Letters: Iron Lady who ushered in a new age in Britain

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, Tuesday 9th April, 2013

Independent Voices
Monday 08 April 2013 19:31

Margaret Thatcher was a remarkable woman.

Inevitably, her legacy is controversial. But no one can deny she ushered in a new age in Britain.

The era of corporatism had clearly run its course. In addition, strikes and excessive union power were threatening to strangle economic life in Britain.

As with any major swing of the pendulum, this one probably went too far. Greed and individualism became disturbingly widespread and clearly contributed to the crash of 2008. We have yet to extirpate these facets from our national life and return to the ethic of public service which so widely prevailed in days gone by,

For once, it is surely not a cliché to say we shall not see her like again.

Andrew McLuskey, Staines, Middlesex

I graduated at the beginning of Thatcher’s reign, left(ish)- leaning and fascinated by politics and societal issues. I was generally opposed to most of what she stood for, but mostly was against the ruthless manner in which she carried out her wishes.

But I give her credit for opening the way for women in positions of power in politics and commerce, and for being a principled politician who fought for what she believed in, the latter so much in contrast to today’s media-spun politicians.

While she will be remembered as pushing through deregulation that opened up the commercial world, and for cutting back the power of outdated unionism, she did a lot of harm to this country as a society. Her legacy is a “look after number one” mentality that I think permeates so much of the way we are now.

But it is not just Thatcher I blame for this. When Blair arrived, there was hope that the “push-me, pull-you” way of a (mostly) two-party democracy would reverse much of what Thatcherism had wreaked on us, and the better parts of her achievements would be retained and the “steps too far” revoked.

We hoped Britain would be a stronger economy, and that that there was “such a thing as society”, one we could all be proud of. But Tony Blair and his New Labour government let us down badly.

And the 13 years of that government were so poor, so unprincipled, that the caring community and society that I yearn for may never be recovered, especially with our present shambles of a government.

So goodbye Maggie, remembered but not mourned. The terrible state we find ourselves in now is not all your fault

Joel Baillie-Lane, Bristol

“You will know them by their friends”? Tony Benn will be gracious today, as he outlives Mrs T. He has said: “It is wrong to put the years of Tory misrule down to one personality. Margaret Thatcher represented the ruling class very well.”

And even though she was a “grocer’s daughter from Grantham” she was a very good representative of her class, the middle-class who did the upper class’s bidding.

In 1978, the old Etonian, Nicholas Ridley drew up the battle plans for the future Conservative Government led by Margaret Thatcher, leaked to the Economist magazine, aimed at smashing the trade union movement, privatising the NHS, decreasing tax on the rich, and many other things.

Until the Falklands War of 1982, she was the most unpopular PM in British history, with one of the worst records in attendance of the House of Commons since Gladstone 100 years before her. And none of us will forget, who were there, the second landslide victory in 1983 that was said to be at the expense of those British/Argentinean military who died or were wounded as the price.

We can all list the “Thatcher-era” failings with accusations of crushing communities. Arthur Scargill will claim that the blue-collar unions were her first target, but I, and another well-informed ex-union exec member, made clear to him at the TUC in 1985, the miners and others were not her primary target. Journalists, whether at the “pinko’ BBC or elsewhere, and various civil servants were seen by her as her first enemy.

The financial crisis of 2007 has its roots in the deregulation of the Stock Exchange of the City of London and in Wall Street know as the “Big Bang” of 1987. Thus began a decade that gave us so many “Gordon Gekkos” who said “Greed is good”.

Pat Edlin, London N1

Those who seek Mrs Thatcher’s legacy will find it in the de- industrialisation of the North and the economy in general; the destruction of UK coal-mining; the privatisation of publicly owned companies at knock-down prices; the failure to invest North Sea oil revenue in the UK infrastructure including rail and schools and widening inequalities of income leading to an explosion in benefit costs for those unable to compete;.

Then she presided over the marketisation of virtually every branch of public service including the NHS, police, prisons, and BBC; a process of City deregulation leading ultimately to the financial crash of 2008 and the sale of local authority housing to create additional Tory voters. This was all part of an untested and highly theoretical experiment in social and economic engineering based on the simple mantras “private = good, public = bad” and “the market knows best”, all of which this present government is enthusiastically continuing.

Don’t say that politicians won’t make a difference: this one changed a great deal, causing damage which will take decades to repair, if it ever is,

Derek Armstrong, Scarborough

Destruction of the coal industry. Privatisation of the public utilities and rail. Deregulation of banking and finance. The sale of council houses and scrapping of rent controls. Support for the Apartheid regime in South Africa and the Pinochet regime in Chile. Spare me the crocodile tears for Thatcher please.

Dr Mick Wilkinson, Lecturer in Race & Social Justice, University of Hull

I look forward keenly to your publication of a tribute from Dennis Skinner.

Ted Clark, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

May God bless the soul of Margaret Thatcher.

Dominic Shelmerdine, London W8

Savage look at the Thatcher legacy Much will be said over the next few weeks about the “achievements” of Margaret Thatcher. These will probably divide between Daily Mailish eulogies and Guardianesque whines. My view is that she was a bad thing for Britain.

She started the transformation of this country into a politically correct police state. Her government behaved with an almost gloating disregard for constitutional norms.

She brought in money-laundering laws that have now been extended to a general supervision over our financial dealings. She relaxed the conditions for searches and seizure by the police.

She increased the numbers and powers of the police. She weakened trial by jury. She gave executive agencies the power to fine and punish without due process. She began the first steps towards total criminalisation of gun possession.

She did not cut government spending. Instead, she allowed the conversion of local government and the lower administration into a system of sinecures for the Enemy Class. She gave central government powers of supervision and control useful to a future politically correct government. Her encouragement of enterprise never amounted to more than a liking for big business corporatism. Genuine enterprise was progressively heaped with taxes and regulations that made it hard to do business.

Big business, on the other hand, was showered with praise and legal indulgences.

Indeed, her privatisation policies were less about introducing competition and choice into public services than in turning public monopolies into corporate monsters pampered by the state with subsidies and favourable regulations, corporate monsters that were expected in return to lavish financial rewards on the political class.

She hardly cut taxes. She ruthlessly pushed the speed of European integration. Her militaristic foreign policy and slavish obedience to Washington mostly worked against the interests of this country.

The one war she fought that might have some justification was only necessary because her own colleagues had effectively told the Argentine government to invade the Falkland Islands.

Before her, trade unions were run by working-class people who used the strike and violence to achieve their ends. She ensured that the unions were taken over by the usual Enemy Class graduates.

Forget Margaret Thatcher as some hero of our Movement. She was, at best, the midwife of the New Labour Revolution. She did not just make the world safe for New Labour – she created New Labour.

Without her precedents and her general transformation of our laws and institutions, Tony Blair presiding as Prime Minister would have been impossible.

Dr Sean Gabb, Director, Libertarian Alliance, London W1

Jailed wealthy should pay, too

So, disgraced Liberal Democrat minister Chris Huhne finds prison “fascinating” (report, 8 April)? He is yet another in a long line of establishment figures who have the wealth or connections to treat prison as as a gap year, with time either to write a novel or reinvent themselves as a politician with a conscience. They rarely have worries about how to make a living afterwards. Instead of allowing them to relive boarding-school days, let’s make them also pay a fine proportionate to their wealth.

Ian McKenzie , Lincoln

Act of contrition?

It used to be that the words of those backing Irish republicanism were spoken on the media by an actor. Would it be possible to have the words of a former prime minster (I dare not speak his name) not spoken by an actor, nor broadcast or printed? We tried killing people in foreign countries at his suggestion, and the results were predictable, counter-productive and catastrophic.

David Partridge, Bridport, Dorset

Got his Goat

As official timekeeper to the annual Oxbridge Goat Race, held in parallel to the wet scramble from Putney to Mortlake, I must point out that ever since it began five years ago the land race has always been calculated in metric time, with a hundred seconds to the Euro minute, making Cambridge goat in 2013 the fastest win to date. Your report (Sport, 1 April) was 40 seconds out. In future, please check with me first.

Richard James , (Oxon), Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Class act

The Great DIY British Social Class Calculator must be the greatest April Fools’ wheeze ever to miss April Fools’ Day.

Chris Harding, Parkstone, Dorset

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