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Monday, May 04, 2009


Today is the 30th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher coming to power. At the time, as a LibDem I regretted her getting an overall majority, though I can't say I thought a Labour majority was desirable either.

The Radio Scotland Morning Show today was on the somewhat pejorative theme of "should Thatcher apologise to Scotland" which naturally brought out all those whose only contribution to politics is to demand more taxpayer's money, which unfortunately is quite a lot.

I have added this to Graham's blog

Britain was in a state of virtual bankruptcy when she took over from the last Labour government (its the story of the end of all Labour governments). Since then we have achieved a growth rate better than that of the other big EU countries. If we accept that economic growth has been 1% a year better since 1979 than it would have been if Labour had nationalised the "commanding heights of the economy" as they promised (& actually a difference much larger than 1% is likely) she is responsible for 30% of Britain's wealth now.

I strongly suspect that not a single one of the parasites decrying her failure to give them as much of the taxpayer's money as they want has either had the good manners to thank her or the integrity to refuse 30% of their dole/civil service salary that comes from the real economy. Nor indeed that anybody in the taxpayer funded BBC has either.

On Daniel Hannan's blog, where views are more onesided the other way I put

Her biggest mistake was to allow North Sea oil to keep up the value of the £. It made sense in the fight against inflation but it made industry so much less competitive than it need have been & thus the job losses so much worse.

Everybody has 20-20 hindsight & I know of nobody, in any party, who said this at the time.

She was neither as successful nor as destructive as portrayed. Not as much a reformer as she wanted to be, because most of her party were not nearly as libertarian as she. Though she improved Britain's economy it was not nearly as spectacular as the growth achieved by Ireland after its free market reforms in 1989. On the other hand it was far more spectacular, at least in a positive direction, than any of her opponents would have managed.

Perhaps her greatest achievement was after she left office. It has been said that New Labour was her achievement & Tony Blair merely following in her footsteps, but with a sheepish grin. There is a lot of truth in that & certainly New Labour is more Thatcherite than it is Labour. I would also suggest that she has changed the Conservative Party at least as much, though they are less keen to advertise it. When she was PM almost every cabinet contained a majority against her on many issues, laterally particularly the EU. She has said that she was a classic liberal but the Conservative party wasn't. It, to a much greater degree, is now as people like Hannan, Redwood, Douglas Carswell, David Davis & Iain Dale prove. It is certainly more eurosceptic than even she ever was in office - after all the Conservatives, under Heath, pushed us into the EU.

These achievements were made by the real intellectual rigour she brought to politics, which it is much easier to display out of office than when you have to head a government. They are also the product of having & expressing beliefs. Honest expression of belief is at best a hindrance to getting office. On the other hand having beliefs is essential to real achievement which is why she will be remembered long after Blair is forgotten.

"And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things" Nicolo Machiavelli

In some respects Margaret Thatcher was more a Manchester Liberal than a Conservative.

In 1979 Britain was on its last legs.

The truth is she saved us from a socialist purgatory, and possible soviet dominance of the whole of Europe.
So long as the USSR was in close to zero growth I think it was doomed anyway. I can conceive of a reality where Gorbachev sacked the bureaucracy, cut back the armed forces so far that there was money for investment & generally did as China has. If so the USSR (under whatever name) would be Europe's dominant power but it wouldn't be the USSR we knew.
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