Those people who are against the Thatcher protestors and the public outcry about spending 10 million of public money on her funeral might want to consider the following points:-
The typical justification coming from the right for spending around ten million pounds of public money on Thatcher’s funeral is that whatever you think of her politics she was still a very strong leader who fought for her country, changed so many things, and had the courage and conviction to stand up for what she believed in.
Well Hitler was all those things as well. He possessed a determination for making his country great, he stood up for what he believed in, and was certainly a game changer, and in some respects even a remarkable person (I mean this in a pejorative sense of course). I am not directly comparing Margaret Thatcher to Hitler (not quite anyway) but just making the point that these qualities in themselves can’t be used to justify spending so much on Thatcher’s funeral. None of these things change the fact that she was a hugely divisive figure who caused a considerable amount of suffering in Britain during her reign as prime minister, and succeeded in destroying entire communities, many of whom have never fully recovered since. And for those who are complaining that some of the protesters are too young to remember Thatcher, so therefore are unable to form a valid opinion on the matter – well I was not even around during the period of apartheid, and Hitler died before I was even born. But my opinion of him is still valid, as is my opinion of apartheid.
It is very easy to use the above kind of reasoning if you have no problems with what she did. But if you or your family are amongst those who suffered so much at the hands of her barbaric policies, or even if you like me, simply have a strong sense of social justice, then the justification used above for spending so much on her funeral somehow falls well short of the mark.
Before I go on let me tell you a bit about myself and my family background. My father left school and went straight into an apprenticeship, thereafter securing a rewarding career in engineering up until the mid-eighties, where partly as a result of Thatcher’s policies he was made redundant from the engineering company where he then worked. After a relatively short period of time of going from one menial job to another he decided to invest most of his redundancy pay in setting up a business. This led to him establishing a successful business within a year or two of his redundancy, where he carried on working well into his sixties until he was forced to retire because of my mother’s failing health. Thankfully he fared somewhat better than some of his former colleagues at the engineering firm, some of whom ended up taking their own lives as a result of not being able to find work after being made redundant.
As for me, I have done pretty ok myself. While still being a few pounds shy of making my first million I have nonetheless managed to get by ok financially. I didn’t do so great at school, but moved to Plymouth at 18 and shortly thereafter became a student, starting off doing a National Diploma in Electrical & Electronic Engineering at the Plymouth College of Further Education and then going on to university to do a degree or two, one of which was in Computer Engineering. And I did all this concurrently with working around 30 hours a week, doing a combination of early morning cleaning, working evenings in a restaurant, and eventually building up my own window cleaning round as well (I was so knackered as a result I ended up sleeping through most of my lectures, and had a reputation for disturbing other students with my frequent snores). I now earn a living doing a combination of part time work in restaurants and software design on a freelance basis (primarily by using project4hire and similar online resources).
The point I am basically making is that I am a hard-working and reasonably ambitious individual who comes from a similarly hard working family background. But the problem is this. I do, despite all this, have a strong sense of social justice. And this is where I start to have a problem with Margaret Thatcher and her politics.
Even many people on the right concede to the fact she got some things wrong, but frankly it is hard to see what she got right. Many benefitted from her ‘right to buy policy’ where they were able to buy their own council houses. From a personal point of view the people who benefitted from this policy are perhaps justified in feeling a degree of gratitude for what Thatcher did for them. But this policy had an ideological underpinning. She did not believe in the principle of social housing. And from a long term pragmatic point of view this policy has not ended up working for the benefit of wider society. As a result of selling off council houses at knockdown prices many properties eventually ended up in the hands of private investors. Ultimately the welfare bill has gone up as a result because many poorer people have been forced into the private housing sector where they are now claim housing benefit for extortionate amounts of rent.
What else did she do? Ah yes, she privatized all the utility companies, which is why we in the UK are now being fleeced by German and French utility companies, and can no longer afford to heat our homes and eat properly as well. Many are forced between one or the other, including many elderly people!
Also don’t forget it was the politics of Reagan and Thatcher that resulted in so much deregulation of the financial institutions, something that has only recently been exposed for what it truly was – extremely misguided policy making!
Barack Obama has just praised Thatcher for being “one of the great champions of freedom and liberty.” I was somewhat shocked to hear a politician I respect so much make such a statement. Perhaps his knowledge is somewhat sketchy on the amount of suffering she caused in the UK during her reign of prime minister. I will give him the benefit of the doubt on this one since I still believe his heart is ideologically in the right place. I am not confused however as to why Thatcher is so popular in America per se, a country that is traditionally quite conservative (although thankfully that is all starting to shift now with the demographic changes that are currently taking place across America). It is interesting how American’s frequently use terms such as ‘freedom’ in such a euphemistic fashion, basically to disguise the true sponsoring thought behind this term – a ‘survival of the fittest each man for himself’ mode of politics. By extending their logic further we could conclude that if we want even more freedom then we could also do away with law and order, and hence save the taxpayer even more money. Indeed why have legislation at all? Isn’t having all those pesky laws about not being able to just do as we please at someone else’s expense encroaching on people’s personal freedom?
Margaret Thatcher was overtly bedazzled by the free market model of economics and laissez-faire politics. A staunch believer in Adam Smith’s invisible hand (invisible because it doesn’t exist) she naturally believed in the trickledown theory. And most of her policies reflected this mindset. And the trickledown theory is probably one of the most discredited theories of all time.
Margaret Thatcher basically destroyed manufacturing in this country, ruined entire communities, and inflated and deregulated the financial sector, encouraging a era of greed and an ‘every man for himself’ culture. This is the legacy of Thatcher. And we still live with it today.
At the time of me writing this post the music track ‘Ding Dong! The witch is dead!’ has just reached the midweek top ten, sparking outcries that the record should be banned on radio and music TV stations. Even more outrageous is the talk of police now potentially having the powers to pre-emptively arrest people ahead of Thatcher’s funeral for things they have not actually done! (Remind anyone of a certain Hollywood film starring Tom Cruise?)
We are about to spend in the tune of ten million pounds of tax payers money on her funeral! This for many people is just rubbing their faces in it. At the very least let these people have their protests. And at the very very least do not pre-emptively arrest these people for things they haven’t actually done yet on the basis that they might do something at some point in the future. At least give people that much respect!
Anyway I have to go now in order to download ‘Ding! Dong! The witch is Dead!”
It’s a great tune isn’t it?