also finding my self on one hand moving in social circles of teenagers from really bourgeious families who went to fee paying schools and looked down their nose often or patronised me. I felt no right after all this to be a snob or to be a victim of snobbery! I became very egalitarian in my views, but also I was very much a person who strived for the individual in society and found achievement of many of my goals a real struggle due to my variable concentration, nagging self doubt  and bouts of depression ( like a lot of teenagers only it took me 30 years to grow out of it!!)

So there is where the lines of thought between Thatcherism, and my own view on a kind of spiritual existentialism with reincarnation of the soul. Really what Jesus also meant- live a good life now and you will enter heaven: taken as obey and show homage to the church, rather than live as an individual who carries out kind acts, respects others and spreads the word of this: he was a humanist and an existentialist.

Without Thatcher I may not have got into University actually because she had a round of forcing universities to teach more students and actually expanding access to grants along side that. By that time the son of a widow, I fell into a lucky place of having a full grant and housing benefit which made life really live-able and enabled me to immerse myself in what University should be about: hard work, hard play, intellectual stimulation beyond your course work, social leadership and of course drinking and sex if you are Scottish. I could have been a day commuter actually at a push, but I had a fantastic time courtesay of the Government. Now I doubt I would be able to afford to complete my course of study and I may have chosen a less stimulating, more career oriented course.

Finishing Uni' in 1990, I then fell into the great pit of unemployed and partially unemployable lower middle class graduates in Scotland. We learnt in the early to mid nineties that the old school tie did mean something: the little bourgeois bastards got whangled jobs by their bloody parents.  It really took the internet revolution, a lot of public money, call centres, rising oil prices, the house price boom and high tech industries to actually make Scotland at least prosperous for the skilled working class, their offsrping and the educated middle class.  In the course of the 90s too then, Scotland became far more middle class. I remember many working class students and mostly they and their families had the same work ethic and hopes for their children : some inverted snob commentators like Irvine Welsh (who's dad is an accountant btw) bemoan the vast expansion of the middle class and their value set over the old "Hard" working class in Scotland. In truth it was a process of social mobility which started with scholarships for soldiers after WWII and a generation then who did go to night school to better themselves and keep up with the pace of industry. By the 70s there were many "working class tories" in Scotland, who had a work ethic and ambitions to better themselves, and many lower middle class socialists who had parents who had either risen or fallen to the level and often worked in public service or the more modernised industries or higher tech / skill careers in the traditional industries.

The Scottish Middle Class defied the allure of Thatcherism in 1987  because they,  amongst other things, remember their roots, are often nearer to working class communities and are just plain not as darn snobby as the English.

Now in Scotland we seem to have an expansive home owning lower middle class, a traditional public sector management middle middle class and a bunch of funny money types in Edinbra' and MBA types all over, who earn a heck of a lot more than they deserve and are kind of a coddled elite who live prettty much lives separated from the rest of the Scottish public, trying to mingle with old money, or being from old families who have found new ways to extract more money from property and proffessional services than ever before. In some parts of Edina' you can barely hear anything but that bland accent of fee-paying school ( which now public school types also use so as not to stand out too much with their plumby tongue) Sometimes a wiff of a rolled R or a " wee hamish has got to go in the back of the Range Rover" which maybe connects them to actually being Scottish.

Funny money which has bankrupted the US and Europe by in large, and playing monopoly so everyone struggles to get more than a semi detached or a button ben' despite high education and double incomes makes me sick: a parasitic, inflationary legacy of the old money in Scotland and the back room planning restrictions and cosey builder-councillor relationships. Kind of like the Tory party in London but affecting everyone's lives in Scotland: wake up and free up some of that bloody over subsidised farm land and set standards for building homes which make houses last generations!!

I say this all there partly as a little of the Thatcherite in me, not a jealous socialist: these people are like the old-old school tie crowd who as much as the unions, stagnated the British economy and allowed industry to fall into uncompetitiveness by the early 1970s.  Much of their wealth is being held up by socialist policies: Bank Bail Outs, i say again akin to the BL and UCS subsidies of the 70s. Housing Benefit, a massive loosely controlled subsidy to private landlords with no capping and no link to improvement in housing stock; finally the labour party laws on repossession of homes, which keeps the whole thing on hold when in fact there is a need for an "adjustment" which returns average house prices to a relationship to three or maximum four times household average income. Capital gains on some types of properties or areas is always going to happen, but the restrictions in the planning process and the high value of land which is freed up is a clear obstruction to market mechanisms correcting the housing market to being in this relationship of average income to average house price. The objective really is that the housing stock becomes more diverse and the average house becomes larger and of a higher value.

Market mechanisms: well  you would think Thatcher and Reagan had invented them if you believed David Mellor and Lord Young. The neo socialist condition of the UK was MORE a result of the old money and years of under-investment in industry than the labour parties' doing. The 60s wilson government conducted a regernation plan and did nationalise aluminium and so on, but this was an established way to approach post war modernisation, and to which consequence abroad, Britain was lagging behind.

However I am thanks partly to clause 4 of the Labour party, somewhat due to the Thatcher era, and partly due my own exposure to companies in high and low technology manufacturing and services through my employment career from small start ups to billion dollar stake multi nationals. I am in a way the new, new labour man. A student of history and amateur economist by pure raw experiences and being awake to the rhetoric, the policies and the effects of governance and management, and of people's efforts.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Thatcher as the Messiah

Maggie Thatcher rests in peace now. She won't be coming back from the dead, but neither will the memory of the Iron Lady rust for many of us who lived through the Thatcher years.

The amazing thing,  as I was listening to all the old cronies, David Mellor and Lord Young being the greatest disciples, was how much people try to attribute to her. She was in fact more of a figure head.

A bit like good Queen Bess probably, a strong and determined woman who was allowed to lead the cabinet into both necessary economic reform, dark waters and necessary evils.

As a Boadicea holding a sword and narrating the platitudes from the pulpit over the battles which we all know, had to be fought. Making decisions and taking leadership that many wanted but few had the gall to dare enact.   She was also used as both an excuse and a scape-goat in the cabinet and the country for the bitter pills she made many swallow in her own party and in the North, Wales and Scotland. There was dirty work to be done, and someone seen to be strong had to make it happen - or as i say, "allow others to make it happen" as in the famous 1960 Milgram experiment. Cruelty because we wanted to do it, we knew something cruel had to be done,  but needed to have the orders to obey and those orders were then taken and carried out without human compassion,  in destroying industrial communities in the north. Like a female Fuhrer ordering the final-economic-solution. 

How much she changed the world and how much the changing world found a voice and mirror in Thatcher, is really the question.

My own opinion is that Mrs T was a messiah for the bourgeois. She was a great white hope for middle England who didn't want to see beyond their village green and certainly didn't want to pay taxes to feed poor people or "prop up" industries, which were  being propped up all over the world anyway. Britain lead the way to the free market ideology dogmatically and cruelly, even the USA still protected its steel and coal industries into George W's reign,  and of course still have a largely socialist agricultural system.

She was a shining light for the selfish of society, who nod to each other and understand the small conservative c without having to say a word, as willow stuck leather and warm ale was sipped in a stupefying, myopic and anti-egalitarian boredom.


Meritocracy- A Moses Figure for Great Britain. 

As I blogged last night, her election as Prime Minister in 1979 marked the end of Old Labour and all that it stood for, but also the Old School Tie. The two diametric opposites had both become dinosaurs. In some way she liberated opinion and injected positive attitudes to personal achievement and helped move Britain towards becoming a meritocracy I never could have imagined as a teenager in 1982.

In a way she delivered the tablets TO the mountain : the message from Britains who were moving towards middle class values and higher levels of education and living standards, that the old ways of the "bowler hat and the bunnet" , the Old Labour Movement and the Old School Tie were in need of being consigned to the history books.

So move today's blogg on a positive and reconciliatory view, I see that the UK was moving away from being a class ridden society with a ceiling not made of glass, but made of "high class" : the old school tie, your fathers connections in the city. Thatcher definitely helped this perception of self worth of the individual to determine their own success. To some extent it was going to happen anyway as the momentum in society had gathered, but she accelerated it by being an exemplary self-fulfilling-prophecy. Just by standing up and being herself as PM, she both embodied and radiated that self confidence.

As much as her reign and law making swept aside then the heavy unionisation of the Heath -Callaghan period, it also brushed out the class-ceiling. Some of my more Left-of-left Socialist acquaintances at University often claimed to be existentialists: however socialism as existed in the 1974-1984 period, was a strange homage to the working class as a kind of god. An old god as a Marxist image of a romanticised working classes, united, homogeneous,  largely male, a body of oppressed masses needing a 36 hour week and council houses and never ending over inflationary pay rises.....the reality of which was changing with the benefits of the Wilson years such as the red-brick-universities, student grants and the open- University, and the entrance of women en masse to the labour market in the late 60s and early 70s.

- "power corrupts a man, but liberates a woman" - Hugo Young - 

Thatcher and her cabinet had the public support to do the obvious thing: reign in the trade unions, and balance the books of the economy. This is what Dennis Heally dearly wanted to achieve himself, but by that time the once righteous trade union movement, a body for freedom and emancipation, had become a power hungry monster which was ruining life in the UK.

This was legislation and political will on the back of that mandate. Castrating the unions and dismantling industries in the course of 1983-1986 with no concern for the communities who were dependent on that work was of course her evil legacy. She did not care, the Tories did not care: "get on your bike" said Norman Tebbitt . I have some understanding for that view point, being a get-up-and-go type myself but imagine of course being a miner, age 45 then in 1984. Low education, skilled only in the specialities of hacking out coal.

Get on your bike and become poorer, and poorer as you migrate around the country doing odds and sods. A northern-nation on their bicycles begging for work down south.  Door knocking in Camberly and Virginia Waters selling coal carvings. This would have been  more effective in doing something to the conscious of middle England than either Michael Foot or Neil Kinnock could achieve.

This was the negative and sometimes draconian legislation she was a figure head for, and also a decisive cruel actor for of course. She prosecuted the working classes in Northern England, Wales and Scotland with the crime of economic irrelevance to the middle class', south eastern view of life, when those mining and steel communities through their taxation and supply to industry had built the wealth of the nation with their bare hands.

Look at the banks now: HBOS- bailed out to the tune  20  billion pounds. Adjusted for inflation that is still a lot of modernisation for the steel industry or retraining in real skills for the redundant coal miners. Instead a life time on subsistance: job club and low expectations. In a world with a shortage of quality steel from the late 1990s to 2008.

Legislation was a necessary cure but the old labour movement was open for crucifiction at the mercy of the majority of 57% of seats for 42% of the votes ie the 1987 election was the final death toll for mining and steel in the UK, voted for in an unfair electoral system with the new found SDP and Liberal movement splitting the opposition vote in key seats Labour could have won, more than it then split the Tory vote. A lib-lab pact was a little unthinkable then, just due to the baggage of the SDP and old labour still in parliament though.

A Tory Reign 1979-1990 without Thatcher is Highly Conceivable

But Legislation was one thing, and it could and would have happened without her. There were enough right wingers and I could imagine a Heseltine-Tebbit fight for leadership in any of the times 1978/83/87. Or some gray tory PM with a strong cabinet including those two. Heseltine has always had a feel for redevelopment so he would have been a good "One Nation" PM in my opinion. Tebbit could have done the dirty work on the unions, and I am sure he would have pursued it just as far as a leader as Mrs. T. They would have gone to war with the Argie's too, rightly so IMHO.

The real thing was that she was good "copy" : she was the stuff of once in a life time for the media: a mouth piece for a whole section of society who were aspirational, selfish, snobby and a figure head for the disaffected lower middle classes and non unionised workers, sick of the Union movement's excesses.

She rose from the ashes of the winter-of-discontent, from the Falklands War and from the Miners Strike as a pale blue and cerise Phoenix able to embody the spirit which so appealed to middle bourgeois England ( or 'lower england' as northern commentators sometimes call middle England due to its center of gravity being the home counties) and managed to enthuse enough of the country to the changes which could then perhaps be accelerated.

This is the point, the acceleration towards a far larger proportion of the economy being a market economy and a far harder punitive regime against the union movement and people working in the industries chosen to be surgically dissected , even amputated, were the two factors I could perhaps attribute to the "iron will" of the iron lady.

So she was more than a figure head and more than a pragmatic, hard leader or legislator: she was a catalyst and that only need be a very small amount of material in a system for the reaction to move over to the the new status.

Actor For Change or Symbol Reflecting Society's Movement ?

I turn back to my old point of view that much of what changed in the 1980s was either inevitable, or was caused by other momentous developments, underlying market economics and geo-demographic changes.

In a nutshell then, here is my arguement that Mrs T was more of a catalyst and figure-head than that she actually achieved so much as a single person in her two and a half terms:

1) There was obviously going to be a collapse in Labour support in 1978-9.

2)  Later with Michael Foot as the pacifist, academic leader of the Labour party in contrast to  Falkland War as the biggest ever Tory party-political-broadcast, the conservatives would have won despite high unemployment, still a high public sector borrowing requirement and inner city riots and social problems.

3) In this parliament of 83 to 87, the real IT benefits and reduction of red-tape in the stock market came on line : Big Bang in 1986 was a focal point, stimulating money flowing around London and the UK as a whole. Also IT and credit deregulation meant that loans and credit cards were more freely available, and were and still are used irresponsibly. This injected a massive consumer spend in those "yuppie" years.

4) In 1987 it was the SDP-Liberal Alliance and Neil Kinnock's Party's continuing CND stance which lost labour the election: enough labour potential wins in weak Tory seats were spoiled by votes drifting away to the Libdems, and people not wanting to vote CND. see footnote *

5) The Thatcherites as they were called then, would have been then Sans Boadicea, a fairly definable (at the time and in retrospect ) group of right wing Tories who could have become more used to governing by coherence in the cabinet, without the worry of such a media prominent and strong minded leader. The divisions in the party over Mrs T would have been divisions without a figure head too. Decision making could have been better, perhaps more compassionate for the mining and steel workers being laid off in terms of directed and higher skill economic regeration under a later Heseltine leadership. I imagine a Tebitt followed by Heseltine reign, perhaps also the Labour Party moving centre left quicker and being electable in the early 1990s.

*Thatcher won the 1987 general election, with an increase majority of seats in the lower house, while in fact a much decreased proportion of the national vote over 1983. Even though the Alliance vote went down, and Labour went up it was down to seats in middle England, (with the Tories if I remember, being eradicated from Scotland in 1987.) Labour could not win back enough SE seats with a welsh leader and nuclear disarmament.

I remember much of that campaign, and was involved on the Labour side as a party  member. There was a lot of CND 'one issue' people involved with the party then and a lot of more left wing "militants"  Ordinary members were well to do working class folk who knew what they were fighting for-. decent pay, decent conditions and decent housing.

However the Labour leadership didn't seem to really stand for anything apart from being anti-thatcher and pro CND. Kinnock's "No Society?" and " Why am I the first Kinnock ...?..they had no platform`" speeches may have roused the party core but it failed to ignite the south east of england. However the anti militant centralising approach appealed to some new moderate, centre left back benchers who would soon become the New Labour elite.

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.

Friday, April 05, 2013

The Truth and First Hand Experiences With ADHD ?

Having been exposed to ADHD and the surprising diagnosis in several adults in our circles, we really wonder why this has become such a common illness or malaise amongst youth?  Why ADHD ?

Firstly the big truth is that ADHD/ADD syndrome is not a single disease. Rather  what is thrown into this diagnostic pot here is a general spectrum of behaviour and personality traits which have several neurological or quite possibly only partially psychological causes.

In fact just as there is a plethora of nuances in what is an ADHD behaviourism, so is it just as likely many underlying causes. What falls into the pattern and how people with the types of affliction are perceived  is somewhat subjective, or in a societal norm bias.  Underlying this diagnosis by symptom, is a nebulous super nova, there are quite possibly many gametes for ætiologists to uncover.

One general agreement however on the molecular neurological side, is that hyperactivity associated to attention deficiency has ætiological origin as an under stimulation in one or more systems, functional regions or more complex pathways, or circuits if you like, in the brain.

This consensus must have  come as  a surprising proposition some years ago. You can imagine that many psychologists, physicians and frustrated parents would have concluded from the superficial evidence that it was the hyperactive high's which lead to an out of charge status, the A.D.D. aspect. However the reverse seems to be true: the brain super-stimulates itself  with neurotransmitters in an effort to kick start the pathway from the "Low" point.

Our Experiences with Family Members and Close Friends Afflicted

We find ADHD to be classically cyclical. Taking "the grave yard slot" and getting out of bed: A:D:D. A task with many details not being accomplished, nor in fact, that the presentation of the task was actually listened to in the first place. Then being awake long into the night with blinding flashes of insight on the one hand, while mental overload kicking in with random, rambling thought often linked to paranoia or unduly negative outcomes, or the converse, unduly positive outcomes of imagined actions.

One thing we maybe then can agree on with the experts, is that a low time leads to a high time, which is chaotic. Both sides make the ADHD afflicted intolerable at times, and hard to feel comfortable with as a family member or of course as a colleague. Particularily the clash between domineering, overly assertive parents or managers and the ADHD child or employee.

Lows and Highs

We call the low ADD cycle the "glue brain time". Thoughts are difficult to form and gher with cohesion. Assertiveness is often absent, with either a tendency to resentful submission or an emotional defensive stance. Or just an apathetic stance which later is regretted once the situation can be seen in the cold light of day.

The diametric opposite high times are more complex: anger, creativeness, rambling, overly-chatty, poor listening, biased conversations, erratic body language, rapid speech, euphoric episodes, hyper-focus-periods, and most of all insomnia and irritability. These are all that WE have experienced in those around us with both diagnosis ADHD and those who are clearly over the given threshold and in the body of the church of hyperactivity and bubble glue head.

The bipolar nature of the disorder lead to a 15 year misdiagnosis for genetic depression with a large reactive element in two adults near to us. Bipolar depressions are quite probably mostly attributed to having ADHD mechanisms in root cause.To the contrary however, it may be interesting that a reactive depression caused by stressful events, traumatic experiences or long term mental exhaustion shows bipolar symptoms which are easily associated to ADHD. This may help establish causes or predispositions by being an environmentally induced ADHD. Longitudinal studies of patients presenting with such a history, but no previous affliction by deficit-hyper symptoms, could then show how the brain reverts to normal patterns as the patient goes through therapy centered on the environmental cause of the depression. This could lead to the use of shorter term antidepressive therapy for some forms of 'familial' ADHD and coping strategies and self help which can move the brain into positive cycles. An interesting alternative to long term maintenance on Ritalin.

However for those with ADHD who are not unduly unhappy, it would seem that in fact there is little environmental influence at the root. It is either inherited or has become a long term pattern of cyclical brain activity due to some unknown mechanism.

Diet and Conformist Society

Diet can help abate the worst symptoms of ADHD and probably have such a beneficial effect on light-sufferers as to amiliarate the disease to a level which....well which is kind of socially acceptable - nearer the "norm".

The very nomenclature of the syndrome has a clear origin in the cultural norm: "attention-deficit"- this is the symptom that those with supposed authority in society, get ignored by the afflicted. In fact the ADD side is more a general lack of higher level thought and reasoning. It is evident to authority as a lack of paying attention.

Hyper activity too is a subjective label: I was brought up in a very presbyterian epoch where very few young teachers even in the 1970s, dared to diverge from the conventional and sought a quiet and obedient class and were irritated as much by over performance, conversational agility, questioning, creativeness (as in brain waves, or brain storms) as they were by "bad" behaviour. By then we were only metaphorically beaten into submitting to the norms. So hyperactivity is judged in a social context where the boundary to "disease" is blurred by what some call the "liberal permissive society".

Here I go off on two tangents: firstly there is a lot of ADHD false diagnostic here in Norway because the social norm has for a long time been the very laid back, thoughtful, even cold, and most of all conformist person.  A mixture of presbyteriansim and not being a "tall-high-poppy" in the field.

So when cultural influences become wider and other influences place an emphasis on seeking personal attention and social gratification for standing out, it is not suprising that many extrovert and intelligent while not academically inclined youth here get diagnosed. Bored at school, influenced by hyper children's media and the culture of the youtube snippit and the facebook platitude.

Many children and youth diagnosed such then, are probably just lower than average intelligence with a high degree of narcissism as a character trait, and resulting attention seeking behaviour is disruptive and self centered.

Sifting Out Bored, Disruptive Attention Seekers from True ADHD Sufferers.

It must be quite difficult to differentiate a patient presenting with these type of ADD/ ADHD  symptoms which are long outside the social norm in a culturally conservative land like Norway. Being bored and disruptive at school seems enough to get tagged with both ADHD and Tourette's syndrome. The patient with a biochemical ætiology will benefit from the Ritalin medication, the former disruptive pupil may  experience the reverse, where the stimulant only over stimulates the brain and  fuels the disruptive behaviour.

The ducking stool approach: if they drown they were not a witch while if they don't they'll be burnt as a witch.

There Was No ADHD in 1976 ....

There was no ADHD when I was a kid. There was remedial, and a nodding smile "aye he'll be a good mechanic, or even a football player maybe ?" On the wider end those with learning difficulties due to an ADHD disease, were placed in remedial and sidelined from ordinary levels of expectation of performance ie task oriented behaviour norms.

Coming full circle from this tangent, as all parallel lines meet in the universe! ADHD is not caused by diet in the long term : ADHD sufferers may even unwittingly seek out or fall into the high sugar, low fibre diet due to their "glue brain" episodes and their hyperness driving instant gratification seeking behaviour. Some studies on statistically significant sample sizes (ok that is the wrong way around) are showing that a high sugar, high salt diet has quite little to do with behaviour as long as there are enough calories and vitamins injested to support lifestyle.

Conclusion; The Over Diagnosis of ADHD - Cry Wolf Dilemas and a Solution

Well how do you sort out the sick from the bums?? The answer is to medicate the lot of them, and get the ones who respond badly to Ritalin type preparations, in becoming much more hyper, get them to drop off the course and do some kind of socialisation such as team sports, self help groups or mentoring, which arrests their disruptive behaviour by engaging them in other forms of socially satisfying activities and trains them in goal oriented behaviour patterns as a route to reward.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Switches in the Body. The Latest Twist on the Low-Carbo Diet: Fasting Days

The latest twist in the tale of low carbo diets is the "two day fasting" which means only two consecutive days on ultra low carbo - followed in fact by 5 days on a diet without self-indulgence.

Really what science is unveiling is something it already knew: that the body responds to carbohydrates and exercise in balance. However the many years of looking at graphs had blinded them as to the fact that at some point there is a "switch" over to a new prevalent metabolic regime or lasting effect. In the case of the former, after sustained low carbo intake, the same as extended duration exercise, the body switches to burning fat and utilises fat reserves possibly in preference to fat which is under digestion, vascular transport and conversion in the body. On the other hand High Intensity Training with even very, very short bursts of sprint activity also turns a switch in the body.

Back to the latest fad of tangential low carb diet: the two day carbo fasting diet: The clinical "proof" is down to one Phd with 100 women in a blind study, who incidentally is selling a book about it. However it is a single blind study and a statistically significant difference between ordinary dieters, calorie counting that is, and this combined with two days on low carbs.

I am basically doing this on a daily basis, weekend excluded. Dinner around 6pm is a normal, but very healthy meal followed by a small yoghurt and sugar free chocolate as a treat with decaff coffee. Then breakie consists of a light salad, eggs and parma ham. Quick and simple, and about 15g net carbs as against a traditional bread, fruit or cereal based breakfast which could run into several hundred grams with a high proportion of sugars and readily digested starch.

I often walk 40 minutes to work after that.

Lunch is then high fibre : bread, salad, small amounts of fat and actually fruit only once in a while. No sweets usually, just jam and fruit juice to break the usual atkins diet type.

On this then I am in effect, fasting carbo's for about a net of 11 hours given full carbo digestion after dinner. I have lost weight and have the classic ketone-pee quite often.

In combination with this, I have increased the duration of exercise. I can put that down to a good ski season with light early evenings and the use of a head torch! However before in life I was "The Gristle" - well trained but like beefy Botham, chubby. This was down to 1) self indulgence on high sugar, high fat foods 2) snack eating immediately after exercise while actually making dinner 3) eating later into the evening, and thus allowing the body to engage a fairly well desecribed mechanism of laying on fat after late night meals more than those taken 4 hours or more before la-la time.

So for me, the change has been quite marked and I had a benefit immediately by following the Atkins strictly (after one abortive attempt due to travel: it is still impossible to buy a low carbo meal in Airports and you get a roll for breakfast in flight) and instead of going onto the ordinary maintenance phase, instead upping the amount of exercise and then being careful with meals and avoiding mid week snacking. The benefit has been a positive synergy in both loss of weight, and loss of such a gorging appetite, particularly post exercise. If I can nail the munchies with beer, which I only "learned " later in life then I would be a lot better off.

Back to exercise;: I have been conscious in doing much more, forcing myself in particular to walk to work by leaving the car in the company garage so next day, come rain or sleet, I have to walk to work.  In addition, being heavy, any endurance training has a larger calorie use than a man of say 80 kg. Peaking to High Intensity Exercise, HIT kind of comes naturally because on the hills I have to give it all sometimes and on the flat I can give it a bit of sprinting.

Dr Jamie Timmpns, an oddly chubby *wegie who is conducting HIT research as part of a multicentre study. which confirms that the majority of people just doing a very few 30 second super intense sprints per week, have a positive effect on insulin response, thus this represents a training form which can help defend against diabetes. Secondly, for those with a r"responder" gene profile VO2 Max is significantly increased in the course of a few months of this very short duration ype of training.

It seems we are dabling now with different switches in the body which are something than humans actually used in antiquity to have optimum energy use and fitness for the lifestyle as a hunter gatherer.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The Storm in Professional Public Services

As pundits call it all, the real sickness in public services is the 'three Ms' : managerialism, marketism and measurementism.

We had all these before thatcher in fact, only without the isms but with the professions forming their own competent structures.

The structures were however vague in the 'roll up,  wall street like figures' . They did things often expertly but could say how much better they did it in the term of a parliament over the last one.

All the above 3Ms do one thing overall:  they take money away from front line delivery of public services. They place power often in the hands of failed and ailing private sector managers with no relevant profession. The 3 big isms hve been here since the thatcher years and new labour fed the beasts with deproffessionnalisation of front line delivery, opening careers for wannabees who could make the grade as nurses, teachers and police. Fine if they were only helping extra hands and bum wipers, but often they are given more responnsibility than they command or just water down the budget for professional head count and long term cover for sick leave.

Extra hands can be good, and with the exception of the police, assistants existed before with clear cut roles. (you could say traffic wardens at a push).

Measurement and management is good, but for gods sake put it in the hands of professions and let them do MBAs as sabbaticals for example, biut dont place failed middle managers from the private sector as bosses. By all means introduce good practice, apply or develop ISO standards, let management consultant sample-measure but stop piling on costs for management.

Marketism has its place, but i take the principle that the user , customer in the public is not at liberty to choose when they are in need of care, attention or education. A full market economy police is absurd. Placing artificial market structures whereby hospitals compete is not as good a remedy as developing regional centres of excellence and national ISO standards for best practice.

The beast has to be killed before the front line proffessionals  become any more disenchanted and the new fascist right have enough ammunition to privatise health, social welfare and education and further deproffessionalise provision outside the more affluent areas.

Firstly i would encourage the Scottish and Scandinavian parliaments to steer managerialism over to the sabbatical and career development route for established proffessionals. Separate out secondary managerial functions like accountancy and building services and by all means, place them out to tender. Trust the proffessionals to manage, and give them the route to the skills they need.

Secondly i would say that there must be best practices taught as such, and maintained by management measuring at point-of-provision. Iso standards, yes ENs , international standards or national standards tailored to provision and building upon established excellence.