|Ravishing guide to|
|God Save the King?|
“”My job is to stop Britain going red.
|—Speech to Institute of Public Relations, 11.3.77|
“” You radiate cold shafts of broken glass
You're nearly a good laugh
|—Pink Floyd on the second different pig “Pigs (Three Different Ones)”|
“”Should we shout?! Should we scream?! What happened to the Post-War Dream?! Oh Maggie! Oh Maggie, What did we do?!
|—Pink Floyd asking the second different pig what happened to Britain’s generous welfare program|
Margaret Thatcher (1925—2013) operated as a Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. She was the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century. She also became notable as the UK's first (and until 2016, its 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, and cancelled free milk for children. So she definitely deserves her own museum.
Upon her death, the entire British left united for a street party not seen since before the Miners' Strike of 1984-1985.
“”...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. It's our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations.
|—Margaret Thatcher, perverting 400 years of basic political philosophy, or perhaps misquoting Stirner.|
“”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. Elizabeth Sandifer|
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 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—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; 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; 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.
"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
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.
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.
The current housing crisis is also largely her doing, simply because affordable housing was too "socialist" for her. 16% interest rates? 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
The community charge, popularly known as the poll tax, was her cunning scheme to reform local government taxation and replace the domestic rates which part-funded local government. Rather than the former system where payments depended on the value of the property you owned, everybody would pay the same fee (although there was a partial rebate for the unemployed). The new tax was opposed by a massive protest campaign, including riots, and mass non-payment; it also managed to completely alienate Scotland from the Tories because it was trialled there from 1989 a year before its introduction in England and Wales in 1990.
It proved highly unpopular even before its introduction: under the system almost everybody would pay the same rate, no matter their income (there was a reduced rate for the unemployed), which struck many people as not entirely fair. The Tories thought that people would blame councils (especially Labour councils) for the high levels, and vote Conservative to lower prices; but in practice people blamed Thatcher for thinking up the idea, and she refused to soften the burden.
On 31 March 1990, huge numbers people gathered in Trafalgar Square, London, to protest against the poll tax, with some estimates as high as 200,000. A small minority threw missiles at the police and set fire to cars and buildings. The riots were described as the worst in London for a century, with 340 arrests. There was also a massive campaign of non-payment, with as many as 4 million people leaving £5 billion unpaid; all debts were written off in 1999.
After Thatcher left, it was replaced in 1993 by another property value tax, along with lots of transition funds to soften the hurt. But many people had disappeared from the electoral roll in an effort to avoid payment or prosecution for non-payment: the roll in Scotland fell by 61,000 in 2 years, while in England it fell by 85,000 in 1989 after typical annual rises of 200,000 through the 1980s; as many as a million people may have not registered to vote to avoid the tax. You have to suspect that most of those people who gave up the right to vote were not natural Conservative voters. So well done for that.
Cuddling up with Rupie
MRSA outbreak in the NHS
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. 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.
Empire Strikes Back
By 1982 her approval ratings had plummeted, owed to the economics situation. 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. 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."
It turns out when East and West Germany were going to be reunited, Thatcher told the Soviet government to stop it, believing “This would lead to a change to postwar borders, and we cannot allow that because such a development would undermine the stability of the whole international situation and could endanger our security.” Though the French President Francois Miterrand at that time voiced similar concerns privately, while he supported reunification publicly.[note 2]
Thatcher opposed Apartheid, albeit on the grounds that is was a sin against economic liberalism. As such she opposed sanctions in favour of 'constructive engagement' belieiving the complete isolation of the regime was a bad idea. She regarded the ANC as a terrorist group, but urged the Botha government to release Mandela (who, despite an often repeated myth, she never branded a terrorist) and the legalise the ANC. Sir Patrick Wright, former head of the Diplomatic Service, claimed in his memoirs that "All her (and Denis’) instincts are in favour of the South African Whites" and she supported a white "mini-state" in southern Africa.
Initiate Order 28
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."[note 3] Notably, no one was ever prosecuted under Section 28, 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
“”I hate those strident tones we hear from some Women's Libbers.
Thatcher is sometimes seen as role model for feminists, for being the first female ruler of a major western country. 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?
Despite her status as a ruthless (and in many ways, as shown above, utterly incompetent) 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, 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.
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.
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.
"We in Scotland"
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. 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
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.
Proving why charisma is a bad thing, Sir Mick Jagger was apparently shocked that Brits still have "all this residual resentment" towards her. (Yes, this is the same frontman whose own multi-national is situated so he can pay corporate taxes of 1%.)
A rather more notorious admirer was Jimmy Savile.
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. Later Prime Ministers who lined up to praise her never mention this. Can't imagine why.
Is Thatcher dead yet?
Thatcher was (until now) 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.
News of her demise was marked by, among other things, several parties in celebration, 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.[note 4]
Despite her career-long disdain for government largesse, she was given a state funeral.[note 5] 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. 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[note 6] 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. 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.
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 mythical — business 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.
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.
- 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.
- Spitting Image's Best of Thatcher - Yes! We have some bananas.
- Belfast Busker - "Mrs. Thatcher Song"
- Appearance on Blue Peter - Maggie explains to school children that Pol Pot is "bad" Khmer Rouge and how there exists a "good" Khmer Rouge[No, not The Onion]
- Margaret Thatcher's Legacy - Enjoy, Britons.
- Margarita Thatcher - It costs a fortune and the hangover from it lasts for decades.
- All of these stats, and explanations of them, can be found in Mishkin's Macroeconomics: Policy and Practice 
- The fears were mostly about a newly powerful Germany turning to the political right wing or bullying other countries - in hindsight, they might have been on to something after all
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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...
- Churchill actually did get a state funeral, which makes him the last person in the United Kingdom to have received a state funeral before the death of Elizabeth II.
- McGregor, Jay, "How Thatcher killed the UK's superfast broadband before it even existed", Tech Radar 3.12.14.
- Hennessy, Patrick, "David Cameron gives backing to £15 million Thatcher museum", Telegraph (4/20/13 9:45PM BST).
- Margaret Thatcher: a life in quotes, The Guardian
- Sandifer, "The Winter of Discontent", Eruditorum Press 2012.
- McSmith, Andy, "Margaret Thatcher obituary: The most divisive political leader of modern times", The Independent 4.8.13.
- 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.
- Gallagher, Paul, "Right to Buy: 40% of homes sold under Government scheme are being let out privately", Independent 8.13.15.
- The Day Margaret Thatcher Resigned, CBC
- Nicholas Watt and Patrick Wintour, "Thatcher biography reveals adviser's early warnings", Guardian (4/22/13 at 7:00 PM EDT).
- Cassidy, John, "The Economic Case For and Against Thatcherism", New Yorker 4.9.13.
- Thatcher’s legacy: A shortage of affordable housing, The Globe and Mail
- 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.
- National Archives: Thatcher's poll tax miscalculation, BBC News, 30 Dec 2016
- 1990: Violence flares in poll tax demonstration, BBC News On This Day
- Revolt: The story of England's first protest, The National Archives, 15 Jan 2020
- Poll tax is history, The Guardian, 14 April 1999
- A major outbreak of MRSA caused by a new phage-type (EMRSA-16), PubMed
- Competition Can Be Fatal: Evidence From The NHS Internal Market, Royal Economic Society
- 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.
- "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.
- Margaret Thatcher 'wanted whites only South Africa' and 'xenophobia' was common at her cabinet meetings, Mikey Smith, The Daily Mirror, 21 Jan 2018
- The Section 28 battle, BBC
- Lewis, Helen, "Margaret Thatcher: feminist icon?", New Statesman 4.8.13.
- Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship, History Today
- Margaret Thatcher: an unlikely green hero?, The Guardian
- State of Emergency, Dominic Sandbrook
- If Scotland votes for independence, it’ll be Margaret Thatcher’s fault, Washington Post
- 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?
- Mick Jagger's admiration for Maggie, The Guardian
- "OECD adds fuel to the debate over the Netherlands as a tax haven". DutchNews.nl. Retrieved on 26 September 2015.
- mirror Administrator (16 January 2006). "THATCHER: DOLPHINS COULD HUNT LOCH NESS MONSTER". mirror. Retrieved on 26 September 2015.
- Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died following a stroke, The Independent
- Margaret Thatcher's death greeted with street parties in Brixton and Glasgow, The Guardian
- Margaret Thatcher's funeral: A True Blue occasion that has been four years in the making, The Independent, Tuesday 09 April 2013
- 'Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead' closer to number one spot as it reaches top five following Margaret Thatcher's death, The Independent
- Margaret Thatcher 'gave her approval' to her son Mark's failed coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea, The Guardian
- Ward, Bob, "Thatcher becomes latest recruit in Monckton's climate sceptic campaign", Guardian (6/22/10 at 6:42 AM EDT).