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Margaret Thatcher

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Maggie T., comin' for your milk.
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God Save the Queen?
My job is to stop Britain going red.
—Speech to Institute of Public Relations, 11.3.77

Margaret Thatcher (1925—2013) was a Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1980s. She is known for being the UK's first, and until 2016 only, female Prime Minister. Thatcher grew up in a middle-class family and rose to the very top of government. Her legacy, in short, is that someone just like her could never do the same thing again.

In many ways, Thatcher was the British equivalent of Saint Ronnie. While Reagan reaffirmed American hegemony over Grenada, she kept the Union Jack fluttering happily over the otherwise completely obscure Falkland Islands. However, it wasn't all bad: Thatcher sold off social housing, destroyed manufacturing, handed control of the government over to the banks, sold broadband technology to the U.S. for a pittance and then bought it back at 20x the price,[1] and cancelled free milk for children. So she definitely deserves her own museum.[2]

Upon her death, the entire British left united for a street party not seen since before the Miners' Strike of 1984-1985.

Thatcherism[edit]

...there's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first.
—Margaret Thatcher, perverting 400 years of basic political philosophy[3]
History is written by the victors, and while Thatcher herself may be gone it's considerably less clear that the historical moment that she represents has given way to a new one. The 1980s, even in their longest sense, have ended, sure. But if a coherent "next step" from Thatcherism exists we remain, at the time of writing, too in the middle of it to define its edges.
—Dr. Phil Sandifer[4]

Thatcher was an avid follower of Austrian economist and Nobel Prize recipient Friedrich Hayek. She pushed forward an economic system called monetarism during her time in government; it certainly was successful, if her goal was to nuke the working class[5] and destroy British industry. Reportedly, she unveiled a copy of The Constitution of Liberty from her bag during a policy meeting and banged it on the table, exclaiming, "This is what we believe!" Thing is, Thatcher was right. There is no such thing as society. There are only individuals and their families. "Dog-eat-dog, winner takes all" competition is the way to run an economy. The next time an old man asks for directions to the chemist, point him in the wrong direction. Thereby making his standing lower, ever so fractionally improving one's own!

Looking back on the 1980s, it's hard not to think that Thatcher was a weirdly naïve figure being manipulated by her advisors and underlings[6]—maybe she really did think that selling off the UK's utilities would lead to a wave of first-time shareholders holding the boards of the privatised utilities to account;[7] maybe she really did think that selling off social housing on the cheap would lead to "a nation of home owners" living the Capitalist dream with a major asset tucked away;[8] maybe she really did… and so on. Meanwhile, the posh boys in London were cackling at the oh-so-easily predicted “unintended consequences” of her plans. One of her favourite cop-outs was that she had been “badly advised”. Well, that's alright then.

Unfortunately, Thatcher herself couldn't see what the fuck she was doing to everything, leading to the introduction of the poll tax. However, the poll tax was a brilliant idea, as it led to Thatcher's downfall... by her own party members.[9]

"You break every rule of good man-management. You bully your weaker colleagues. You criticise colleagues in front of each other and in front of their officials. They can't answer back without appearing disrespectful, in front of others, to a woman and to a prime minister. You abuse that situation. You give little praise or credit, and you are too ready to blame others when things go wrong." − Policy Advisor John Hoskyns, 1982[10]

Economics[edit]

Under Thatcher, a lot of people got very rich and a lot of people got very poor. 1985-onwards saw the most rapid increase in inequality ever recorded.[11]

Her tenure saw a marked rise in unemployment (from 5 to 6% with a peak of nearly 12%) along with budget deficits (later hugely overshadowed), and a trade deficit. She is largely to credit (or blame, depending on your perspective) for the UK's transition to a service economy; economists are largely in agreement that a majority service-based economy is better than an industrial one, however one must ask how much of a majority is too much.

As Thatcher came to power, North Sea oil was coming fully on tap. The revenues of the oil were used to close down industries via redundancy cheques, unemployment benefits, raising wages for the police force (who would be needed to suppress the growing unrest) and setting up riot training facilities. Oil revenues were used to narrow the balance of payments, giving the impression of growth.

Perhaps her most devastating long-term legacy was the Big Bang,Wikipedia's W.svg which she pawned off to New Labour and which (to the name's credit) blew up in everyone's faces in 2007.

The current housing crisis is also largely her doing, simply because affordable housing was too "socialist" for her.[12] 16% interest rates?[13] If you had a mortgage, you just dropped in to a pit of debt just trying to pay off the interest. Those higher-ups who were cash rich bought up stock and concentrated it at the top.

On the other hand[edit]

She did succeed in reducing inflation from nearly 17% to about 5%, while helping to stabilize GDP growth at about 5% growth a year.[14]

Cuddling up with Rupie[edit]

The Thatcher era sparked the 30-year domination of the British media by News International. It was, by all means, a success.

MRSA outbreak in the NHS[edit]

In 1990 the internal market was introduced by the Thatcher government. This meant that hospitals could send their patients to other hospitals, often hundreds of miles away, to obtain cheaper treatment for the patients.

However, this backfired big-time for Ol' Maggie. A patient was sent from Kettering General Hospital, Northamptonshire, to a hospital in London. This patient had been tested for and was positive with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Subsequently many patients in the London hospital contracted MRSA; they were then moved out of the London hospital to other hospitals with the result that further patients were infected with MRSA.[15] The spread of MRSA was assisted by poor hospital hygiene, which had declined as a direct result of the Thatcher government's policy of contracting out (or 'outsourcing') hospital cleaning services to private companies. They were happy to take the NHS contract money, but provided sub-standard services in return. Essentially, lower wait times for more deaths.[16]

Foreign affairs[edit]

Empire Strikes Back[edit]

By 1982 her approval ratings had plummeted, owed to her dire economic policies. The Falklands was a major reason for Thatcher's re-election. The fact that she won obscured the fact that it was seriously touch-and-go. More British soldiers and sailors died in May-June 1982 than the whole of the Iraq War from 2003-2009. A little less covert assistance from the French, a couple more Exocets scoring hits, and Thatcher would have walked away with a bloody and humiliating defeat.

The BBC declined to play the jingo card. This got a lot of Tories riled; they were particularly incensed at the way BBC referred to "British forces" rather than "our boys" or whatever. This explains the modern Tory antipathy towards the BBC, with later governments attempting to shake up, reform and cut down its size, imposing new and alien forms of management.

In 2004, Bush crony Mickey Herskowitz confided the administration had been planning on invading Iraq at the first opportunity back in 1999, before he became president. This found its way into Baker's book Family of Secrets about the Bush family. The lede is buried at the bottom: Bush's inner circle felt that a modern-day "Thatcher" was needed to enact their vision.

"They were just absolutely blown away, just enthralled by the scenes of the troops coming back, of the boats, people throwing flowers at [Thatcher] and her getting these standing ovations in Parliament and making these magnificent speeches."[17]

Living in the past[edit]

It turns out when East and West Germany were going to be reunited, Thatcher told the Soviet government to stop it.[18] Though the French President Francois Miterrand at that time voiced similar concerns privately, while he supported reunification publicly.[19]

Not only living in the past, but supporting white supremacy[edit]

Until it was clear that Nelson Mandela would become President of South Africa, Thatcher tried in whatever power to prevent the end of apartheid, calling the ANC a "typical terrorist organisation."[20] She is also often quoted as saying at that same event that it was "cloud cuckoo land" to suppose that the ANC could ever rule South Africa, but contemporary accounts show that this was actually a response from "somebody in her entourage".[21]

Initiate Order 28[edit]

On entering parliament in 1959, she soon got busy introducing a bill to force local councils to open up their meetings to the press and public. When homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967, she was one of the few Tories to vote in favour; she later legalised homosexuality in Scotland in 1981, and Northern Ireland the following year.

Nonetheless, for reasons unclear, Maggie thought it would be a brilliant idea to introduce a new amendment to the UK Local Government Act 1988 (the 28th), banning local authorities from "publishing material with the intention of promoting homosexuality," or "promoting the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship."[22] Notably, no one was ever prosecuted under Section 28,[23] meaning that either this wasn't an actual problem in the first place, or people actively welcomed the "promotion" of homosexuality. It was eventually repealed in 2003.

Kicking out the ladder[edit]

I hate those strident tones we hear from some Women's Libbers.
Ayn Rand Thatcher?[24]

Thatcher is sometimes seen as role model for feminists, for being the first female ruler of a major country (Indira Gandhi didn't count, apparently). But, as she argued, "I owe nothing to women's lib." Previous governments had women (Barbara Castle and Shirley Williams) in ministerial positions, and her Conservative successor John Major appointed Virginia Bottomley and Gillian Shepherd; Thatcher only had Janet Young in the cabinet, and then for just two years.

Thatcher the liberal?[edit]

Despite her status as a ruthless (and in many ways, as shown above, utterly incompetent)[10] politician, Thatcher displayed some tendencies toward reason. When her idol returned from Chile, gushing about Pinochet gouging out the last vestiges of the public sector, Thatcher wrote:

...in Britain, with our democratic institutions and the need for a higher degree of consent, some of the measures adopted in Chile are quite unacceptable. Our reform must be in line with our traditions and our Constitution. At times, the process may seem painfully slow.

The only PM with a scientific education (she was a trained chemist and worked on food science teams that developed soft-serve ice creams, cakes, and pies) she attempted to talk Ronnie Raygun out of his Star Wars program,[25] proving that she did have a heart (even if it was made of dry ice). She was also the first leader of an industrial nation to warn of the dangers of global warming.[26]

Her government launched two TV channels dedicated to minorities: the nationwide Channel 4, and the Welsh-language S4C.

An act regulating the police put them under closer supervision, which cut down drastically the number of malicious arrests and imprisonments of the innocent which had brought parts of the force into disrepute.

Milk Snatcher[edit]

While she was Secretary of State for Education (1970-74), the issue of free milk to schoolchildren aged 8 to 11 was stopped. Although this was at the orders of Chancellor of the Exchequer Iain Macleod, Thatcher was widely blamed for it, which led to the often heard chant: "Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher."

Otherwise she was a progressive education secretary, presiding over a raising of the school leaving age, increases in nursery provision and funding for polytechnics, a school building program, and further plans for expanding the sector.[27]

Thatcher remembered[edit]

"We in Scotland"[edit]

The extent of Thatcher's overreach was exposed to the British public again in 2014, with another unintended side-effect: her spectacular ability in stoking Scottish nationalism, with the SNP using her as a scapegoat for any and all of the country's grievances.[28] Even Conservatives should agree that "being 400,000 people away from dissolving the Union" is not something you want to be remembered for.

The Irony Lady[edit]

Meryl won for her portrayal of Thatcher going completely off her rocker and being swallowed by ever-increasing decrepitude. It also showed her going mad towards the end with the whole Poll Tax debacle.

The pirated Russian translation has Thatcher as a Hitler-admiring psycho who wants to murder the proletariat.[29]

Celebrity admirers[edit]

Proving why charisma is a bad thing, Sir Mick Jagger was apparently shocked that Brits still have "all this residual resentment" towards her.[30] (Yes, this is the same frontman whose own multi-national is situated so he can pay corporate taxes of 1%.[31])

A rather more notorious admirer was Jimmy Savile.

Myth Busted[edit]

Most newly elected Prime Ministers tend to get cracking on the problems the public voted them in to solve. Not our Maggie, though. One of her government's earliest acts was to try to import some trained dolphins to find the Loch Ness Monster.[32] Later Prime Ministers who lined up to praise her never mention this. Can't imagine why.

Is Thatcher dead yet?[edit]

Thatcher was (and probably still is) the most-ridiculed leader in Britain's history. As several comedians have pointed out, it was easy in the 80s, you got up on stage and complained about Thatcher and then left. Thatcher was so despised that, years before her demise, an online deathwatch titled "Is Thatcher Dead Yet?" was created so that people could learn immediately of her death. On April 8, 2013, the website finally updated.[33]

News of her demise was marked by, among other things, several parties in celebration,[34] as well as a general outpouring of frothing hatred on Twitter, with #nowthatchersdead (leading some of Cher's detractors to mistakenly rejoice) and #nostatefuneral trending within an hour after her death was announced, and going strong throughout the day.[35]

Despite her career-long disdain for government largesse, she was given a state funeral.[36] An event in which Thatcher herself had been involved as planning actually began years before her death as her health began to decline and her fans started to prepare her for a process of beatification similar to what happened to Saint Ronnie in the US.[37] This style of funeral became controversial not only because Maggie was a divisive figure in the UK (to say the least), but because the latest British ex-Prime Minister to be so honored was Winston Churchill[38] and that the opponents of a state funeral argued that Thatcher hardly belonged in the same category as the man who led Britain through World War II. Nevertheless, Thatcher's fans got their way and so far look set to build a UK parallel to the cult of Saint Ronnie.

One interesting side-effect of her death was the revival of the song "Ding, Dong! The Witch Is Dead" (from 1939's The Wizard of Oz), which climbed into the top 5 of the UK charts within days of her death.[39] This, combined with the state funeral, meant that in death Thatcher turned out to be just as divisive a figure as she had been in life.

Brood[edit]

In 1982 Mark Thatcher, the only son of Margaret and Denis Thatcher, competed in the Paris-Dakar Rally with minimal preparation. He and his support team (co-driver, Charlotte Verney, and their mechanic) ended up getting lost in the Sahara Desert for six days, resulting in a full-blown and highly embarrassing international rescue mission being launched. They were eventually found in the desert, 50 km from where they should have been, by an Algerian military plane. It was not the last time that he would manage to knock Mumsy off the front pages of the UK's newspapers.

The Saudi Arabian Government felt unable to place the multi-billion pound Al Yamama arms deal with Britain without going through a consultancy firm consisting of Mark Thatcher and an old school chum. "Working" for a small percentage, this resulted in a £30 million fee for Mark Thatcher's legendary — if not mythicalbusiness skills, which principally consisted of being the Prime Minister's son.

In 2005 he pleaded guilty to his part in financing an attempted coup d'état in Equatorial Guinea. While, of course, a grateful nation can only applaud the ageing playboy's single-handed effort to restore the British Empire, for some reason the residents of South Africa and Equatorial Guinea itself took a rather dimmer view. Thatcher was sentenced to a five-year custodial sentence (suspended) and ordered to pay a half-million US dollar fine.[40]

Carol Thatcher is the daughter of Margaret Thatcher. She is supposedly a journalist, but there is very little evidence of this in the UK press. She's been known to take the (gentle) piss out of her mama, allegedly. She has also been employed as a radio presenter despite having an obvious speech impediment.

See also[edit]

  • Theresa May- The 80's are back! Bang the table with your shoe and tell the Argentines they aren't white!
  • Edward Heath - He could barely wheeze out her name, instead referring to her as "that woman". He was destroyed by a miners' strike; she was propelled to glory by one.
  • Christopher Monckton - Thatcher's closest "advisor" on climate matters. He fails to get a mention in her autobiography, though.[41]

Videos[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. McGregor, Jay, "How Thatcher killed the UK's superfast broadband before it even existed", Tech Radar 3.12.14.
  2. Hennessy, Patrick, "David Cameron gives backing to £15 million Thatcher museum", Telegraph (4/20/13 9:45PM BST).
  3. Margaret Thatcher: a life in quotes, The Guardian
  4. Sandifer, "The Winter of Discontent", Eruditorum Press 2012.
  5. UK inequality fastest rise of OECD countries, Reuters
  6. McSmith, Andy, "Margaret Thatcher obituary: The most divisive political leader of modern times", The Independent 4.8.13.
  7. Osborne, Alistair, "Margaret Thatcher: one policy that led to more than 50 companies being sold or privatised", Telegraph (4/8/13 at 8:55PM BST). For more, see F.A. Hayek's Pounded in the Butt by Market Forces.
  8. Gallagher, Paul, "Right to Buy: 40% of homes sold under Government scheme are being let out privately", Independent 8.13.15.
  9. The Day Margaret Thatcher Resigned, CBC
  10. 10.0 10.1 Nicholas Watt and Patrick Wintour, "Thatcher biography reveals adviser's early warnings", Guardian (4/22/13 at 7:00 PM EDT).
  11. Cassidy, John, "The Economic Case For and Against Thatcherism", New Yorker 4.9.13.
  12. Thatcher’s legacy: A shortage of affordable housing, The Globe and Mail
  13. Timberlake, Cotton, "Thatcher's Plans Backfiring on Homeowners: Higher Interest Rates From Anti-Inflation Drive Put Thousands in Arrears", L.A. Times 4.16.89.
  14. All of these stats, and explanations of them, can be found in Mishkin's Macroeconomics: Policy and Practice [1]
  15. A major outbreak of MRSA caused by a new phage-type (EMRSA-16), PubMed
  16. Competition Can Be Fatal: Evidence From The NHS Internal Market, Royal Economic Society
  17. Baker, Russ, "Two Years Before 9/11, Candidate Bush was Already Talking Privately About Attacking Iraq, According to His Former Ghost Writer", Common Dreams 10.28.04.
  18. "German unification: "Thatcher told Gorbachev Britain did not want German unification" (documents from Gorbachev Archive) ["Britain & Western Europe are not interested in the unification of Germany""]. margaretthatcher.org. Retrieved on 26 September 2015.
  19. The fears were mostly about a newly powerful Germany turning to the political right wingWikipedia's W.svg or bullying other countriesWikipedia's W.svg - in hindsight, they might have been on to something after all
  20. Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher: the meeting that never was, The Guardian
  21. Andy McSmith (9 December 2013). "Margaret Thatcher branded ANC ‘terrorist’ while urging Nelson". The Independent. Retrieved on 26 September 2015.
  22. The law effectively banned schools from telling weeping teenage bullying victims that being gay was OK, and state funded marriage counsellors from suggesting to couples in loveless marriages that one or both of them might be gay. (Thatcher was lucky that George Takei wasn't in the country.)
  23. The Section 28 battle, BBC
  24. Lewis, Helen, "Margaret Thatcher: feminist icon?", New Statesman 4.8.13.
  25. Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship, History Today
  26. Margaret Thatcher: an unlikely green hero?, The Guardian
  27. State of Emergency, Dominic Sandbrook
  28. If Scotland votes for independence, it’ll be Margaret Thatcher’s fault, Washington Post
  29. O'Flynn, Kevin, "Iron Lady gets lost in translation", Guardian (Updated 7/14/16 at 12:17 AM EDT). So the pirated Russian version is a documentary while the rest of the world gets a comedy?
  30. Mick Jagger's admiration for Maggie, The Guardian
  31. "OECD adds fuel to the debate over the Netherlands as a tax haven". DutchNews.nl. Retrieved on 26 September 2015.
  32. mirror Administrator (16 January 2006). "THATCHER: DOLPHINS COULD HUNT LOCH NESS MONSTER". mirror. Retrieved on 26 September 2015.
  33. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died following a stroke, The Independent
  34. Margaret Thatcher's death greeted with street parties in Brixton and Glasgow, The Guardian
  35. Blogger Scott Alexander noted that some of his acquaintances who celebrated Thatcher's death had previously condemned celebrations of the killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden, and attributed these disparate reactions to ingroup identity and othering of outgroup members.See "I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup". Slate Star Codex. Retrieved on 26 September 2015. Although, for many, disgust at celebration of bin Laden's death was over the perceived gratuitous, due process-free nature of it.
  36. Well, to be exact it was a ceremonial funeral, but "[it will look and feel like a state funeral to all intents and purposes."] That's because UK state funerals are only given to the sovereign, i.e. the ruling monarch - well, after they're dead, obviously...
  37. Margaret Thatcher's funeral: A True Blue occasion that has been four years in the making, The Independent, Tuesday 09 April 2013
  38. Churchill actually did get a state funeral, which makes him the last person in the United Kingdom to have received a state funeral as of 2016.
  39. 'Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead' closer to number one spot as it reaches top five following Margaret Thatcher's death, The Independent
  40. Margaret Thatcher 'gave her approval' to her son Mark's failed coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea, The Guardian
  41. Ward, Bob, "Thatcher becomes latest recruit in Monckton's climate sceptic campaign", Guardian (6/22/10 at 6:42 AM EDT).
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