The left hated Thatcher because she thrashed them

Margaret Thatcher, 1925 – 2013

On Gee Street in London there is a Stafford Cripps House named after the post war Labour Chancellor. In Fulham there is also a Stafford Cripps House which contains a Clement Atlee Court named after his boss. In East London there is the Kier Hardie Estate, named after the first Independent Labour MP. In Clapton there is a Nye Bevan Estate named after the former Labour minister.

So I was baffled when, today, my various inboxes, feeds, and walls were swamped by left wing friends asking how bothered I was by the passing of Margaret Thatcher. One or two seemed rather put out when I responded that I wasn’t massively. As someone who could be considered a ‘Thatcherite’ I believe in the individual not an individual. I’ll leave the veneration of Dear Leaders to the left with their crumbling municipal buildings.

At 87 Margaret Thatcher lived a long life. Insofar as we can tell about the private life of this most resolutely political of people it was also a rather happy one. The daughter of a provincial, middle class shopkeeper, born during the Depression, she went to Oxford, became a chemist, and then became a lawyer. Elected to Parliament in 1959 after a decade of trying she rose against incredible odds to become the first female leader of a major British political party in 1975 and Britain’s first female Prime Minister in 1979. She was accompanied every step of the way by her beloved husband Denis.

Her period in office was marked by internal division and conflict of a degree not seen under any other prime minister of the century. Thatcher took on the Labour Party (three times), the Argentines, the National Union of Mineworkers, and crushed them all. By the time Thatcher left office even the Soviet Union and its miserable communism were history.

But in 1988 Thatcher gave her famous Bruges Speech in which she stated “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.” For the European federalists, including many in the Conservative Party close to Thatcher’s predecessor Ted Heath who had never forgiven the grocers daughter for beating the grocer, this was a step too far.

In 1990 Thatcher was finally brought down, not by a bunch of troublemakers rioting in Trafalgar Square, but by her own Europhile backbenchers, angered by her refusal to sign up to a single European currency. History has proved Thatcher emphatically right.

She brooded on this betrayal in retirement but, judging by her memoirs, she was fully aware of just what she had helped achieve, even if she was typically modest about it. She had taken Britain from an increasingly chaotic, sclerotic, and socialist place, to a place which was on the up again. Internationally she had restored some of Britain’s old standing and seen off the communist threat.

Both in Britain and abroad, with the help of her great ally Ronald Reagan among others, she had shown that the inevitable, onward march of socialism was nothing of the kind.

And, perhaps most uncomfortably for her detractors, she was popular and remains so. She won three elections on the trot. In 2011 a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times placed her firmly at the top of a list of post-war British prime ministers with a whopping 27 percent, more even than Winston Churchill.

The sainted Clement Atlee, architect of the welfare state, nationaliser of industries, and namesake of a court in Fulham, limped home with just 5 percent of the vote behind Tony Blair and, mysteriously, Harold Wilson. The much-vaunted street parties celebrating her demise might be rather more thinly attended than the guests have convinced themselves.

Those who profess to hate Thatcher have committed the error of taking something they believe (or claim to, I’m not convinced many of them are actually serious), repeating it loudly and often to other people who also believe it, and assuming from this fusillade of confirmation that everyone else thinks it as well.

These people can often give you a list of reasons they hate Thatcher, lists which are often so suspiciously similar that you have to question how many are the product of original thought and how many are just being parroted to feign an opinion. Most of them, from the mass unemployment to her supposed destruction of Britain’s industry, are easily dealt with.

But the truth is that she would have been disliked intensely no matter what she did. Owen Jones wrote recently that “Thatcher hate is not kneejerk anti-Toryism, 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.”

But remember that in 1948 Nye Bevan, one of the most venerated and overrated figures in British political history, said, “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.”

Remember also that 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.

The left disliked Thatcher because she was a Conservative. It hated her because she thrashed them.

Margaret Thatcher is one of only two British prime ministers to coin an ‘ism’ and unlike the other, Blairism, Thatcherism actually meant something. This is why whether alive or dead she will live on. Her ‘ism’ will be a much more permanent monument than the grey, decayed concrete boxes named after various Labour no marks.

This article originally appeared at The Commentator


4 thoughts on “The left hated Thatcher because she thrashed them

  1. Sadly true. Rather than accept problems with the system they were defending, left-wingers in the 1980s polarised the issue – playing right into Thatcher’s hands. From one conservatism to another.

  2. A good article. One can point to errors that Mrs T. made (the lady did herself). But today is a day to be decent – to have some respect.

    Some have passed the test of today, and some have failed it.

  3. The system did not have problems – it was the problem. Sadly it still is – Mrs T. dealt with some things (such as the nationalized industries – the lady did not kill them, she revealed that they were already dead), but the “entitlement state” continued to grow.

    Mrs T. never really had a plan to deal with health, education and welfare – there were no massive “cuts” (quite the contrary) and since her time spending on these things has contiuned to expload.

    Hayek (back in 1960) predicted that state ownership of the means of production would not be the problem of the future (as, sooner or late, the basic bankruptcy of state owned enterprises would become obvious), the problem of the future would be the ever growing burden of the Welfare State – which might lead to de facto bankruptcy and terrible suffering (ESPECIALLY for the old, the sick and the poor).

    Mrs T. did not deal with this threat – but it is incredibly difficult to deal with it. Perhaps de facto bankruptcy and economic (and social) collapse are not avoidable.

    As for banking and finance – M.T. was always rather wary of “The City” (and rightly so).

    There is nothing wrong with financial trading, of with lending money for interest – but “The City” went way beyond such things long ago.

    Norman T. (a man as hated by the left as Mrs T. herself) once told me that at the heart of The City there was………. NOTHING.

    People lending out “money” that did not exist (that was not REAL SAVINGS) and dealing with financial instruments that (when one examined them) turned out to be based on nothing.

    One can not (as Mr Gordon Brown tried to do) maintain a Welfare State on tax revenue from an industry (Financial Services) large parts of which (not all – but large parts) are really (in the end) based upon…… NOTHING.

    Mrs T. (by instinct) know this, she really wanted a system based on thrift (real savings), and hard worlk (producing real things), but the lady had no idea how to deal with the Financial Sector.

    That is not an attack – again it is an incredibly difficult question.

  4. It is thanks to providence that individuals of merit, during the course of our history have appeared on the national stage, perfectly suited to engage with either a clear and present danger, or perceived crises.

    My fear is, that within the present political diaspora, we appear to be “served” by a motley band of self serving, rent seeking, navel gazing Diletantes.

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