It is the Iron Lady's 85th birthday today and I am sick and tired of all my left wing associates talking about dancing over her grave. I am no child of Thatcher (from a philosophical point of view) as I do tend to stay in the centre of politics as much as I can but here is my take on it.
Thatcher was merely there when change was happening. Just as Blair was as well. The difference was (whether you love/hate either) in Thatcher's time, a lot of the change was inevitable. In Blairs, a lot of the decisions were made by them, mistaking the wave of economic success to themselves, precipitating it's terrible downfall.
Margaret Thatcher didn't destroy manufacturing, but restructured the economy including getting rid of the too powerful unions to get the country back on it's feet. The manufacturing that died was inefficient and outdated. Our products were being out made and out priced by countries such as Japan and we just called strikes every five minutes. How can we blame Thatcher personally for that?
For example cheap North Sea Oil coming on line and the miners making the coal situation and the dependent industries face a dead end. Maggie just put the boot in and made the changes.
It's funny how these changes are precisely an interruption in the overall scheme of things. Actually starting up an industry from scratch is pretty tricky.
It is also quite ironic that a lot of staunch Labour supporters were also buying Council houses and doing very well out of it AND then moaning that there were not enough being created as well.
I like to think of the years 1979-1982 as the hangover years
as the UK got back on the straight and narrow after the wild and
anarchistic times of the 1970s.
Blair and Brown could have changed what they inherited, as ‘Thatcherism’ was always supposed to be (in the greater scheme of things) a short term foot in the door, and did not have to continue down the path that they did.
All Thatcher did was become the first PM to view the UK as 'UK PLC'
She looked at various nationalised industries, saw that UK PLC was propping them and said:
'If we are propping it up financially, then its loss making. A loss making business has to be sorted out, otherwise its a pointless drain on the public purse'
So, she did.
I havn't yet met an individual who rails against her who can come up with a convincing argument for why the state should pump money into loss making industries. There is no justification, long term for the state pumping money into loss making outfits. Its a waste, pure and simple, and the result would have been an economy comparable to the Eastern Bloc.
The so called British Worker was the cause of the demise of most of British Industry. Under Callaghan and Wilson before him there was hardly a day went past without some people going out on strike.
Nationalised Industries were costing all taxpayers Billions a year. The steelworkers, Dockers, Shipbuilders, Engineering, even the motor industry were perpetually out on strike.
We lost jobs because no manufacturer could guarantee a delivery date or a price, so orders went overseas. The only ones to blame were the so called workers, and their communist Trade Union leaders. More pay for less and less work. We couldn't keep up with the rest of world and they super seeded us. Hence most of us drive German cars etc etc...
One of the effects of the Carbon Hysteria is to reduce CO2 outputs by shifting to fuels with more favourable C:H ratios. ie:- Oil and Gas.
In practice, I would suggest that this is more closely responsible for coal fading out. I remember about Britain being responsible for alot of acid rain. Our lefty Geography teacher used to go on and on about it.
Perhaps another factor was the decline in steel production in the UK, which is highly energy intensive.
The real trouble is that one just can't hide from the fact that buildings, ships, cars, all take a huge amount of energy to start out with.
For anyone who says that China is moderate in it's use of energy you gotta think again. The buildings, ships, cars, they're all still being made, and the labour is cheap. If these things are happening then the energy is being used somewhere and someone else is losing out.
I find it interesting that many of the people who complain about the environmental toll of mankind are left leaning. Often they are the same people who point the finger at Maggie because of the miners. But there's a contradiction there, no?
Maggie cleaned up the acid rain. And now we're gas fired and looking to become nuclear and renewable. No?
Better than not being fired at all, which is the Labour legacy. Living in the Northeast, Thatcher is still very much hated by the majority working class. Wander into any working class pub or social club on a Sunday afternoon and you will hear that it is Thatchers fault that the country is in the state it is in today. They really do not want to believe the destruction their beloved Labour Party has done to them - they really would not want to hear the truth.
The place really could still be full of pits and mines making sure people are dead by the age of 50 and these people honestly think life would be better.
As for Thatcher killing Manufacturing, well i am sorry to tell you silly people, yes you wont believe it and shall remain in denial, BUT after she closed the pits Maggie Brought you Nissan.
Not many of them know or like to know about that. The company that has basically kept a large area of the North alive was built by the one woman they detest and hate. The company that employs thousands, uses thousands of local suppliers, has improved wages, working conditions and basically brought the area up to date.
it is impossible to measure the net benefit of certain industries- such as a rail industry. whilst on the face of it it might have been losing money, the net benefit in terms of social wealth, mobility and unaccountable benefits means the equation should be more complicated than just one of state support.
Thatcher was 100% correct to break the unions (see Royal Mail if you want to see the effects of a over-unionised company), it at least gave companies a fighting chance to compete.
Make no mistake, this country is run by companies (most of htem SMEs), its power is commercial, its success dependant on profit. These policies kick started the UK back into life again - but that does not mean it had to continue. The labour government has always thought that the only thing that mattters is "state". In this they will always be wrong, the key is a balance.
Given the growth in public spending that had come before, and that has now come about again and the assumption that it would go on like that for ever, I think holding it almost steady for ten years was a huge achievement.
Of course more could and should have been done, but you're asking for superhuman determination there. Maggie was as tough as they come and even she had to fight every inch.
If Thatcher's influence on the economy was disastrous, we can only guess what adjective we'd have to apply for a continuation of what had gone before.
Thatchers legacy is certainly oversimplified, and probably overrated. She continued to expand government, for instance, during her time in power. Her real contribution was to remove power from the unions. Whether you personally like the approach the powerful unions had to managing the economy is neither here nor there. They were not representative of the people, the existed purely to further the interests of their members, and they should no more have a monopoly of the supply of labour than corporations should have a monopoly of the supply of goods or raw materials.
I have never understood while people who (rightly) fear the power of very large, unaccountable corporations were so happy to have equally large and powerful unions throwing their weight around in much the same way. At least the man in the street can buy shares in any PLC and gain a vote in how it is run. The same is not true of unions.
Credit where it's due - she was the best, and we'll never see her like again.