Before settling down to write this piece – in what was probably a futile attempt to whet appetites – I tweeted that, “Thatcher and the Left needed each other like two drunks”, by which I meant that each used the other for support, even justification. Maybe exhausted heavyweight boxers would have been a better analogy; and if I’d used that, then it would allow me to say that socialism is down and out while Thatcherism is still standing, triumphant.
Let us cast our minds back to pre-Thatcher times. Those on the Left too young to remember seem to view this period as when the Left was powerful and we lived in a more ‘caring’ society. Bollocks! The UK was alternately ‘governed’ (I use the term very loosely) by a Conservative Party that had lost its way and an equally enervated Labour Party in hock to trade unions. The trade unions of the ‘closed shop‘ and the political levy whose power Mrs Thatcher curbed . . . and for which most people – including trade union members – were grateful. I was a union member myself, I attended meetings, and more than once I saw how ‘a dedicated few’ could take control. Resulting in trade unions pursuing political agendas subversive of democracy rather than serving the interests of their members. With trade union bosses being celebrities in their own right and big-time political players. To the stage where I used to get really pissed off with hearing some little git with a Napoleon complex mouthing off on TV and threatening to bring down a democratically elected government.
So Mrs Thatcher helped free the Labour Party and the population at large from the trade unions, but the rest of her legacy is rather more mixed in lasting value. Because if New Labour was a thoroughbred foal then its parentage would be ‘By Bilderberg out of Maggie’. For Mrs Thatcher is undoubtedly responsible for New Labour; the worst bunch of sociopaths and emotionally crippled control freaks I have known in my lifetime. That anyone could ever have believed in and trusted Blair, Mandelson and the other con men remains one of the great mysteries of modern politics. Just remind yourself of those excruciating soirees at No 10, where Tony and Cherie would try to play JFK and Jackie to assorted luvvies and ‘celebs’ . . . remember them? Just writing about it still causes me to shudder.
For her own party Mrs Thatcher was also a mixed blessing. She may have rescued the Conservatives from Ted Heath, she may have given them eighteen years of government, but she also took the party away from the grandees to make it more welcoming to the ‘aspirational’; with a less charitable interpretation being that the Conservative Party became more materialistic, abandoning the one-nation Toryism of the past and repopulating the party with the spivs and the swivel-eyed who helped gain it the soubriquet of ‘the nasty party’.
Since her death I have read so much myopic condemnation, much of it from stand-ups and spads (whose opinions I value so highly). One criticism is that many of the council properties sold to their tenants under the Right to Buy scheme are now owned by major property companies. Which may be true, but overlooks the fact that Labour had thirteen years in power to do something about that. It did nothing. Perhaps the greatest proof of her influence over New Labour is that she is still being attacked from the Left for policies and legislation that New Labour in power never thought of reversing. Or maybe it tells us that the terms ‘Labour’ and ‘the Left’ are now forever divorced. If true, then that is some achievement for the grocer’s daughter.
Other criticisms may be more justified. While I could not oppose privatising utilities on ideological grounds, replacing a State-owned monopoly with an unregulated cartel of private companies, diverting profits to major shareholders, rather than using them to improve infrastructure and reduce consumers’ bills, is no improvement at all; certainly not for the consumer, in whose name the privatisation was carried through. Furthermore, once Mrs Thatcher got the taste for privatisation it went too far. The break-up of the railway network was a disaster in more ways than one. Not only did it give us a confusing system of competing companies and separate infrastructure, it also made a mockery of privatisation by having to be regularly baled out with taxpayers’ money.
Even so, she was a towering political figure because she broke with the past and she shaped the future. Britain in 1990 was as different to Britain in 1980 as Britain in 1980 was to Britain in 1930. Britain in 2013 is still Thatcher’s creation. And in the absence of total economic meltdown leading to a collapse of social order, everyone knows there’s no going back. Of course she had help along the way; because when you can count among your opponents Callaghan, Foot, Galtieri, Kinnock, Scargill and others, then you know you were born under a lucky star. I suspect there were times when even she couldn’t believe her luck, looking at the incompetent and inadequate men she had ranged against her. With enemies like these, who needs friends?
Seeing as this is a Welsh nationalist blog I suppose I am expected to ask what Margaret Thatcher did to, or for, Wales? The answer is, not a lot. Wales may have suffered as a result of her policies, but I don’t think she was in any way anti-Welsh. I don’t think she singled us out, in the way she did the Irish and the Scots, for special treatment. If you want to find the anti-Welsh, the quislings and the traitors, it’s best to look in the Labour Party.
Yet Welsh Leftists, faux socialists and others, still use Margaret Thatcher to frighten Welsh electors – or at least, the more gullible, who vote for what they believe are socialist parties – into believing that the only defence against Thatcherism is to vote Labour, or Plaid Cymru, even Liberal Democrat. But even if Welsh Labour was a socialist party determined to roll back ‘Thatcherism’, it would be futile for Welsh people to vote Labour in Wales because the UK Labour Party is Thatcherite. Consequently, the only way Wales can truly defend itself from ‘Thatcherism’ is through independence, which of course ‘Welsh’ Labour opposes.
Margaret Thatcher’s influence on Wales may have been substantial but it was tangential and unintentional. By comparison, Labour’s damaging influence is direct and deliberate, year in year out. Who undermined the devolution referendum in 1979 – Margaret Thatcher or Neil Kinnock, George Thomas and the rest of the Labour gang? Who has been responsible for squandering the EU and other funding that has come to Wales since 2000 – Margaret Thatcher or the Labour Party and its cronies in the Third Sector? Who fought against holding the 2011 referendum on greater powers for the Assembly – Margaret Thatcher or Peter Hain and others in ‘Welsh’ Labour? For a century, the real enemy of Wales, and the biggest threat to Welsh nationhood, has been the Labour Party, which is always looking for somebody else to blame. Don’t you be deflected or distracted from the truth. Because until enough of us grasp that truth there is no hope for Wales.