Owen Jones, the Just William of left wing journalism who famously came a cropper on Andrew Neil’s show, has piped up in the Independent to comment on the deranged hatred some on the left have for Margaret Thatcher.
“As far as (the right) are concerned,” Jones writes, “it is nothing more than spite from a hate-filled left, still furious at being comprehensively defeated” Au contraire, says Jones, there are perfectly understandable reasons for hating Thatcher.
“A reasonable right-winger would accept that her 11-year rule opened up the greatest divisions Britain has experienced in modern times” Jones says. I’m not so sure. Read about the 1970s, about Northern Ireland, about trade unionists in the winter of 1978/1979 stopping ambulances entering hospitals, and then try and say, with a straight face, that Britain pre Thatcher was a land of social unity.
In a similar vein Jones goes on to say that “Thatcher is reviled by some not just because she crushed the left, the Labour movement and the post-war social democratic settlement” In actual fact the left crushed itself with its embrace of ever more radical forms of socialism (it wasn’t Margaret Thatcher who described Labour’s 1983 manifesto as “the longest suicide note in history“), the labour movement splintered as changes in working patterns which Thatcher had nothing to do with kicked in (as even the Marxists recognised) and the “post-war social democratic settlement” collapsed amid inflation, debt, and unemployment because we could no longer afford it.
Jones speculates rather pointlessly that “Perhaps if a Labour government had reduced the prosperous middle-classes of the Home Counties to mass unemployment and poverty, and stockbrokers desperate to save their livelihoods had been chased by police on horseback through the City of London, they would understand the bitterness” Perhaps. But it wasn’t the Home Counties which were being propped up with unsustainable and ever growing subsidies of taxpayers cash.
“Thatcher hate is not kneejerk anti-Toryism” Jones concludes, “after all, there will be no champagne corks popping when John Major dies, and there was no bunting on display to celebrate the deaths of Ted Heath, Alec Douglas-Home, Harold Macmillan or Anthony Eden”
Eh? Is Jones sure about that? Let’s not forget that Nye Bevan, one of the most overrated figures in British political history, said in 1948 that “No amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin”
Bevan didn’t say that about a Conservative Party containing right wing ideologues like Thatcher, Norman Tebbit, or Keith Joseph. He said it about a Conservative Party which contained such Keynesian, welfare state loving, consensus supporting politicians as Harold Macmillan, R A Butler, and Alec Douglas-Home.
Thatcher would have been hated just for being a Conservative but she would have been tolerated if she had done as her opponents wished and governed Britain in the 1980s in the same way as it was governed in the 1940s. She didn’t, partly out of conviction and partly because it wasn’t possible.
By 1979 Britain was unraveling and, thanks to her predecessors choice of short term fixes, Thatcher had no choice but to act radically. In all the years I’ve been asking people who claim to hate Thatcher what they would have done instead, I’ve still not had a serious answer. Jones tells us that “When Thatcher came to deliver a speech at Sheffield’s Cutlers’ Hall in 1983, my eldest brother was among those throwing eggs” Of course he was. When you haven’t got an alternative that’s about all you can do.
Thatcher did the job that none of her predecessors had had the balls to do and it was a job made much harder by their political cowardice. But a necessary job job isn’t made less necessary by its unpleasantness.
If Thatcher had kicked the can a little further down the road like Wilson or Heath she’d have been hated but tolerated. She didn’t. She did the right thing and she won. That is what turns the hatred into insanity.