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Margaret Thatcher

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My father called Maggie Thatcher ‘that woman’, and I learnt from a very young age that my parents never liked her. Their objection was probably more classist than anything else; she cut subsidies to art, music and culture and ignored with their favorite institutions: Civil Service, local governments, Oxbridge — the dinosaurs from an era when Britain was a feudal state. She privatized everything including the family silver — railways, sugar, shipbuilders, iron, coal, steel, electricity, water supply, oil, gas, electricity, airlines, freight transport, telecommunications — angering the establishment which lamented the loss of esteemed British institutions. But they were bold, decisive and necessary moves. Nationalised monopolies were uncompetitive, extremely inefficient, and run by bureaucrats who were able to hide and manipulate the costs. In 1979, subsidies to nationalised industries accounted for 60% of GNP.

Despite huge GDP losses from privatizations, during Thatcher’s tenure, GDP per capita tripled and GDP doubled (only 23% in real terms however). Productivity doubled, manufacturing quadrupled. By the end of the decade, Britain had one of the highest GDP growth rates of any European nations, a dramatic turnaround for a country that survived on IMF loans in 1979. She reduced the national debt from 43% of GDP to 25% — the lowest since 1914. However, privatizations were a thankless job: unemployment jumped from closure of inefficient factories and coalmines, and remained high until the last three years of her rule. In 1984, she won the famous annual rebate from the EEU (rebate of 66%, the difference between Britain’s EU contributions and receipts), a legacy that remains in effect, until Blair reduced it.

Her approach to coalminers’ strike had been well-known, but less known was that the strike was caused because the government decided to shut down mere ten uneconomic mines. The annual cost to taxpayers by coalminers had reached £1 billion at this point. The ending of National Graphical Association (one of the most wasteful and hilarious trade unions ever conceived) and like created a huge expansion of print media as we know today.

Oxford refused her a honorary degree because of her deep cuts in education, but she ushered in the era of decentralization of education. Parents can now select schools without regard to location, and her reforms increased university education access (20,000 more first degrees earned every year). She began an initiative to put a desktop computer in every secondary school, and reduced the power of local authorities and politicians in schools. She attacked local governments, who like union leaders were on ego trips, and whose spendings were unregulated. She restricted their spending, and huge numbers of council houses were sold to their tenants, and home ownership grew to 67% from 55%. Although she is now being accused of making cuts to social security, under Thatcher it actually increased from 72 billion pounds to 85 billion pounds. Health and community services increased by 37%.

She made mistakes too, of course, with Westland, Chile, Rhodesia, South Africa and West Germany, but she kept Britain out of the Eurozone and on that afternoon when the teary-eyed prime minister left the Downing Street in disgrace, she left behind a richer and stronger Britain. The days of unburied dead and uncollected garbage were over. Britain was ready for a new era.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

April 13, 2010 at 4:25 am

Posted in Politics

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41 Responses

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  1. Margaret Thatcher was Capitalism at its best!

    luis martel

    April 13, 2010 at 4:45 am

  2. Margaret Thatcher was plutocratic scum; Ronald Reagan without the faux folksy charm. She was, indeed, “Capitalism at its ‘best'”–and if that’s the best that capitalism has to offer, then capitalism had better look to the barricades.


    April 13, 2010 at 1:25 pm

  3. I afraid you’ve been drinking too much of the Thatcher cool-aid.

    You may wish to check your figures on unemployment.

    By the end of Thatcher’s reign, unemployment was still significantly higher than when she came to power. It then rose dramatically again in the early 1990 thanks to the crash caused by her reckless economic, let-the-market-decide, policies. Only by 2000, three years into the labour government did it start to approach levels similar to 1979.

    The miner’s strike was not about closing 10 pits, it was about the whole future of the industry. Scargill predicted that the Government would close most of the UK mines. 30 years on and nearly all UK mines are closed. Despite the fact that many were the most productive (per miner) and safest mines in the world.

    The closure of the mines (and steel works, ship yards etc etc) absolutely devastated communities. Many in the UK, particularly Tory voters from the SE failed to understand how dependent these communities were on the mines. Its closure led to social breakdown and forced many families to split up in search of work. Somewhat ironic for the ‘party of families’.

    In face of this community destruction, the government offered no help. They left it to the market but as communities with 20%+ unemployment rates have no money, the market was not interested. With the exception of Loan Sharks and Debt Collectors who prospered.

    The issue is not the economic cost of closing the mines compared to keeping them open. It is the cold-heart abandonment of ordinary people.

    ‘That Woman’ was not interested in a better Britain, only in destroying communities she did not understand.

    Chris Tregenza

    April 14, 2010 at 8:39 am

    • Facts are fragilethings as the comment below shows. True believers believe no matter what facts you show them.


      April 15, 2010 at 1:17 am

      • “Facts are fragilethings (sic).” No, facts are facts. True believer? Not sure what that means. Every has a set of beliefs and values they use to evaluate facts. Even you, “lawguy”, although it Sounds like yours run more along the Leninist route. Critical thinker? Absolutely. As I said, history has already judged Thatcher favorably. No amount of lefty whining will change that. Sucks to be wrong, huh?


        April 15, 2010 at 3:47 am

  4. I love that photo, and yes, it is iconic.

    Good call on Maggie. She really was one of the great ones. It’s interesting to see the haters crawl out from under their rocks to vilify her, twenty years after the fact. History has already judged Thatcher and Reagan way better than the bunch ripping them apart here ever could.

    The UK is a better place for having had Thatcher as PM. Too bad Labor has managed to muck it up.


    April 15, 2010 at 1:08 am

  5. As a young child in Britain, I remember once going into a bookstore and thumbing through a book filled with names for Margaret Thatcher. Yes, a whole book. That Bloody Woman stuck in my young mind, and until this day.


    April 15, 2010 at 4:56 pm

  6. “The UK is a better place for having had Thatcher as PM. Too bad Labor has managed to muck it up.”

    Richras Americanised spelling of Labour suggests s/he is not from Britain.

    “Good call on Maggie. She really was one of the great ones. It’s interesting to see the haters crawl out from under their rocks to vilify her, twenty years after the fact.”

    And this doubly confirms that suspicion. It’s the apologists for Thatcherism who have crawled out from under the rocks in recent years. (Maybe thinking the rest of us have forgotten Thatcher’s Britain by now.)

    She definitely polarised opinion in Britain. Some people loved her but most people in Britain didn’t. Her three successive victories at the polls says less about a popular mandate on her part and more about the broken electoral system that they have in Britain to this day.


    April 16, 2010 at 1:06 am

  7. Yep, you found me out Darren. I’m an American, not that I tried to hide it. Over here we can view the Thatcher years with an objectivity that apparently escapes you Laborites, oops, LaboUrites and can recognize the good that Thatcher did not only for the UK, but for the world. Without Thatcher, Reagan, and John Paul II, the Soviet bloc would still be limping along, murdering it’s own citizens and threatening the West with nuclear war. Without Thatcher you could say hello to Las Malvinas, a proud province of Argentina. Sorry you’re so blinded by your thirty year old biases and prejudices that you don’t recognize the great leader you had with Margaret Thatcher.

    By the way, good luck should Gordon Brown win. You’ll need it.


    April 16, 2010 at 2:21 am

    • I bet you look bloody hot in red braces, Richras! I’d do you.


      April 16, 2010 at 2:38 am

      • Do you mind if I call you Maggie?


        April 16, 2010 at 2:44 am

    • I’d suggest that Gorbachev was not Stalin, and the “freedom loving” replacements of the old Soviet Union aren’t all that great. However, all the American presidents since WWII and the English Priministers (and the Popes for that matter) enthusiastically engaged in something called the Cold War. You might have heard of it. The folks you mentioned were there at the end of that war. Much like Andrew Johnson at the end of the American Civil War. It would be hard to honestly argue that he (or they) were the reasons the wars ended they way they did.


      April 16, 2010 at 1:20 pm

      • Once again Lawguy, your ignorance of history bobs to the top, much like the proverbial turd in a punchbowl. In order for your Civil War analogy to work, Andrew Johnson would have had to have been President during the Civil War, which of course he wasn’t. Here’s a newsflash from 1865 for you: Booth was hoping to reignite the Civil War by assassinating Lincoln, which led to Johnson’s presidency.

        Yes, there was a cold war after WWII, but by the 1970’s it had been replaced by Nixon and Ford’s “detente” policy, along with Carter’s scolding of the West for its “inordinate fear of communism.” Reagan, Thatcher, and John Paul II were the leaders with the courage and vision to recognize communism for the evil that it was, and to take the steps necessary to topple the Soviet Union.

        I realize facts are “fragilethings,” so I’m happy I could help.


        April 16, 2010 at 2:18 pm

  8. Richras,

    I’m an ex-pat Brit who now lives in the States so it’s amusing to read your claim that “Over here we can view the Thatcher years with an objectivity that apparently . . . .”.

    Yeah, all we ever talk about in our neighbourhood (oops, neighborhood) is Maggie Thatcher.😉

    The majority of British people – and not all on the left – disliked Thatcher. Get over it.


    April 16, 2010 at 5:39 am

  9. Hallo🙂
    I would like to ask if someone has an idea where I can find out some of the books written for Margaret Thatcher ot written by her? I tried to find, but it was fruitless or too expensive…So, if you have any ideas, you can write me!
    Thank you :)))


    April 16, 2010 at 12:31 pm

  10. My sympathies Darren. You need to find a better neighborhood, or at least start hanging out with smarter people.

    In the meantime, I suggest reading “There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters” by Claire Berlinski. Berlinski’s another one of us nonexistent Americans who admire Thatcher, and recognize how lucky the Brits – even ex-pats like you – were to have Thatcher for PM.


    April 16, 2010 at 2:20 pm

  11. Lee Surrendered on April 9, Lincoln was shot on April 14, all hostilities did not end until later.

    You ignore my point about Gorbachev and what the Sovite Union had evolved into and what replaced it.

    Incidently “Every has a set of beliefs (sic)’ had to point that out.


    April 16, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    • Lawguy – The official end of the Civil War is considered by most historians to be the day that Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. There were a few skirmishes afterwards, but for all intents and purposes, it was over before Lincoln died. For your analogy to be valid, the USSR would have had to have collapsed before Thatcher and Reagan came to power. Obviously, it didn’t.

      I ignored your point about the difference between Gorbachev and Stalin because it was seriously idiotic. Preferring Gorbachev over Stalin is like preferring lung cancer over an aggressive case of leukemia, because it might take you longer to die. In the end, the result is the same. The Soviet Union – even under Gorbachev – was a corrupt, evil regime and I can’t believe you – or any sane, rational, intelligent person – is trying to defend any aspect of it at this point in time. However, as the saying goes, you can’t fix stupid, which I guess explains your antipathy for Maggie and admiration for Gorby.


      April 16, 2010 at 6:26 pm

      • Aw, Snap!

        Come to London much, Luv? lmk Nothing is better than a man who knows his stuff😉


        April 16, 2010 at 7:04 pm

      • Traditional vs. official.

        But at any rate my point is that the cold war was fought over decades by at least 8 presidents and 5 priministers. And it ended under Reagan and Thatcher more because of internal problems in the Soviet Union and yes I do insist it is more like the American Civil War. Or if you wish WWII with Truman taking over after Roosevelt’s death, then ok.

        If you really think that Putin or the guy in Georgia are more democratic (small d) than Gorbachev, well you are welcome to your ………….. beliefs.

        And if you think that Thaatcher left Britian or Reagan left America with a stronger middle class then when they came in, well you are welcome to that whatever also.

        Incidently, I did major in Modern American history, law is where most history majors end up.


        April 16, 2010 at 8:35 pm

  12. I’m pretty sure I never mentioned Putin or democracy in modern Russian, especially not to compare the relative merits of Putin vs. Stalin. Nice try at a straw man though. Does that work for you in court?

    To answer your question, if I had to choose, I’d take Russia now over any period in the history of the USSR. Modern Russia isn’t nearly the threat to the West that the USSR was, even under Gorbachev, thanks to the efforts of Reagan, Thatcher, and John Paul II. Of course, again you’re basically asking me to choose between lung cancer and leukemia.

    And yes, I know that the left wing narrative is that the USSR collapsed because of internal problems. I love how libs always leave out that those internal problems were caused by the USSR trying respond to Reagan’s defense policies and not being able to keep up.

    As a middle class American I am absolutely better off for having had Ronald Reagan as my President. The world is an overall safer place because of him, and the Reagan tax cuts (and Bush tax cuts) benefited me economically. From what I’ve read, if Labour hadn’t been in power for the past thirteen years, the middle class in the UK would be better off as well.

    You have a degree in US History from a university in the UK? No wonder you keep getting things wrong.


    April 16, 2010 at 9:06 pm

  13. On behalf of the rest of us Yanks, I apologize for Richras. Unfortunately, we in the U.S. are full up with his brand of clownery at the present time. With his Reagan (and Thatcher) fetish, his pathetic revisionist approach to actual history and obnoxious arrogance, I’m guessing he’s president of his local Tea Party chapter.

    Soul On Ice

    April 16, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    • Wrong on all counts. In fact I voted for Obama if the last election. To quote Red Foreman, “Way to go, dumb ass.”


      April 16, 2010 at 10:06 pm

      • That just proves there are some lengths to which not even a diehard wingnut will go – such as voting to put someone like Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the Presidency.

        Soul On Ice

        April 16, 2010 at 10:13 pm

      • Wingnut? Not hardly. In fact, I’m what used to be called a Reagan Democrat. I love how well reasoned your responses are though, Eldredge. The level of discourse just dropped about thirty IQ points.


        April 16, 2010 at 10:20 pm

  14. The “level of discourse” already bottomed out when you compared Gorbachev to lung cancer.

    “Reagan Democrat” is another term for crypto-conservatives who abandoned the Democratic party when it advocated for civil rights for all Americans.

    Soul On Ice

    April 16, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    • Sorry to insult your commie hero there, Cleaver. Sounds like you’re a product of the Alinsky/Chomsky school of political “thought,” so there’s not much point in more discussion. Name calling I can get from the sixth graders I teach. This “crypto-conservative” is outta here.


      April 16, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    • The Democrat Party advocated civil rights for all Americans? When did that happen? MLK and the freedom marchers were marching against southern Democrats.

      And, BTW, Maggie Thatcher ROCKED!

      Che is dead

      April 20, 2010 at 5:59 pm

      • Um, let’s see: the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. Kennedy/Johnson, Hubert Humphery. Filibuster against the Civil Rights Act lead by those marginalized southern democrats, almost all of whom became proud republicans.

        The National democratic party made a decison to push for civil rights for african americans. Johnson knew it would lose the south for the democrats. Nixon devised a southern (white) stragedy and Reagan initiated his presidential campaign in Philidelphia Mississippi where three civil rights workers were murdered.

        You cannot be that ignorant of recent American history. So why do you say something so clearly factually wrong?

        If you want to argue that a rump group of democrats opposed civil rights, well that is true, but then you should, if you are honest admit that rump group became republicans.


        April 20, 2010 at 6:42 pm

      • November 6, 1956
        African-American civil rights leaders Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy vote for Republican Dwight Eisenhower for President

        September 9, 1957
        President Dwight Eisenhower signs Republican Party’s 1957 Civil Rights Act

        September 24, 1957
        Sparking criticism from Democrats such as Senators John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, President Dwight Eisenhower deploys the 82nd Airborne Division to Little Rock, AR to force Democrat Governor Orval Faubus to integrate public schools

        May 6, 1960
        President Dwight Eisenhower signs Republicans’ Civil Rights Act of 1960, overcoming 125-hour, around-the-clock filibuster by 18 Senate Democrats

        May 2, 1963
        Republicans condemn Democrat sheriff of Birmingham, AL for arresting over 2,000 African-American schoolchildren marching for their civil rights

        September 29, 1963
        Gov. George Wallace (D-AL) defies order by U.S. District Judge Frank Johnson, appointed by President Dwight Eisenhower, to integrate Tuskegee High School

        June 9, 1964
        Republicans condemn 14-hour filibuster against 1964 Civil Rights Act by U.S. Senator and former Ku Klux Klansman Robert Byrd (D-WV), who still serves in the Senate

        June 10, 1964
        Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-IL) criticizes Democrat filibuster against 1964 Civil Rights Act, calls on Democrats to stop opposing racial equality. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was introduced and approved by a staggering majority of Republicans in the Senate. The Act was opposed by most southern Democrat senators, several of whom were proud segregationists—one of them being Al Gore Sr.. Democrat President Lyndon B. Johnson relied on Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen, the Republican leader from Illinois, to get the Act passed.

        August 4, 1965
        Senate Republican Leader Everett Dirksen (R-IL) overcomes Democrat attempts to block 1965 Voting Rights Act; 94% of Senate Republicans vote for landmark civil right legislation, while 27% of Democrats oppose. Voting Rights Act of 1965, abolishing literacy tests and other measures devised by Democrats to prevent African-Americans from voting, signed into law; higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats vote in favor

        September 15, 1981
        President Ronald Reagan establishes the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to increase African-American participation in federal education programs

        June 29, 1982
        President Ronald Reagan signs 25-year extension of 1965 Voting Rights Act

        Very few southern Democrats became Republicans, most chose to either remain Democrats like Gore, Hollins and Byrd or become Dixiecrats.

        The Democrat Party was the pro-slavery party. The party of segregation, Jim Crow and the KKK. The racist southern Democrats that comprised what they used to call the “Solid South” were not small government conservatives, they were progressives – “New Dealers”. They helped elect Wilson, FDR and Truman. It’s true that the south has become Republican in the last 20 years, but it is also true that the Republican Party, unlike the Democrat Party, does not tolerate racism.

        David Southern’s, The Progressive Era and Race offers a good history of progressive southern racism.

        Che is dead

        April 20, 2010 at 11:51 pm

  15. On maggie. We needed wealth creators not bureaucrats, that’s what labour does, employ people to reduce the unemployed figure; short term OK long term disaster. I am answering your comment on in my place on “image v substance” shortly! Thanks for the “stir”.

    Robert Mileham

    April 20, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    • It is hard to argue with mere beliefs as opposed to facts. Massive deficit spending ended the depression. Not enough deficit spending before the onset of WWII, though.

      I don’t know about England, but in America wages have been stagnant since about 1973 (yes through both democrats and republicans). The economic disaster we are now experiencing is because we got rid of those “leftist controls” on banking and investment.


      April 20, 2010 at 10:25 pm

  16. Your history is mostly false and warped. The leadershipe for the great civil rights gains in the 50s and 60s came from the democrats. Truman of course intagrated the military in 1948 and the dixiecrats ran against him. But, probably to be fair the real impetus came from outside both political paraties. The blow back however, came from the republicans. Nixon devised the southern stragedy and was elected in 1968, a little more than 20 years ago. Reagan 1980 – 30 years ago.

    I was in high school in the early 60s and followed it all in the news. I remember who did what.


    April 21, 2010 at 12:07 am

    • “Since 1933, Republicans had a more positive record on civil rights in Congress than the Democrats. In the twenty-six major civil rights votes since 1933, a majority of Democrats opposed civil rights legislation in over 80 percent of the votes. By contrast, the Republican majority favored civil rights in over 96 percent of the votes.”

      Civil Rights Timeline 1964, The Dirksen Governmental Center

      Che is dead

      April 21, 2010 at 12:41 am

    • “Most of us will live to see the day when American boys and girls will sit, side by side, at any school – public or private – with no respect paid to the color of skin. Segregation, discrimination and prejudice have no place in America.” – Vice President Richard Nixon, 1956

      “I did not lie awake at night worrying about the problems of Negroes.” – Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, 1961, Kennedy later authorized wiretapping the phones and bugging the hotel rooms of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

      Che is dead

      April 21, 2010 at 12:46 am

      • “There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a Black and a White …. Or a rape.” – President Richard M. Nixon, Jan. 23, 1973, recorded conversation with an aide after the Supreme Court upheld a woman’s right to choose in Roe v. Wade.

        “Hello, Mr. Mayor” – President Ronald Reagan, June 18, 1981, greeting his new Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Samuel Pierce during a luncheon for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Reagan mistook Pierce, who is black, for one of the mayors.

        Thank you, Che is dead, for reminding us that the reasonable, good-hearted progressive Republicans in national office who were actually interested in civil rights for all Americans basically stopped existing over 45 years ago.

        Soul On Ice

        April 21, 2010 at 1:11 am

  17. The legacy of Thatcher still exists today, with vast swathes of the former industrial heartlands given over to second or third generation unemployed, poverty, crime, poor health. I don’t pity her, I pity those who believe in her.


    April 25, 2010 at 9:27 am

    • I pity you for blaming her. Look at the bigger picture.

      To put it simply:
      A country’s GDP (annual wealth) = Combined personal consumption (C) + Investment (I) + Government Spending (G) + (Net Exports – imports).
      GDP = standard of living under a monetary system (rich and poor)
      Government Debt = Government spending – tax revenue (+ surplus – amount required to borrow to sustain public spending commitments i.e. school milk)
      Tax revenue = percentage of combined personal consumption = dependant on net exports – imports which in the end pays wages.
      Less export revenue = less personal consumption = less tax revenue = less government spending (if money is borrowed to maintain spending commitments = higher deficit/debt)
      Higher deficit = higher government debt = value of government bonds/gilts drops = more money needs to be borrowed for the same value/cost of borrowing rises = inflation = interest rates rise = businesses struggle = catalyst of government debt = emergency loans from IMF = government spending must be cut to control the situation = living standards drop for people dependant on the state.
      British heavy industry pre 80s = depended on subsidization from the state –> 70’s strikes & low quality output compared to the far east = less export value = lower GDP = higher government debt = requirement to stop subsidising loss making industries or pound would collapse (which would finish the whole economy = requirement for fast investment to boost GDP = opening/deregulating the free market, privatization of utilities, encouragement of the rich to invest in the UK and traditional bankrupt (a fate hidden by bureaucrats) British industry was abandoned = initial GDP loss by eventually offset by the gains from investment.
      In other words the fate of the country’s economy was in reality out of the government’s hands as they had no cash to reinvest.
      Still blame Thatcher?

      Mr Reason

      May 10, 2010 at 1:48 pm

  18. Sure.


    May 10, 2010 at 2:19 pm

  19. Maggie was AWESOME!!!! Wish she could go clean up that mess in GREECE!


    July 3, 2010 at 9:32 pm

  20. She was also responsible for the wholesale beating, torture, and mistreatment of political IRA prisoners. So, yay, right?


    February 6, 2011 at 6:32 pm

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