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Ding-Dong! The non-feminist union-defeating Argie-beating Witch is Dead

I remember the party when Margaret Thatcher won the election in 1978.

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Actually I don\’t. Boy, did I get drunk on champagne. I was an enthusiastic member of the young Conservatives back then and we partied all night. I think?

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Why? Because being a Tory then was the only possible reaction to the suffocating bunch of Socialist Worker\’s Party rich-girl groupies I went to school with in Hampstead. It astonished me then and now how these nicely brought up, highly intelligent, utterly comfortable upper middle class girls fell for Marxism and Trotskyist rhetoric.

***

All around us was the (gently stinking) evidence that Socialism was a destructive dangerous force which could never deliver on any of its promises, never had and in the event, never did. Union arrogance in the 1970s meant that we had power cuts, miners\’ strikes, dock strikes, transport strikes, uncollected rubbish in the streets, unburied bodies – culminating in what people call the Winter of Discontent. And that was with a Labour government in charge. None of our heavy industry worked properly, the cars made by British Leyland were shit and the mines and docks not much better. There\’s a lot of socialist mythology still flowing about the Noble Miners: individually I\’m sure they were noble, but as a collective force they were dangerous, especially under the leadership of egotistic revolutionary socialists like Arthur Scargill.

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In the Socialist People\’s Republic of Britain, with Comrade Arthur Scargill in charge, the first people up against a wall facing a firing squad would have been the idealistic Lefty girls of my school along with their entire families. That\’s what happened in Russia, Eastern Europe, Cambodia.

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Mrs Thatcher was an extraordinary phenomenon and I believe she did a number of things that urgently needed doing – taming the unions being number one among them. The fact that most youngsters have no idea why they might have needed taming testifies to how well she did it. Fighting Argentina for the Falklands was another. And backing Ronald Reagan in his cunning high-stakes poker game with Russia was the third. She saw the possibilities of Gorbachev early and helped make the fall of Soviet Communism possible (after which a lot of the Lefty groups my schoolmates had joined suddenly ran out of money).

***

The fact that there\’s any kind of democracy in Argentina today is at least partly due to the drubbing she and the Armed Forces gave to their then dictator, General Galtieri (the clue\’s in the title, chaps). He made the terrible mistake of underestimating her because she was a woman. His underestimation of this country was quite correct: if any of her male predecessors or successors had been in charge when he invaded the Falklands (to grab the oil and the fishing grounds, by the way) – they would now be called the Malvinas, of course.

***

I remember queuing with my husband to get into the Visitors Gallery at the House of Commons on the morning of the emergency debate – we just missed getting in because we didn\’t get up early enough. There was uproar. Her government would have fallen if she hadn\’t announced some kind of action – but her decision to send a Task Force was a dangerous gamble because most people (including the Foreign Office and the USA) were expecting peace talks and some kind of fudge, preliminary to handing over against the wishes of the Falkland islanders themselves. That\’s what General Galtieri had banked on. It\’s ridiculous to imagine that she engineered the Falklands war so as to win the next election – she could just as easily have lost and gone down to a vote of no confidence. She reacted powerfully to events and had no foreknowledge of what might happen.

***

There are plenty of things she got wrong. She went enthusiastically for the Big Bang in the City of London, deregulating it so it could be the star performer of the economy. That seemed to work so well that Blair and Brown\’s New Labour government backed the financial shysters even more enthusiastically. We know better now, of course, but she didn\’t then.

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She destroyed British manufacturing industry, partly unintentionally, because like most nicely brought-up middle class women of her era she was deeply suspicious of heavy engineering. She had no idea how her battle against inflation and her high taxation would hit the uneconomic, union-hobbled unmodernised factories of the north.

***

And partly it was intentional destruction. She deliberately took on the miners under Arthur Scargill. The 1973 miners\’ strike had destroyed Ted Heath\’s Conservative government showing that the ancient problem of medieval governance – the Overmighty Subject – had returned in a new form. When an outsider group of men can blackmail the government, that\’s what you\’ve got. It was true during the Wars of the Roses about the nobility with their followers. It was also true of the Communist infiltrated unions of the Seventies. (I\’m planning a blog about Overmighty Subjects because it\’s a very interesting problem and extremely topical.)

***

So the Conservative party and the entire governing elite were out for revenge against the powerful miners\’ unions. Luckily, the lion-hearted miners had a truly stupid donkey of a leader in Scargill who walked straight into Thatcher\’s trap and lost to a very clever combination strategy of siege and divide-and-rule.

***

The suffering of the mining communities was terrible and has entered socialist legend. Did Thatcher care? No. Did she mind the police brutality on the picket lines? No. She saw it as a battle for who ruled Britain and she was quite clear it should be her and Parliament (in that order) not Scargill. Did she care about the destruction of the miners\’ communities? No. Why should she? By destroying Heath, they had shown they were dangerous and so she took them out.

***

You can criticise her destructiveness and callousness, but she was right to take on the unions. The trade union legislation that her polecat Norman Tebbit pushed through made the unions far more democratic and responsible. Ironically, we now need them to get stronger because once again we have an Overmighty Subject problem in the form of the too-big-to-fail banks and the multinational corporations.

***

It\’s clear she lost the plot with the Poll Tax which I suspect was cleverly sold to her as a way of getting nasty Labour voters off the electoral register. At the time I thought she was wrong about Europe, but it turns out now that she was prophetically right. As a result she was stabbed in the back by her own party – and by many of the same people who are saying nice things about her in hushed tones now she\’s dead. Her replacement, John Major, was a return to the wet dorks we\’d suffered from before her.

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Nothing shows up the knee-jerk sexism of British Left-wing politics better than their current hatred and villification of Margaret Thatcher. In the knockabout world of parliament she needed the hide of a rhinoceros to cope with the rocks chucked at her. She was then insulted for having a thick skin.

***

She is jeered at for being a middle aged middle class woman and particularly hated by feminists, male or female, who were horrified because the first woman Prime Minister was not a Socialist and had her hair done regularly. The mediocracy loathe her because of her simple certainties and belief in capitalism.

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Without those, of course, she wouldn\’t have had anything like the effect she did. A lot of the hatred comes from the fact that she was a powerful and effective woman leader – something Englishmen secretly love but also find terribly hard to forgive.

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She had something none of the present bunch of turgid parliamentary inadequates possesses: for good or ill, she had deep personal convictions which she stuck to with tremendous honesty.

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And she was brave. Even after the IRA tried to kill her and nearly succeeded, she spoke clearly and honestly about it to the press – with not a hair out of place.

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Take some classes in Thatcherism, chaps.

 

18 Comments

  1. KM Lindsay says:

    That was really quite a brilliant summation of Thatcher’s times and impact – and exactly what we never get anymore: an even handedness that allows for both the good and bad, the moments of prescience and the blind miscalculations with their lingering effects. The US, at least, has become so partisan (and utterly pathetic in its political coverage) that it’s all but impossible to look at anyone as a whole anymore, or begin to understand that the best of us are complex creatures rather than one-sided political caricatures. I worked in political fundraising in DC in the 80’s and 90’s and attended a dinner in her honor in 1990. She was then exactly as you describe her here. She certainly had her flaws, but on the whole the left shows itself for exactly what it is by the way it celebrates her death years later. Were she any less convicted or powerful in her effect, her passing would have been a footnote to her life. The outspoken need to “stamp the dirt down” on her is the best testimony to what she achieved in her lifetime. These days Yeat’s Second Coming comes fresh to mind: the best do seem to lack conviction, and the passionate intensity of the worst is portrayed as “tolerance” and “compassion” rather than fear of taking a stand. Bleah. Thanks for this, though. I sent the link along to Kate – you’ve done an outstanding job of summing up a complex time that lead us to where we are now.

    1. patricia says:

      Thank you. Thatcher herself said that she loved it when people insulted her personally because then she knew they had no real arguments against her.

    2. patricia says:

      Slowly I’m catching up with the various comments on my pages – sorry for the delay. Many thanks for this: I’m glad you feel I was fair to her. The fact is that very few effective politicians are “nice” people. One of PM David Cameron’s major problems is that the poor chap is so nice.

  2. Alex, your loving daughter says:

    The fact that you consistently ignore everyone rationally explaining that their dislike of her has nothing to do with her gender, including multiple examples to prove this is the case, implies to me that you are far more caught up in her gender than those you shun.

    Of course there are those who hate her because she was a woman, and those who would care a lot less had she been a man. But the fact you only mention these people is indicative of your refusal to acknowledge that in the same way that you dislike some of her decisions but still think she was overall for the good, many of us can accept that she did some real good but think she was overall very much for the bad.

    The blanket positive coverage in the mainstream press should be enough to secure her legacy, let us have our chance to kick against it. Please stop dismissing all of her detractors as “horrified because the first woman Prime Minister was not a Socialist and had her hair done regularly”. Lumping all feminists in with a minority is stupid and detracts from your arguments.

  3. christine s. says:

    In the early eighties I was working in community health in Derbyshire bordering on Nottinghamshire. I came across Arthur Scargill in various health related meetings and my personal impression then, and still is, is of a man hell bent on acquiring power. I feel that as a result of his beliefs, it was he who led the miners to destruction and many families I met were scared by him and his clique.

    1. patricia says:

      Fascinating – I’ll have to hear more about that. Of course, there are those that say he was really a Tory mole, planted to destroy the unions…?!

  4. claire says:

    that again is one of the best summing up of an era I have read and I am of a similar age so remember the same things
    Ps I remember reading your first book and i loved it!!!

    1. patricia says:

      Thank you. I’m hoping to get my backlist out on ebook – meantime take a look at my publishing company Climbing Tree Books for some of my latest non-fiction and Poisoned Pen Press for my series of Elizabethan crime novels starring the gorgeous Sir Robert Carey.

  5. ah..yes – i was there too,no battle to have,Patricia..-nuff said

  6. amanda baker says:

    Excellent Patricia! I am not going to admit to remembering any of this because I am sure that I am still only twenty one ish!! Thanks for sharing this on FB Duncan. Another author to fill up my Kindle with 🙂

    1. patricia says:

      Thank you – funnily enough, I’m about twenty-one myself.

  7. Arvos says:

    Then she was a friend to Pinochet and an enemy to Mandela. Nor did she have a problem labeling miners as enemies within. The local war memorials carrying the names of relatives killed defending this nation did not impress her. Maybe they should scatter her ashes at Grimethorpe while the colliery band played a few favourites. The national unemployment rate in her time was higher than it has ever been people died after spending days on trollies in hospital corridors. She sank a non-combatant ship in The Falklands murdering nearly 400 young men – still they were foreign. Enough? There is plenty more.

    1. patricia says:

      Thank you for commenting.
      1. Yes, she was a friend to Pinochet which was disgraceful.
      2. No, she was not an enemy to Mandela. She worked behind the scenes for his release and in pressuring the South African Apartheid government to give up things like the sjambok whip and Apartheid itself. Mandela himself acknowledged this after his release.
      3. She labelled the miners as enemies within because that’s what their Russian-funded Far-left-infiltrated union was.
      4. I’m sure the local war memorials carrying the names of miners’ (I assume) relatives killed defending this nation did impress her. However it took more than that to deflect her.
      5. I very much doubt Grimethorpe would have her ashes.I doubt the colliery band would be willing to play for her.You could ask them.
      6. Yes, national unemployment was higher in her time than since, partly because the figures weren’t being as expertly massaged and spun. I had a hell of a time getting a job in 1982.
      7. People still die after disgraceful treatment in hospitals… Remember that the mid-Staffordshire hospital deaths happened under Labour.
      8. The Navy sank the Belgrano (I assume that’s what you’re referring to) during an armed conflict (tr. war) which had started when the 400 young men’s government invaded the Falklands. There has been endless argument about whether or not it should have been sunk but the young men weren’t murdered, they died in a war. Or do you regard all foreign soldiers as innocent victims and our troops (some of whom also died) as deserving of death? How does that fit with your reverence for war memorials? War is nasty, people die. Moral: don’t invade other peoples’ countries (George W Bush and Tony Blair take note).
      This is fun.

  8. Alex says:

    9. Section 28

    You can’t make me believe she wasn’t a horrible excuse for a human being. She stood for blind greed, distrusting everyone without money and ignoring hardship for the benefit of her own buddies.
    You’re being incredibly patronising and refusing to accept that not everyone’s view has to be the same as yours. I don’t mind that you liked her but I do wish you’d stop putting down everyone who dares to disagree.

    1. patricia says:

      Yes – 9. Section 28 was another disgrace. I thought it was fine at the time but have met people since then who have shown me I was wrong about it.
      I’m not trying to make you believe anything, I’m trying to show you why you’re wrong to believe what you do because it’s based on a very silly caricature of a much more interesting real human being. That doesn’t mean I think she was perfect or even pleasant. She had the vices of her virtues.
      She certainly didn’t stand for blind greed – but she did stand for monetarism which was arguably worse, because more abstract and less human. She hated Communism and would back anyone who was against it (hence the Pinochet scandal).
      She didn’t distrust everyone without money, she thought it was their fault they were poor (arguably worse again!) Incidentally, even her worst enemies agree that she was kindly and generous to the people who worked for her – unlike the ghastly Gordon Brown who was renowned as a bully to his staff. She was also decent to the widows of her political opponents. She gave no quarter to anyone who opposed her and expected none – something I admit I find attractive.
      She ignored hardship because she didn’t think it was important – having always been comfortable herself, of course. Most people who live in the stupid-making rich-bubble think that way. Germaine Greer thinks she plotted to benefit her friends – I don’t know the ins and outs of that and don’t want to comment until I’ve seen Greer’s sources, which she doesn’t give references for, I notice.
      I may be accidentally patronising because, of course, I think I know better than everyone which is why I write a blog. However I don’t refuse to accept that your view is different from mine. I’m not putting anyone down. You have every right to think whatever you like. I just think you’re (a) factually wrong on many points about Thatcher; (b) psychologically wrong on Thatcher’s character and (c) interestingly passionate about it.
      Why not go into politics yourself?

  9. SmileyGiley says:

    Wow – Just caught up with the rants. Cool. As a strongly anti-left, pro-anarchist, self-help loving, honour (and, where necessary succour) thy neighbour conservative (not Conservative) anti-immigration (not anti-immigrant, mind), if find I am now in I love with Ms Finney & might even want to have sex* with her (that happens to us blokes when we meet a female with an interesting mind). Alternatively meet for a pint, or maybe just read the blog (my wife may find the latter more acceptable though she too is captivated by souls attached to interesting minds). I’ll come here again, if I may.
    (*Please note – comedy turn of phrase there, not creepy stalky freakish desire with cold clammy hands. SmileyG – aka Arnold Layne)

    1. patricia says:

      Thank you – clearly you have superb literary taste! To answer your questions on A Shadow of Gulls – it would take about three weeks’ work to get it ready for ebook publication as it was entirely typed on an Olympia typewriter and was published too long ago for there to be any kind of wp file. The hitch is that I haven’t got the time myself and can’t pay anyone. You’d be better off with a pint than 10% of revenue, probably. If you’re in London, I’d be happy to meet for a pint… So long as your wife comes too.

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