Let Thatcherism be buried with Thatcher

Regardless of creating a society of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, the prosperity she created was a mirage - I can only see the one million 16-24 year-olds who are unemployed
  • @cjmortimer

When Margaret Thatcher left office in November 1990 I was barely a month old.

I obviously have no memory of the dramatic fall of the Iron Lady but I’ve been told by my mother on several occasions that I could not bear the sound of her voice. For some reason, despite all the work she famously did to lower her pitch and tone, I could not listen to any radio or television broadcast without howling with newborn distress - despite being a rather docile baby most of the time.

To this day I don’t think my mother has ever been more proud of me.

It seems ironic that for all she tried to achieve in office, the children born at the end of her reign are the ones who will suffer worst from the economy she created.

The graduating class of 2012, that is children born between September 1990 and August 1991, is the very first ever to be poorer than their parents.

For all the talk of her creating an aspiration nation, everything she gave to the father she took away from the son.

I don’t want to do a hatchet job before she is even cold in the ground. Despite my personal opinion of her I did not take to the streets dancing when I heard of her death. Nor did I get involved in the frankly asinine musical spat in the charts this weekend.

Her time in office; the Falklands War, the crushing of the unions, the miner’s strike and the Big Bang. The sound and the fury emanating from all corners of public life over the past week has urged everyone to either condemn or condone her policies as if it’s a public duty.

But I won’t. Whether the unions were too strong or not, whether the country benefited from a deregulated financial sector, whether she put the ‘Great’ back in front of Britain or sped up its terminal decline is not for me to say.

I didn’t live through it so I am not going to comment on it.

All I can see is what is laid out ahead of me. I can only see the one million 16-24 year-olds who are unemployed. I see the thousands of graduates who got thousands of pounds in debt to ‘aspire’ for a better life but get to work for free. I see my generation shackled to rising rental contracts drifting further and further away from the Thatcherite home owner dream.

The free market may have given thousands of small businesses owners a chance to get started but it means their children who want to climb even further up the greasy pole have to accept a new market wage of nothing.

She may have given thousands of families a ticket into the middle class with council house purchases but her refusal to build more not only cut off those on a lower rung, but precipitated a housing crisis which means the children will never get to enjoy the rewards.

Regardless of creating a society of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, the prosperity she created was a mirage. She created a temporary spike.

The Thatcherite dream lasted only a few years because it was a gorging, grotesque, all-consuming type of prosperity which can only turn in on itself as it is runs out of external nutrients.

The pursuit of glory and riches is said to only be worth it if you can pass it on. That is why kings and tyrants try to build dynasties; if you can’t pass it on to your son or daughter why bother building it at all?

So, what was the point of Thatcher? We can let historians debate whether what she did was necessary or not but we have to ask ourselves whether it was worth it in the first place.

Why turn what will one day be a small spec on our history books into a political ideology whose life support society refuses to turn off?

In case it escaped anyone’s attention the Cold War is over.

My generation has never once had to fear the ‘reds under the beds’. An air raid siren does not send a chill down our spines. We do not quiver in fear at the sound of the word ‘socialism’, nor do we embrace it as an old friend.

To us ideological war is fought by lone men with bombs and extremism, not armies and totalitarianism. We don’t care for personal responsibility politics as it is evident our politicians and financial leaders do not practice what they preach.

We want a new doctrine. One that takes all the ugly realities of the twenty-first century life. Whether it is based on the political right or the political left, we don’t care. Let Thatcherism be buried with Thatcher.

Ideas must evolve as societies evolve and the winds of history change. It has been two decades and we are still trying to use eighties solutions to modern problems.

My earliest clear political memory was the billowing smoke emanating from two skyscrapers early one morning in New York back in September 2001. My generation is living in the scary new century which began that day. We’d appreciate it if those running the country would join us in it.

I am the last of Thatcher’s children and I say let her rest in peace.