LETTER:Antecedents of Thatcherism

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The Independent Online
From Mr David Gladstone

Sir: No wonder the Tory party is in terminal disarray, if Lord Gilmour, one of its most erudite elder statesmen, is labouring under the misapprehension that "Thatcherism was and is a reversion to Gladstonian Liberalism" - with or without the idealism (Another View, 14 June). It is no such thing. It can best be described as "primitive capitalism" of the kind that flourished before Adam Smith exposed the limitations of unbridled private enterprise, let alone the great Victorians introduced their social "improvements".

Gladstone was criticised by some of his contemporaries for being too "etatiste", which meant that unlike Mrs Thatcher and her heirs he saw a necessary, far-reaching and beneficent role for the state. His belief in the inherent virtue of public service led him to sponsor the Northcote- Trevelyan reforms of the Civil Service, which the Thatcherites are hell- bent on destroying.

Ignorance of our own history is widely recognised as both symptom and cause of our national malaise. How could it be otherwise when that ignorance is so conspicuously entrenched in the party that has governed us for so long?

Yours faithfully,


London, N1

15 June