Friday, May 26, 2006

It's Not Time to Forgive Mrs Thatcher

THE THATCHER YEARS: The Rebirth of Liberty?

This is a Yankee joke, right?

If it's not, I think we have a problem.

The first is that we do need more discussions of the postwar history of
specific European states [as opposed to "Europe"] in US academia.

The departments which have hitherto discussed these issues - Political
Science and Economics - seem to me at least, to be frequently so dominated
by current political ideologies that plain historical narrative goes by the
wayside. [And this leaves aside the apparently obsessive conviction of US
commentators that the European welfare model of capitalism has failed -
despite massive amounts of evidence to the contrary.]

It is, for instance, very difficult to find explanations for survey courses
of what happened in Britain in the 1950-1970s. The almost compete collapse
of the British government under Ted Heath [with the country reduced to a 3
day work week, the population compelled to go to bed at 10:30pm, inflation
at 20% plus, and a subsequent election that threw Heath out of office]
seems never to have happened according to textbooks!

So it's not very encouraging when we find US conferences that address an important period in modern British history, but seem predetermined in there right-wing approach. I know US Colleges tryto promote itself though flashy conferences, but would promotion not be better achieved through genuine historical consideration rather than the use of code words such a "rebirth of liberty"?

For the record, under Mrs.. Thatcher

  • -Local governments that opposed her polices were simply abolished by ukase. Her hatred for the Greater London Council lead to the abolition of any general local government body for London, and delivery of massive powers to some local Conservative run authorities, some of which proceeded to use bribery and corruption to remain in office. [See the history of the City of Westminster Council on this.].
  • -Thatcher's government introduced criminal justice bill after criminal justice bill which stripped away the rights of people placed under arrest and charged in court.
  • -Her government attacked the universities over funding, and abolished tenure for new positions [including if you were promoted.]
  • -Her government adopted economic policies which shifted the burden of tax to the poor, and used high unemployment to constrain and beat down trade unions. I know this is heresy in the US, but while political freedom is important, any definition of freedom must include control over one's own life in all spheres. Thatcher's policies took away such control for many of the unemployed, and for those who were terrorized by the constant threat of layoffs.
  • -In 11 years of government She did nothing to bring about a solution in Northern Ireland, and permitted the police and judiciary to jail many innocent Irish men and women in the UK.
  • -Her government permitted the passage of private members' bills which sought to vilify and marginalize homosexual men and women, and to deprive them of the equal protection of the law.
  • -Immigration regulations where altered and enforced in an openly aggressive manner. [Thatcher's pre-election rhetoric had concentrated on the problems f "cultural invasion" by immigrants.]
  • -Although she did not put all his policies into effect, her main intellectual mentor was Keith Joseph, an man who combined an Aynrandian view of society with open calls for eugenic programs.
One could go on. Some of us simply got out.

To be fair, there are other aspects of Thatcher's polices which might have been more admirable (her government rapidly saw the need for widespread AIDS prevention programs, for instance, a response which contrasted massively with the almost criminal slowness of the Reagan administration in the US.)

I still detest Thatcher.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a lot of Americans (who assume Thatcher was a kind of female Reagan with a funny accent) don't seem to get is that Thatcher cut all kinds of necessary things (like the Met) in her quest to help people like herself join the class she despised.

Neurosis is not a solid basis for policy decisions, as Americans are now learning.

Love the blog, Paul, but you should tweak the settings to display only a few posts at a time.