By Andrew Brons. It would not be quite true that I have nothing positive to say about Mrs. (later Baroness) Thatcher’s political record. I have two remarks about her that might be considered, at least, to be some mitigation.
She was followed by those who were even greater scoundrels: Major; Blair; Brown; and Cameron.
Secondly, there are reasons to think that her ‘Iron Lady’ image was, at the very least, misleading. She certainly acted aggressively towards those in her Cabinet, who, she had been persuaded, were her political enemies. However, the word ‘persuaded’ should not be forgotten. For all her apparent aggression, she was supremely capable of being manipulated. Those who knew how to manage her, controlled her. For all her academic prowess in the natural sciences, she was a babe in arms when it came to Realpolitik.
She had her favourites, who knew where they and their policies were leading: Sir Keith Joseph, who saw himself as the populariser of Milton Friedman’s ideas. Sir Keith had other (non-economic) ideas that were much sounder but that is another article for another day. She adopted ‘austerity policies’ before they were called ‘austerity policies’ and delighted in the prospect of workers being forced to lower the wages for which they were prepared (or forced) to work. Unemployment was a Grantham, non-conformist lesson in humility.
Her election victory in 1979 was largely fuelled by the strikes of the ‘Winter of Discontent’. There were pernicious Communists in the trade union movement, like Red Robbo who helped to destroy our car industry. However, the strikes of 1978/79 however disruptive and counter-productive, were against the ‘Social Contract’ agenda of wage restraint.
Her destruction of Britain’s manufacturing industry, and later our coal mining industry, were, by some quirk of reasoning, seen as positive. The National Union of Mineworkers was certainly led by the appalling Marxist, Scargill, but the other Non-Marxist leadership candidates were just as defensive of miners’ jobs – as they should have been. Coal is a lost British resource for the loss of which Thatcher is personally responsible. She was persuaded by shadowy political gangsters to refuse negotiation and to follow the failure of the strike with the destruction of the industry.
“But at least she was patriotic,” I hear you say.
She affected to be a Euro-Sceptic but one of her first acts as Conservative Leader was to campaign for a ‘Yes’ vote in the 1975 referendum. In 1986, she embraced the Single European Act with its erosion of our sovereignty. In the late 1980s, she was apparently ‘unaware’ that her Chancellor, Lawson, was manipulating the value of the £ to shadow the Deutschmark. In 1990, in a last desperate attempt to remain Conservative leader and Prime Minister, she allowed her Chancellor, John Major, to join the Exchange Rate Mechanism – the fore-runner of the Euro. She rated the retention of her job as more important than her Nation’s sovereignty.
“Well,” I hear you say, “at least she was an inspirational war leader, during the Falklands War”. That cannot be denied; it helped her to win the 1983 (and perhaps 1987) General Election. However, she had been conniving for two years with her Foreign Office ministers to hand the Falklands to Argentina on a plate. It was those negotiations that emboldened the Argentines to invade. Her negotiations led to the invasion; the invasion led to the Falklands War, which led to the deaths of 253 British servicemen. Their blood is on their hands.
“On the most important issue of immigration, Mrs Thatcher must, at least be seen as sound,” I hear you suggest. She undoubtedly said a lot to create that impression. In 1978, she explained how she understood the fear of British people at being ‘swamped’ by immigrants of a different ‘culture’ (by which she meant ‘race’). In reality, no fewer unassimilable immigrants landed on our shores and at our airports after she was elected as did before she was elected. On immigration, as on everything else, she was a practised fraudster.
I must revise my earlier ‘commendation’ of her. I implied that her successors were worse than she was. They at least were (and are) openly Anti-British. Thatcher pretended to be a patriot. She was an unmitigated scoundrel.