I’m probably still “the enemy within”

16 04 2013

Eight days have passed since the death of Margaret Thatcher and as we all know it’s been eight days jam-packed with fulsome tributes, offended bluster and propagandistic whitewashing.

I hope that you can tell from the opening sentence that I still despise Thatcherism. I hope you tell that I was socialised into despising Thatcher and her abhorrent works – My grandmother couldn’t see Thatcher on TV without uttering the word “bitch”. You may assume that I was very happy last Monday but if I was “happy” it was only a superficial and hollow sort of happiness, the sort of happiness a football fan feels when  their club has lost and they find out their hated rivals have lost.

As much I wanted to celebrate her demise I felt uncomfortable about actually celebrating. Firstly, we’re talking about the death of a frail old woman. Secondly, I find the thought of celebrating anyone’s person’s death a bit ghoulish, I’m the sort of person that felt squeamish when I saw that video of Saddam Hussein being executed on the news. Thirdly, she may have gone but her toxic ideas still constrict British society. Having said this I refuse to judge those that want to celebrate. If people can celebrate Thatcher’s life as a great example to us all then why can’t others take the opposite view in a democracy?

In the last eight days it seems that every Tory with a functioning mind has opined a heartfelt tribute or penned a righteous justification. By the time we reached last week’s Question Time I was sick of the historical whitewash, mind you I’d probably had enough of solemn bullshit within 30 seconds of watching any programme on Monday evening. Whilst I witnessed the stuff pour out I struggled to understand how any of the tribute-makers, especially journalists, could fail to point out the negative side of Thatcher’s work. “Divisive” was as far as the criticism got and Glenda Jackson was subjected to “howls of protest” when she presented a different version of history to the recalled House of Commons.

Last week people not only defended Thatcher they also attacked those that didn’t share enthusiasm for her. “It’s disgraceful!!! Disrespectful!!!!, blah, blah, blah.”…………

“On Thursday, Prime Minister David Cameron branded some reaction to the death of Lady Thatcher as “pretty distasteful”.

He went on: “I think the overwhelming sense across the country – and you can see it yesterday in the House of Commons – is that we are mourning the loss of someone who gave a huge amount to this country, an extraordinary leader.”

“Righties” – the press or general head bangers – should never be allowed to claim the moral high ground but that’s especially true at this moment. They don’t seem to care about the human cost of her policies and they’re not above celebrating the deaths of public figures if it suits their agenda.

These double standards were plain to see in Saturday’s edition of Murdoch’s tabloid (I found it on the train to Bangor in case you’re wondering, I didn’t buy the piece of shit). Firstly, the use of “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead” as an unofficial anthem is attacked in their inimitable style;

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Then the weirdness of an evil regime and how it brainwashes people is described in their inimitable style;

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I realise that Thatcher may not have controlled an actual dictatorship but you get the point.

This is the beauty of the British “righties”; they allow the odious, the judgmental and the often discredited –  Louise Mensch, Norman Lamont, Simon Heffer and Bernard Ingham – a platform for prejudice, paranoia and often ridiculous views then cry foul when “lefties” takes the opposite view.

The last week has shown yet again just how much “righties” favour the judgmental broad brush. They absolutely love the creation of nebulous enemies like “The Lefties”, “The Unions”, “The Foreigners”, “The Bureaucrats”, “The Europeans”, “The Liberal Elite”,  “The Football Fans”. Consequently we’ve heard all about Maggie’s victories, especially how “The Lefties” and “The Foreigners” were bested; “She stood up against Europe”………..”She stood up against Argentina”……………. “She stood up against the unions”. No clichés were left unuttered.

The trouble with  “righties” is that they see unjust dictatorships and politically correct compulsion in their enemies then demand that we unthinkingly accept their view of Thatcher.

For example, a couple of rich club owners thought “football” should respect the memory of Thatcher with silences.  They seriously thought that “football” should do this because some right-winders make the extremely questionable claim that  she “saved football from its turmoil of the 1980s and paved the way towards the  all-seat magnificence of the game as it is today” or because they’re club owners and they demanded it. These owners don’t seem to grasp why fans might not respect the legacy of Thatcherism. This short letter about Hillsborough from Bernard Ingham about Hillsborough tells you all you need to know about the Thatcher’s government’s thoughts on football fans;

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“Righties” don’t seem to have thought much about why “Lefties” are so horrified by Thatcher, or why they doesn’t respect her legacy. How are people supposed to respect Thatcher’s legacy when they can remember what happened during her reign?

Ken Livingstone: “She created today’s housing crisis. She created the banking crisis. And she created the benefits crisis. It was her government that started putting people on incapacity benefit rather than register them as unemployed because the Britain she inherited was broadly full employment. She decided when she wrote off our manufacturing industry that she could live with two or three million unemployed, and the benefits bill, the legacy of that, we are struggling with today. In actual fact, every real problem we face today is the legacy of the fact that she was fundamentally wrong.”

Alexei Sayle: “She made a conscious decision to run down manufacturing and concentrate on two areas which were arms manufacture and financial services. I wonder in some ways if having financial services and arms manufacturing at the core of your country kind of corrupts you morally. This idea that she was a great reformer – in a sense she was a great destroyer.”

David Stubbs; “You presided over the dismantling of the UK’s manufacturing base, sold off the country’s commonly owned silverware to a bunch of money-grubbing, pinstriped opportunists, practically eliminated the country’s social housing stock and eroded the welfare state by unleashing the worst of which the British people are capable – fear, ruthless greed and small-minded loathing, racism, xenophobia and homophobia – adding insult to injury by administering all this with a sickly, acrid, old-fashioned dose of castor oil moralism. It is just that you rot in senile purgatory and die a lonely death.”

Welsh Mining Books ; Just heard the news about Thatcher, can’t say that I am wailing with uncontrollable grief. And before the sycophants start eulogizing her lets have a look at her true legacy.

Thriving communities were destroyed by her policy of ‘greed is good’ the rich got richer and to hell with the rest of us. More crime, more drug use, more suicides and the collapse of the ‘community’ way of life.

She sold off …the public owned industries to ‘kick-start’ the rip-off Britain that we have today, the railways, gas, electric, telecom needed reform yes, but all she did was pass them onto foreign ownership with the resultant charges that we suffer today.

She did look after her family, while destroying everyone elses, children were forced to move away, or both partners forced to work to make ends meet.  The result is the high social care costs of today – but fair play mun, she looked after Denis, letting him use No.10 notepaper for his business so foreigners thought that they were dealing with the government, and her boy, whatisname, done alight with dodgy arms deal didn’t he. Talking about arms deals, how many did she and the Argentinian generals kill in the Falklands, a war every expert states could have been averted if we had acted sooner, but there you are, she won a general election on their graves.  Health and education became run-down, and the school playgrounds sold off, and the Tories of today have the gall to complain about obesity.

Heavy industry, such as shipbuilding, steel and coal mining wiped out to make entirely dependent on other countries for our manufactured goods. Now we don’t make anything thanks to Thatcher just serve each other in shops and such and watch the bankers laugh at us.

Which brings me to the biggest con of all, selling off council houses cheaply, sounded great didn’t it.  But did you notice that although the house prices were reduced thereby starving local authorities of money, the interest rates shot up so the fat cats won again.  But the real motive was to get everyone in debt, and it succeeded, and once you owe a lot of money you are less likely to strike for your rights.

I can’t be bothered to add bits on the poll tax riots, standards of living dropping for the first time in this country, increasing poverty levels, the two-faced rhetoric over Europe, the disgraceful pandering to American bankers, and the cold indifference to peoples suffering.

And they will be telling us how wonderful she was.

How can people respect the legacy of Thatcher when we can see that Thatcher wasn’t just wrong from a moral perspective but from a logical perspective as well; A right to buy scheme that led to a lack social housing stock, selling off playing fields then complaining of feckless teenagers, closing the unprofitable and uneconomic coal mines then importing coal for Britain’s power-stations, making hundreds of thousands redundant then complaining about the increased cost of welfare, telling people to get on their bikes to find jobs but sending the police to beat up the miners when they fought to keep their jobs.

The problem I have with people supporting the memory of Thatcher is that they come across as a little disingenuous. They may dress their ideas in celebratory or respectful language but we all know what they’re saying; “I did well under Thatcher”.

This is the crux of Thatcherism v Society. Basically if you did well under Thatcher, you love her work. If you did badly, or hated seeing the effect of her policies, you hate Thatcher’s work. It can be no coincidence that the two owners that wanted to honour Thatcher, Whelan and Madejski, grew very rich thanks to Thatcherite policies. I don’t know why a lot of Thatcher devotees are reticent, they should celebrate the blatant idea of  “I AM DOING ALRIGHT, SO PULL UP THE LADDER” seeing as it’s probably the central tenet of their blessed ideology.

I saw the Good / Bad dichotomy in my personal experience of Thatcherism……..

………Almost as soon as I heard about Thatcher’s demise I thought of my dad. By last Thursday I’d remembered the certificate that’s hanging up in my Mum’s hall

At first glance it’s a charming little certificate. It has a lovely border, a lovely gilt-edged frame and my dad’s name lovingly written in beautiful calligraphy. The BT logo, which my Dad nicknamed the fruity messenger, sits proudly in the middle and the bottom is embellished by a printed signature of BT’s then chairman, Sir Iain Vallance.

The certificate tells you that Michael Johnson served British Telecom, and the G.P.O., with distinction for twenty-eight years. It’s the certificate that BT gave to my dad when they made him redundant.

By itself the certificate epitomises Thatcher’s callous outlook; a mass-produced piece of thin card as an adequate representation of a person’s working life. Somebody really thought that a piece of thin card can represent years of dignified labour, of loyalty to company ethics, of friendships. They might as well have written “Just fuck off Johnson, and don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out.” on a piece of scrap paper.

The certificate reminds me that the prospect of steadily decreasing offers of a redundancy payout forced my dad, and thousands of others, into accepting a fait accompli. BT was “over manned” and that was that. There was no gold clock presentation from a respectful BT board, there was just a simple pay-off, a small pension and a mass-produced certificate with a pre-printed signature at the bottom.

Then I remembered how my dad tried to sign on after he was made redundant. After 40 years of making contributions to the system he was told that in Thatcher’s welfare state his lucrative redundancy package was just too lucrative and he wasn’t entitled to any money. I think about the lack of dignity and wince.

The certificate has always been a reminder of the cynical callousness of Thatcherite policies. It shows how privatisation turned the providers of services for society into thrusting profit-maximising business. It shows how companies were encouraged to dispense with people simply because  someone had decided that the companies were “over manned” and in desperate need of a period of “rationalization”.

As I hinted above, the really horrible thing about Thatcherism was that while it was bad for those that suffered it was good for those that did well out of it. Eighteen years after my dad’s redundancy Iain Vallance, the man behind pre-printed signature, was also being made redundant (or should that be “stepping down” as he was rich?) The main difference between my dad and Vallance was that Vallance ‘s honorary job – Emeritus president of BT – paid £350,000 and he was claiming a £600, 000 pay-out .

Norman Tebbit was another one that did well out of BT’s privatiasation. I remember my dad swearing at the pictures of Tebbit in the BT company magazines he was sent (Tebbit was a director at some point between 1988-2000). Tebbit wasn’t just in favour of BT’s privatisation, he was the actual minister that introduced the idea to the House of Commons;  “With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about privatisation of British Telecom.

This shameless behaviour would be bad enough on its own lack of merit but if you remember his famous suggestion to the “feckless” working classes about getting on their bikes, does “amoral” go far enough? Like any good Thatcherite true-believer he continues to justify his disgusting outlook;

“The Worker complained that it is all Thatcher’s fault and that BT sacked 30,000 people. Well, certainly in order to improve service and cut prices BT had to reduce staff numbers, but what would The Worker want? I am not sure how many customers BT would have left if they had 30,000 more people on the payroll.”

Sadly, from his soul’s point of view, Tebbit doesn’t merely justify Thacherism, he revels in the utterly callous nature of the ideology;

“. For his part, mailkel (a message poster) banged on about me having bought shares and served as a director of BT. Well almost everyone except me was able to buy shares in the flotation in 1984. I had to wait until I had left office. Later on I was invited by the board to become a director and was later elected by the shareholders. I hope that mailkel bought BT shares and did well out of them, but it is a pity no one thought he was worth having as a director of the company.

Why should we celebrate an ideology that produce outcomes like this? How can we celebrate a political outlook that treats certain sections of a society with utter contempt? How can we celebrate an ideology that cynically created winners and losers?

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