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

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Sidney Lumet

Juror number 8, Joe Roberts, Frank Johnson, Frank Serpico and Sonny Wortzik were very different men. Number 8 was a middle class architect. Sergeant Major Roberts was a soldier. Frank Johnson and Frank Serpico were detectives. Sonny Wortzik was a bank robber. But in the hands of director Sidney Lumet, who died last month, all these men would have recognised each other’s dilemmas.

In Lumet’s first film ‘12 Angry Men’ (1957) number 8, played by Henry Fonda, retires on a sweltering summer’s day in New York to deliberate over the murder of a man by his teenage son. It’s a seemingly open and shut case; the boy has a criminal record and there are witnesses to the murder identifying him. A vote is held and the hands go up for guilty; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 but not 8.

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Vigilante Man

When Michael Winner asked the late Charles Bronson if he’d like to star in his new movie Death Wish, about a mild-mannered chap who goes on a rampage shooting scumbags when his family is attacked, Bronson replied “Id like to do that”. “The movie?” Winner enquired, “No”, responded Bronson, “Shoot some scumbags”.

When it was released in 1974 Death Wish stirred up enormous controversy. With its violent rape scene and apparent condoning of Paul Kersey’s vigilante activities, Vincent Canby of the New York Times called it “one of the sickest movies ever made”, claiming that it “raises complex questions in order to offer bigoted, frivolous, oversimplified answers”.

The films message in enunciated best by Kersey in conversation with his wet blanket of a son-in-law; “What do you call people who, when they’re faced with a condition of fear, run away?”. His son sheepishly asks “Civilised?”. In the west, society works on the understanding that when members of the public are done wrong, the State, which holds the monopoly on legitimate violence, takes people’s rights of revenge and retribution on itself. With this comes the caveat that the State is duty bound to exercise this right of revenge and retribution. But, as this film poses, what are we supposed to do when the authorities rescind this right, and by definition the rights of victims and the public, in the face of left wing/liberal notions of fairness for crooks? When the police don’t protect us, who does?

For those who think this film silly, just look at the case of British farmer Tony Martin. Repeatedly burgled and repeatedly told by the police that they were powerless to act, Martin shot one burglar dead and wounded another when his home was broken into again. Unlike the burglars, Martin was arrested and sent to jail. The burglar who escaped was subsequently given legal aid to sue Martin. In Death Wish the police spend considerably more time trying to apprehend Kersey than the scum he is after. This is provocative political film making of the highest calibre, not far behind Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers and Costa Gavras’ Z.

Some criticise the film for the ease with which Bronson finds muggers. As Mark Steyn wrote, “To be sure, he sort of goes looking for trouble. But in 1970’s New York you didn’t have to look far: just go to the park, ride the subway, take an evening stroll”. This great movie loses one star only because it is not quite as good as the similarly themed Dirty Harry.

There are a couple of problems with this movie. Charles Bronson is too macho an actor for the role of “bleeding heart liberal” turned vigilante Paul Kersey. He looks like a killer from frame one, and as a result his transformation is a little hard to swallow. A more normal looking actor might have been more believable, as Dustin Hoffmann demonstrates in Straw Dogs*. It also suffers in comparison to the book. The back story about a gun fighting father, introduced in the movie, is plain daft, and the police investigation in the film, which tracks Kersey down in pretty short order, feels tacked on and ill thought out. The ending of the book is better also. Called Paul Benjamin in the book, the Bronson character is caught red-handed by a police officer. The officer removes his hat, turns his back and allows the Vigilante to escape. Oochoa gets nowhere near him in the book.

Ask yourself the question posed on the back of the paperback version of the book; “What do you do when your life lies in ruins and fear clutches at your heart? Do you shun the city and flee from its violence? Or do you do what Paul did – get a gun, learn to use it and start fighting back?”

* Apparently the movie was originally slated to be directed by Sidney Lumet and star Jack Lemmon. That would have been some movie.