Friday, 12 April 2013

Friends, Britons, countrymen...

He who controls the present, controls the past; and he who controls the past, controls the future. In other words, history is written by the winners. 

In 1997, the re-branded Labour Party were the winners. For the next 13 years, much was said about the legacy of Margaret Thatcher and Thatcherism. Everyone, especially those born in the late 90s - the young people of today - were bombarded with tales of horror and emotive stories of milk grabbing, mine closing, factory shutting, warmongering, racist and misogynistic Tories. The Left of course had at their disposal, the press, state television, a fast growing public sector, unions still smarting from the decade past, teaching unions and swathes of the population demobbed from dying sunset industries. In the "Things Can Only Get Better" era, misinformation was easy to peddle. Half-truths and selective memories were fixed into hearts and minds as true historical fact. An entire generation would grow up with an inherited hatred and the Nasty Tory meme seeped deep into the psyche of a nation.

This is not to say everything about Margaret and the then Conservatives was perfect. Politics never is. Democracy doesn't work that way. I will not dwell on the negatives - there is no need. We have been subjected to it for long enough and those arguments will continue for decades to come. There is not a single politician on the face of this planet that isn't above reproach. Saints do not become leaders of state. Here, I will talk about the circumstances surrounding the Britain Margaret Thatcher inherited. The part BEFORE Left-wing history lessons about Margaret Thatcher begin. 

This is the prequel.
  • Britain in the 1970s was in total chaos. In 1979 alone, 12 million days were lost as a result of strikes. Power cuts were widespread and frequent. Homes and businesses had to use candles to light their rooms. If you picked up the phone and your neighbour was on it, you had to put it down and wait. 
  • Industry was in terminal decline, pretty much all over Europe. In 1980, state owned British Steel lost £545 million had £5 billion in debts written off (paid for by taxpayers of course). Against this backdrop, unions went on strike for a 20% rise in wages.
  • Bin bags piled high. Dead bodies remained unburied. The State was excessive. Watch this short video clip. Government owned our phones, many of our homes, our airline, our energy companies, our recovery services and paid scant regard to how much things cost. The taxpayer would foot the bill. Personal taxes were as high as 83%. 
  • The Government even controlled how much money we could take out of the country when we went on holiday.
  • Unemployment in 1980 was 2.24 million.
  • Britain was facing double digit inflation which seemed to be the norm, an almost accepted feature of British economics. Under Callaghan's Labour government, inflation peaked at 26%. By 1979 it was still stuck stubbornly at 17% and crippling our economy. One restaurant owner said, "We couldn't even print our menus; the prices changed every week."
  • The Miner's Strike will always be associated with Margaret Thatcher in government. Yet the simple economics of the problem prove that it couldn't have been avoided. Harold Wilson, the former Labour Prime Minister, closed three times as many pits as Margaret Thatcher, rendering many times as many miners unemployed. You don't hear that in the anti-Thatcher tirades you've grown up with. Thatcher inherited an industry rendered uncompetitive and inefficient by successive government failure and the forces of globalisation. It is extremely difficult to justify the continued subsidy of an industry losing, in those days, £250 million per year. 264 pits closed between 1957 and 1963. 346,000 miners left the industry between 1963 and 1968. In 1967 alone there were 12,900 forced redundancies. Under Wilson one pit closed every week. By the time the Tories were elected into power, mining production had fallen by two thirds. At one point, the industry was losing £1.2 million per day. Its interest payments amounted to £467 million for the year and the National Coal Board needed a grant of £875 million from the taxpayer. The Monopolies and Mergers Commission found that 75 percent of British pits were losing money. 
  • Subsidies and other industrial policies were attempted, yet the fate of mining was already decided years before Thatcher became Prime Minister. Margaret Thatcher simply turned off the expensive, taxpayer-funded, life machine. Of course, the impact on specific communities was tangible and deep, but a British Prime Minister had to put the national interest first.
  • The welfare state that Left are so proud of couldn't function under the above circumstances, just as it can't today - but that is another story for another day. In the 60s and 70s it was mainly sustained by the overhang from the Industrial Revolution and British colonialism - the exploitation and impoverishment of a billion plus people and their resources - the out-of-sight-out-of-mind people living in remote villages all over the world, which goes a long way in explaining the guilt Left wingers always find themselves saddled with. That party had ended. We'd given up on the Commonwealth and embraced Europe. No longer would colonies, now former colonies like India, be expected to provide cheap raw materials. Margaret Thatcher was, perhaps the first person to acknowledge that.
  • European journalists regularly labelled Britain the 'sick man of Europe'. The firemen's strike leading to a State of Emergency, Grunwick strike, Ford strike and lorry drivers' strike within just two years of Callaghan's reign. There was a defeatism, a sense of inevitable decline. A notion that Britain would never be as great as it once was. This consensus was incredibly damaging for the British economy which continued to skydive but also British society.
  • Meanwhile, on the world stage, communism was bringing untold misery to millions in Eastern Europe.

There was no hope. No patriotism. No aspiration. One woman sought to change this.

Here's what happened then:

Real wages in Britain between 1979-1994, according to Access to History Britain 1945-2007, rose by 26%. This is compared to just 2% in France and 3% in West Germany. The United States suffered a 7% fall in real wages. Sky News reported figures which showed average earnings rocketed by 181% under Margaret Thatcher compared to 61% in the 11 years previous.

Everyone became wealthier under Thatcher, including the poor. The Institute for Fiscal Studies states that median earnings rose faster under Margaret Thatcher than they did under John Major or under Blair's credit-fuelled artificial boom of his second and third terms of office.

Britain grew by 23%. We grew faster than our main competitors, comfortably quicker than France or Germany. Borrowing fell from around 4% of GDP to 1%. Debt, as a percentage of GDP, fell from the high 40s to 26%. Thatcher presided over a net jobs increase of 1.6 million. We were parachuted to being the world's fourth largest economy. British factories boosted their output by 7.5pc between the second quarter of 1979 and the third quarter of 1990, when she left Downing Street, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Unemployment in 1980, as I said above, was 2.24 million; by 1990 it was 1.85 million.

In 1979, the number of firms was 1.89 million; by 1989 it was 3.09 million. The number of people self-employed rose from 1.91 million to 3.5 million within the same period. Thatcher created a situation where businesses and individuals strived to make a better life for themselves.

Her Right To Buy policy gave millions of ordinary people the chance to own their own home, a stake in society. This unleashed the aspirations of many, urging them to get a better life for themselves. Home ownership grew by 2.5 million under Thatcher and continued to rise. This was fundamentally a "property owning democracy". This is the case for many aspirational working people.

Given the transformation and modernisation of the British economy under Thatcher, with inflation tamed and aspiration ignited, perhaps Nissan or other manufacturers who operate in the North today would not have invested had we continued with the strike ravaged, union-run Britain which Thatcher inherited in 1979.

In 1984, Energy Minister Peter Walker put forward a package of voluntary redundancies and an £800 million investment in mining, and said “I think this meets every emotional issue the miners have. And it’s expensive, but not as expensive as a coal strike”. Thatcher replied: "You know, I agree with you." Scargill rejected this pragmatism and led his union towards categorical defeat. It is important to recognise that Arthur Scargill was totally unreasonable in the negotiations over this dispute and he is to blame for the bitterness and ill-feeling of this conflict. His attitude was dogmatic and ideological. When asked how much a pit could make in losses before it was closed, he commented “the loss is without limits”. This demonstrates the unreasonable and uneconomic nature of his position.  The culpability for the social impact of the Miner's Strike does not rest with Mrs Thatcher or her Ministers, but a militant Marxist union leader.

Famously declaring at an EU summit in Dublin, "I want our money back", Margaret Thatcher fought tirelessly for Britain within Europe. To this date, Margaret Thatcher's EU rebate has saved this country's taxpayers some £75 billion. 

Time Cover Credit: Michael Leonard
A further achievement is that of defending and liberating the British people invaded by a fascist military junta. Margaret Thatcher stood tall against Argentine aggression, and Labour's calls for negotiation, to demand that our islands be liberated. The Falkland Islanders have always and to this day remain grateful and thankful that they had a leader of such strength and conviction to liberate their homes. Margaret Thatcher saved those islands, AND, always remember this: at the behest of those islanders. Yeah, she sunk a boat, but does anyone have any idea of the body-count caused by British ordnance during the 13 years of Labour? Let's not go there.

In forging a close relationship with President Reagan, Britain's place in the world rose sharply. Her bold and unwavering 'peace through strength' stance against the oppressive communism of the Soviet Union was regularly tested, yet she was unflinching. There was a real worry at the time that a nuclear war was imminent, that the two grand players of the US and the USSR would ultimately clash. In recognising Gorbachev as a man she could "do business", along with Reagan, she successfully brought to an end one of Europe's most worrying conflicts. Thatcher is highly regarded in the Eastern European states of which she helped to free from tyranny. Yet another example of the freedom and democracy she came to represent. The Berlin wall came down on her watch. The Soviets were driven from my homeland on her watch. The world over, Margaret Thatcher is held in higher regard most Britons will ever know.

Margaret Thatcher resuscitated the sick man of Europe.

At the end of this, I do have a question for the Left and the myriad of Labour MPs who would deride her legacy, criticise her policies and her vision. If the direction she took was so fundamentally flawed and inherently evil, why did Labour simply continue with them? Why did Tony Blair, interviewed recently, say his job was to "build upon not reverse" Margaret Thatcher's achievements? Actually, don't bother answering that. I already know the answer.

The truth is, Margaret Thatcher won three elections and was never voted out by the British people. Despite not playing the popularity sweepstakes and sticking to what she believed to be right, Margaret Thatcher remains the most popular Prime Minister ever. She transformed a sclerotic and declining nation into a powerful, competitive global player built upon aspiration, freedom and democracy. Margaret Thatcher did not cause decline, nor did she limit it, she reversed it. Margaret Thatcher did not just help Britain, she saved Britain. 

Update (15/04/2013): On Saturday, the 13th of April, Channel 4 aired a brilliant documentary titled, 'Margaret: Death of a Revolutionary' by Martin Durkin. Watch it here

On Wednesday, the 17th of April 2013, we will bury the Iron Lady. I hope you will have read this by then.

I owe most of the content of this blog post to Tom Chapman, whose original, extremely well-researched article appears here. In some parts I have simply quoted him verbatim. For a much better informed opinion, you can follow Tom on Twitter. Tom is one of the good guys.


Anonymous said...

"The Left of course had at their disposal, the press ..."


Banti Singh said...

Yes, dear 'Anonymous'

Anonymous said...

what a load of drivel

Anonymous said...

Hard to know where to begin this is such biased tripe. Go and do some reading with your eyes open.

Banti Singh said...

Drivel indeed! Coming from someone who posts anonymously, I really don't give a monkey's. Man up and post as yourself; and proffer a cogent argument.

Great British Paul said...

Of course it's a biased view point, it is someone's personal review of history, it doesn't make it any less valid, and as the writer has then backed up the only actual point that has been questioned, I feel he can feel entitled to his view point! If you have a valid argument, state it, I get the impression the author woild actually appreciate it!

Anonymous said...

Banti excellent piece that will hopefully be tweeted far and wide. I am no conservative and suffered financial hardship in the early 80s as a result of Tory policies. I always voted labour and took part in many marches. However, hindsight is a wonderful thing. What these screaming socialist wannabes forget, is that before Thatcher, Britain was sinking. She took it by the scruff of the neck and pulled it out of the mire. Yes...many families and communities saw their livelihoods close...but that would have had to happen anyway. Where the Tories failed was to do more for those that suffered real community loss. Your piece hits the nail on the head. She did what was needed at the time. If she hadn't, it is doubtful the young who are currently drinking themselves stupid in celebration, would have had the money to do so. Good job Sir...


Banti Singh said...

Dear anonymous No.2
Thank you for your post - and coming from someone from the Left, I really appreciate it. I wish you'd have taken a name or identity when posting so I, and others who agree with you, could address you directly.

Once again, thank you and I'm glad you agree.

Bandidofox said...

Agreed. An excellent piece. Thatcher was a philosopher-queen, living proof that, contrary to Platonic thought, democracies can reject sophistry and give birth to conviction-politicians - even if she was succeeded by arrogant insubstantial rhetoricians.

Bandido Fox

DearDiary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neil Bowers said...

A well written piece and its great to finally see something decent written about her. Yes as you said not everything about her was perfect, people do make mistakes she was not adverse to making them after all she is human. Some of the stuff written about her has been awful and respect should be shown no matter what side of the fence you sat on. So again I thank you for a well written article

Neil Bowers said...

A well written piece and its great to finally see something decent written about her. Yes as you said not everything about her was perfect, people do make mistakes she was not adverse to making them after all she is human. Some of the stuff written about her has been awful and respect should be shown no matter what side of the fence you sat on. So again I thank you for a well written article

Sonya said...

Very well written!!!

shilpa said...

Brilliant piece Banti! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

The best you can say about this is that it's erm 'ruthlessly selective'. No time to rebut the whole thing but erm:

1. Thatcherism was always divided between whether it favoured inflation control or property owning democracy. There's often a trade off, which is why the wheels came off in the late 1980s.
2. On inflation to say it was 'stuck at' a figure in 1979 is misleading.
3. The Falklands was the result of Thatcher's diplomatic cock-up: a set of mistakes the Labour government before her didn't make. Michael Foot - a veteran anti-appeaser - called for their reclaim. The Falklands service was a disgrace with Thatcher obecting to the Archbishop of Canterbury praying for the Argentinian dead, and wounded servicemen tucked behind pillars because they didn't look pretty.
4. She lied over Westland to the House of Commons.
5. Blair's government differed from the 1979-97 administrations notably in some areas. Take e.g. university funding for one small example. Thatcher ruthlessly cut funding for universities.
6. Clause 28 was an utter disgrace - a piece of bigotry.
7. Economic growth in the 1980s was no higher than the postwar average and total taxation was no lower.
8. Thatcher introduced the poll tax, the most unfair tax in a long while, and never acknowledged this.
9. There's a massive over claim for the special relationship in this article which in practice equated to some sharing of intelligence, but was not nearly as important as the author claims.


If you going to write some history, could you try and get some balance, please. This is hagiography at its most tedious.

Anonymous said...

The left had the press at their disposal?? Cobblers the press is mainly right wing. FACT

Banti Singh said...

Dear nameless, anonymous person,

Right in the beginning, I said, " I will not dwell on the negatives - there is no need. We have been subjected to it for long enough and those arguments will continue for decades to come." Perhaps you missed it.

As for your points:

1. And?
2. Inflation was obstinately stuck at 17%t 1979-80. Look it up.
3. Much has been said about the hows and whys of the Falklands. Your assertion of Thatcher objecting to the Archbishop of Canterbury praying for the Argentinian dead, and wounded servicemen tucked behind pillars because they didn't look pretty is anecdotal at best.
4. There was more to Westland than a speech by the Prime Minister.
5. Thatcher did cut funding for universities. She had to.
6. Clause 28 was 1987 attitudes. Guess which party just legalised same sex marriages? Things change.
7. Given the drop in capital spending by the government, compared to the postwar period, the 1980s WERE a time of unprecedented growth.
8. How can you say Thatcher never acknowledged introduction and failure of the poll tax? It bloody ousted her!
9. As for the special relationship, I remember it well. The Reagan-Thatcher combine was well known - even in Afghanistan where we looked desperately to them while under Soviet occupation. We hung on every word.

This doesn't purport to be a history lesson, nor is it hagiography. It's not even the opposite of the kind of hatred and demonising you peddle.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly as I remembered the 1970s it really was dire. Thank God we had Maggie Thatcher.

Ferreus Domnae said...

Cometh the hour, cometh the Lady.
She really did save Britain.

If people really want to hark on negatives, maybe we should try and imagine what would have happened if Labour had won.

As her detractors tend to focus exlusively on the flaws, a similar comparison of Labour would have Britain now looking something like Cuba. We'd all have a much lower life expectancy, perhaps that of a miner... but at least the miners would still have a job.

Thatchers job in 1979 was to rescue Britain. She did it. End of.

Great blog post by the way.

Anonymous said...

Listening to the BBC or leftist commentators; its almost as if the late 60s or 70s did not exist.

Anonymous said...

For the BBC and leftist commentators, its almost as if the late 1960s and 70s did not exist.