Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Thoughts on the Thatcher Years

I joined the Tory Party around 1979, maybe 1978. Prior to Mrs Thatcher Ted Heath had been their leader, and I could never have got involved while he was there. But Mrs Thatcher was a breath of fresh air. Yes she made mistakes, who doesn't? But after the depressing, conflict ridden 1970s her vision and conviction were a breath of fresh air. I'm not going to write some heavy duty, academic style resume of 'The Thatcher Years', but a purely personal look back at those years.

Britain in the 1970s
The 1970s were pretty dire in this country. Yet again Labour had bankrupted the country, with Denis Healey and Jim Callaghan going cap in hand to the IMF to bail out a busted economy.

Trade unions had the power to bring down democratically elected governments, wreck businesses by forcing workers out on strike, workers who were slaves to 'closed shops' where they couldn't work unless they joined a union.

Workers who dared to defy their union were routinely harassed, threatened and physically assaulted. So called 'flying pickets' would turn up at businesses that weren't on strike and blockade the gates intimidating staff to turn back, effectively bullied into striking by trade union bully boys.

We had to endure the three day working week and power cuts, because we didn't have enough power to keep the lights on. Football games couldn't be played in the evenings to conserve the power that would be wasted lighting the floodlights. I remember walking through streets of Manchester when we all carried torches because there were no street lights. The dead could not be buried because of strikes and waste mounted up in the streets as the refuse collectors spent months on strike, on a regular basis. Britain in the 1970s was almost third world. Indeed, I visited relatively poor Latin American countries in the early 1990s that were far more pleasant places to spend time than Britain in the 1970s.

Margaret Thatcher's governments dragged Britain into the modern era and away from the living nightmare that was the 1970s. Those old enough to have been politically aware in the 1970s should remember how bad things were, it just couldn't continue. What underpinned Margaret Thatcher's philosophy was that hard work should be rewarded, and that freedom depended upon economic success. Creating business creates wealth which creates jobs. The welfare state should be a safety net, not a lifestyle choice. The left want welfare dependency, they can then claim to be the protectors of the poor and downtrodden, it is a cynical and inhuman position. Mrs Thatcher wanted to create a world where people didn't need welfare, where people could live independent of benefits and live with pride and dignity.

Britain in the 1970s
To the left Mrs Thatcher was wrong. She was an aberration. To the left the Tory Party was the party of grey men in suits who saw a woman's place as in the home. But the Tory Party, not Labour voted a woman as leader first. The left claimed the Tory party was full of toffs and aristocrats. Mrs Thatcher was the daughter of a grocer from a provincial town. Indeed even now the hate fuelled left use the language of the demented picket line to shriek about the Tory Party being full of rich toffs and posh boys, equality unless you fail to fit their bigoted stereotype it seems. Labour banged on then, and still do, about how women were discriminated against in education. Mrs Thatcher went to Oxford. They never forgave her for proving them wrong, wrong and wrong again.

Throughout the North of England and in Scotland there were Conservatives elected in 1983 when Mrs Thatcher was re-elected, and again in 1987. The myth that she destroyed the North and wrecked communities is purely that, a myth. Even John Major, against all the odds, won the 1992 general election after Mrs Thatcher had been ousted. Hardly a country that loathed the Tories. Quite the contrary, Mrs Thatcher garnered huge support among the working classes, support which has gone now with the steady move to the left of the Tories since 1992. After all, even Barrow elected a Conservative MP in 1983 and '87.

Strip down the hysterical reaction by elements of the left, pure venom and hatred, and they were concocted by one pretty vile egotist who became the darling of the irrational left, Arthur Scargill. It revolves around the final laying to rest of a dying industry, the coal industry, that had been gradually wound down by successive governments after nationalisation. Let's face it, the left love nothing more than a lost cause to whip themselves into hysteria. The miners were the perfect lost cause. Whole communities ripped apart by Thatcher? I don't think so. Sadly a few small communities around a few failing pits lost some jobs. But then again, chariot makers and bow and arrow makers lost their jobs too. It's called progress, whether we like it or not.

An interesting thing these last couple of days is hearing the left ranting about what she did to the Falkland Islands. What she did was to liberate a population, invaded and illegally occupied by a foreign, military dictatorship. I would have thought most right thinking people would applaud that.

The reaction of elements on the left show that Britain, since Margaret Thatcher, has slipped into a moral decline that may not be reversible. We now have the children of the sixties in charge, and can see all around us the results of the liberalisation of society since the sixties that even Margaret Thatcher couldn't halt. The lack of respect, the inhumanity, the vile insults and civil disorder that greeted her death are a symptom of our decline, and show the danger that the brainwashed moral bankrupts of the left still pose.


Daz Pearce said...

Some great recollections, particularly about the 1970s which was before I was born.

It was a pretty dire time to be living in Britain and what was happening could not go on forever.

Even the union dinosaurs themselves were admitting this in private while they had ordinary people out on strike to get THEMSELVES pay rises.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but my intrerpretation of the miners' strike is that the plan was a sort of 'managed decline' while hoping that places hit hardest would be regenerated and the damage minimized.

Rather like what they're pretending to do with the public sector now.

It was Scargill and the union barons who raised the stakes and left a choice between all or nothing. They lost, and have been re-writing history ever since.

Scargill also did very nicely out of the strike on a personal level, but all of that is either forgotten, ignored or omitted by his cheerleaders. The myths around him continue to this day...

Was Thatcher the iconic figure that your well-written piecr depicts her as? In my humble view, no, although you have the benefit of having been an adult for at least some of the 1980s.

The other side of this is that the charges of her enemies do not bare scrutiny. The facts just do not support this picture of a monster who closed schools and hospitals leaving an illiterate mass of the population to die of scurvy!!

Just to clarify the point, spending on the NHS, Department of Education, Fire Service, Skills and Training etc...all increased consistently, and in real terms, while she was in office.

State spending never dipped below 39% of GDP.

I appreciate there were significant cultural shifts that cannot be quantified or measured, but those facts are important when looking to balance the conversation.

Thanks for the well-written piece again.


Peter Metcalfe said...

I say let the vile left have their anti-Mrs T parties, then the world can see just how bad and brainwashed they are.
Interesting that the parties mustered just a few hundred, most waving socialist workers papers by under twentys.
And as for the pits, well get all those on benefits down them. They socialists obviously think they're a great place to work.

Tony Greenhalgh said...

I find myself agreeing with all you have said. A good representation of those who lived through the 70s and the Thatcher years.

Anonymous said...

I understood that Denis Healeu had to go cap in hand to the IMF because of the dire financial state that the Tory Chancellor, Anthony Barber, left the country in. Peronsally, I'm apolitical - felt that Thatcher was the best post war Prime Minister this country had ever had and that Enoch Powell was sacrificed on the altar of uypcoming political correctness. However, I also felt that Healey was one of the few honourable Labour politicians of the day and found himself in the same boat that Osborne found himself in, only more so. Barber, of course, went on to be a director of.......a bank!

Gregg said...

Couldn't disagree Anon. I think the post-war consensus meant that there was little difference between Tory and Labour, until Mrs T arrived. Yes, I also agree about Enoch. The patrician political/Tory establishment saw him as an even bigger threat to their cosy power base than they did Mrs T.