Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Just How Evil Was Margaret Thatcher?

So she's dead is she?

I hope so, but the Twitter hash tag, #nowthatchersdead, is rather ambiguous and suggests it might be Cher who's popped her clogs.

If the Iron lady really is now undead - I mean dead - I'm sure she went to her grave believing, as many of her supporters no doubt still believe, that at least she saw the Labour movement interred first.

But despite what she thought, Thatcher didn't defeat the Left. It defeated itself. Callaghan's government, faced with economic meltdown, applied some very mild Monetarist medicine. It worked, and all that was needed to see us through the crisis was a bit of wage restraint. But that didn't happen. Instead we had The Winter of Discontent.

But this was no General Strike. There was no solidarity amongst the workers. Everyone supported their own wage claim, but opposed everyone elses. As a result a startling 83.4% of Labour voters wanted a ban on secondary picketing. Frank Chapple of the Electricians Union wondered of the vanguard socialists who led wildcat strikes, whether they were "politically motivated, misled, sick-minded or just plain stupid."

Thatcher then won power by the slimmest of margins but with broad support for moderate reforms from the country.

However there was nothing moderate about her. Her paraphrasing Saint Francis of Assisi on the steps of Downing Street were probably the most insincere words spoken by a politician - and that's saying something.

So how bad was she?

She once said that when alone she would succumb to the occasional womanly tear. I don't believe that for one moment. The only tears she was ever seen to shed were for herself, when they kicked out of Number Ten.

She may have been the first woman politician, but once in power she pulled up the drawbridge and presided over all male cabinets. Allegedly she would read them The Sun's editorials. These being on Page 2, she would fold back the paper so that the men would be looking at whoevers tits were on Page 3. If that's feminism, I'm Joan of Arc.

There is also a conspiracy theory that says that she was removed because, as the only trained scientist to become PM, she really did realise the significance of Climate Change. The evidence for this is non-existent. Her science was chemistry, and her work for J Lyons and Co. was on how to increase
the volume of ice cream by blowing cold air into it, in the process upping the profits whilst making the stuff taste like shaving foam. Think of her whenever you have a Mr Whippy.

There's really nothing to see here, but as the title of this blog is 'The Greenman', I'll take a little break from putting the boot in to look at her Green credentials. Apart from a campaign to pick up litter, this largely consisted of a speech to the Royal Society in September 1988 in which she highlighted the danger of Climate Change. Now this was a really important speech and put the matter on the world agenda for the first time, so respect to her for delivering it, and rather more respect to Sir Crispin Tickle, UN Ambassador, for writing it.

What moved her to do this? Well, according to her own book (Margaret Thatcher: The Downing Street Years) this was because environmentalists had "used the concerns about global warming to attack Capitalism, growth and industry" and she wanted "to ensure a sense of proportion". That one page reference is all Green issues got in her 900 page book. By contract, her 2002 book Statecraft (another much thumbed tome on my library shelf - NOT) devotes an entire chapter to the "much less certain" science of Climate Change and the "costly and economically damaging" plans to do something about it.

So, not exactly Swampy then.

Mrs. T. in Cloud Cuckoo Land
However, back to the title of this post, and we have Thatcher the racist, a little discussed topic even amongst those who detest her. This is the person who said "I think people are really rather afraid that this country might be swamped by people of a different culture." Nor was this just reflected in her policies. The Australian politician Bob Carr recalls a tirade against Asian immigration in front of his Malaysian born wife that left him speechless.

True she eliminated the National Front politically, but only by adopting some of their policies. Whilst campaigning in South London she asked a Black woman "What part of Africa do you come from?" "Tooting," was the reply.

Then there was her so called economic miracle. In reality the rate of growth she manged, an average of 2.4%, despite a North Sea oil bonanza, was exactly the same as in the corporate decade of the seventies, which included two oil shocks. The only difference was that in the eighties the money stayed mostly in the south of England, and mostly in the pockets of the better off. She even had her own mini-Credit Crunch in the form of Black Monday, when the stock market fell 25% in a few days. At the time it was regarded as a bit of a one off, but we know now this is what unregulated markets do every decade of so.

In conclusion, she was as bad as democratic politics gets.

She never personally ran death squads and didn't build death camps, although the use of the SAS to kill terrorist suspects in Northern Ireland, which happened after John Stalker's investigation into the more accountable RUC (which has never been published) comes pretty close to the former and her lunatic adviser Lord Monkton's suggestion of concentration camps for people with AIDS comes pretty close to the later.

However she remained good friends, until he died whilst under house arrest and facing trial for torture and kidnapping, with General Pinochet who, as well as sharing her economic views, most definitely did run death squads, and she supplied military aid to Pol Pot, who really did build death camps, a gig that even the SAS found unpalatable.

So the answer to the question at the top of the page is 'very'. Her rule was bad, but her instincts were worse.

If we were not a parliamentary democracy, if there had not been a few One Nation Tories left in her party, had there not been opposition from the arts, the Church of England and ultimately the streets, it could have been a lot worse.

I don't often say this about people, but good riddance.

My suggestion for the words on her tombstone?

"Now wash your hands".

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