Thatcher’s children? Too right


2:49 pm - December 1st 2010

by Dave Osler    


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Say what you like about the current leadership of the Conservative Party, but none of them have ever gotten lost in the Sahara desert for six days on end, cocked up a military coup in a small but spectacularly corrupt west African petrodictatorship, or even been sacked from a television presenter job for dissing a black tennis player as a golliwog.

So technically Ed Miliband was being a tad unfair when he described Cameron and co as ‘children of Thatcher’ at PMQs today.

Not even today’s crop of top Tories quite match Maggie’s real sprogs in terms of cupidity, stupidity, incompetance, avarice, racism or generally poor sense of direction.

But all that Red Ed was doing was quoting a cable to Washington from Richard LeBaron, deputy head of mission at the US embassy, after meeting the then Tory spokesman on foreign affairs, William Hague.

“Hague asserted that he, Cameron, and Shadow Chancellor George Osborne are all ‘children of Thatcher’,” LeBaron notes.

Indeed, Britain’s most famous hotel room sharer has obvious claim to the title. He first came to public attention with a speech at the 1977 Tory conference, at the age of just 16.

This was a year when many yoof – my 17-year-old self included – were pogoing to the first Clash album, singing ‘white riot! I wanna riot!’ at the top of our young voices.

And there was this spotty schoolboy, stood on the rostrum before an audience of average age 90, clad in flares and sporting a fashion disaster haircut. And you know what he told ‘em?

‘Half of you won’t be here in 30 or 40 years’ time,’ he quipped, in much the gleeful manner of a doctor who adds DNR for ‘do not resuscitate’ to the medical notes at the end of some crinkly’s hospital bed. The remark might even have qualified as Pinteresque if only he had got the delivery right.

But there is, of course, another meaning of the term ‘Thatcher’s children’. Colloquially it is often used to refer to those who grew up in Britain during the no such thing as society 1980s.

This was a period in which a Tory government deliberately engineered a recession in the name of discredited rightwing economic dogma, and when a fortunate few became extremely rich while millions were dumped on the dole, and the ideology of the day was to glorify the process.

In other words, a period pretty much like the one I suspect we are going to see in the 2010s, without any sweeteners in the form of council house sales and privatisation share issues to stag.

Thatcher’s children? I’d say that sums up Cameron, Osborne and Hague pretty well.

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About the author
Dave Osler is a regular contributor. He is a British journalist and author, ex-punk and ex-Trot. Also at: Dave's Part
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Reader comments


The worst sufferes of Thatcher are the very students on the streets today. They are Thatcher’s children but they are rebelling! – http://politicaldynamite.com/2010/11/how-can-the-jilted-generation-overcome-discrimination/

So are they Thatchers children? yes. everyone was who left education and entered the job market during her reign.
I class myself as one of “Thatchers children” I left school in 1981 in L’pool and I’m from a proud working class family of the type the Iron Lady declared war on, but I was (amongst many many others) one of the children who was left at the orphanage gates while the current bunch of Tory political elites were given all the breaks.

Cameron’s response was very good – better a child of Thatcher than a son of Brown.

Nice little attack on spotty Tory boys… that’ll show ’em!

But you know, I’m proud to be a “child of Thatcher”. And here, in a 3 minute video clip, is why. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okHGCz6xxiw

I watched this speech the other day, and it makes me so sad that we’ll never see her like again. Now we will just have an endless stream of Blairs and Camerons, each more useless than the last, all parroting endless chatter about “hope” and “change” until they win their elections, after which there will be no change whatsoever.

Say what you like about Thatch, everybody acknowledges that she actually did change things. Britain in 1990 really was significantly different to Britain in 1979. Significantly better for everyone, rich or poor, I would say, although of course she didn’t go far enough. If only she’d had another decade, how different things would be now…

Wasn’t the cable referring to the attitude towards the USA rather than any economic heritage?

@4 No more drugs for that man! Thatcher never left, the continuing pursuit of her dead policies are what has brought this country to a divided, bankrupt ruin. Life for the poor is significantly worse than it was in 1979 in pretty much all aspects except consumer crap, unemployment of around a million (measured honestly back then), wages for the working class that paid enough for them not to be topped up by welfare payments, welfare for the sick and unemployed that was worth double what it is today in real terms and not attached to profiteering companies and arbitrary punishment, national assets under national control instead of sold to god knows where and used by foreign companies to subsidise the lower cost of their domestic businesses, secure pensions, banks behaving responsibly and not bailed out by taxpayers, council housing under public control, a unified NHS, a national railway and much more that made Britain the envy of the world as far as terms and conditions for the average and poor were concerned. Of course some have done very well, in 1980 the chief of Barclays was paid £80,000, recently the top three executives got through £100million

“Life for the poor is significantly worse than it was in 1979 in pretty much all aspects except consumer crap”

Or another way to put it is that the poor are much richer than they used to be. That you don’t like what they spend the money on is not their problem.

“a national railway and much more that made Britain the envy of the world”

Really? Do you have no memory of the joyless, (apart from smoking carriages), grind that was British Fail?

‘Indeed, Britain’s most famous hotel room sharer has obvious claim to the title.’

Nice bit of innuendo there.

@7 missing the point completely. What the poor actually choose to spend any pittancee of disposable income they have on isn’t really the issue. The point is Britain used to make its own consumer crap, quite well in some cases an as there was relatively little of it it tended to be durable and not made with instant obsolesence in mind. There wasn’t the endless pursuit of newer shinier faster in a futile attempt to fill the emptiness of life. There was beer instead. Good beer (except Watneys)

As for British Rail, it may have had one teabag for the entire network and meat pies that were older than the pharoahs but it was cheap and easy to understand unlike the overpriced nightmare that is rail travel in the UK today.

@6. Well, to be honest, most of what you say is a matter of opinion. (Same for what I say, too, of course.) But it’s generally felt that we were a bankrupt ruin circa 1979.

The thing with welfare and the NHS is that the huge amount of money required has to come from somewhere, so it requires a decent economy to support it. So actually, you could say that Thatcher kept the welfare state running.

As an interesting aside, I understand the graphic novel version of “V for Vendetta” is based on the idea that Labour would win the 1983 election. Being still hamstrung by trade unionists and a fundamentalist belief in state capitalism, the Labour Party would be unable to stop the economy crashing. This would lead to chaos and the 1987 election victory of the National Front, known in the novel and film as Norsefire. Poll tax? It could have been much worse!

11. Chaise Guevara

@ 7

“Really? Do you have no memory of the joyless, (apart from smoking carriages), grind that was British Fail?”

The present system really takes advantage of people, though. If I had a family emergency and needed to get down to where my parents live (about 300 miles) tomorrow, then back a few days later, I’d pay more than £150 for the privilege, assuming I could avoid travelling at peak times. That’s more than half a week’s wages. And if I missed either of the trains specified when booking, I’d have to pay the standard fare (over £120 last time I checked) on top of that. Bear in mind that this isn’t a particularly busy travelling time, too.

BR was by all accounts a mess under government management, but a state-run service it wouldn’t use this system of subsidising the comfortable at the expense of the vulnerable (bank charges, anyone?)

Vladimir @ 10

So actually, you could say that Thatcher kept the welfare state running.>/b>

Yeah, you got that right. With 3 million plus unemployed and almot the same number moved into incapacity benefit, you are not joking. There are full comunities driven onto welfare thanks to Thatcherism and now the Tories are now saying that three generations of workless families are too much! Makesyou wonder why Cameron joined a Party that created the concept of mass unemployment, if he thinks it so bad.

Well said Mr Schmidt @6 – the railways had been brought to the brink of ruination by the first world war – they never really recovered afterwards despite heroic efforts by Messr’s Stanier and Gresley etc. in the grouping days, and a dedicated workforce of loyal and proud railwaymen. Nationalisation almost certainly saved the railways from further impoverishment at best – extinction at worst following WW2. It was prolonged lack of Government will to support, ( e.g. the abominable axeman Beeching) and the road lobby that all but did for them. Even so British Rail was a saner, publicly esteemed ( oh yes!) more user friendly and publicly responsive organisation than the current more expensive to use, fragmented, higher subsidised, glossily inept, demoralised and cynical profit-grinding fiasco that we have now. We have Mr Major and his Tory rump to thank for the tatty demise of a once -great national asset – not the old dragon strangely enough – although she had shown nothing but open contempt for railways throughout her years of toxic misrule and pointedly boycotted them as a choice of personal transport. Major may have been the hands-on-privatiser but Thatcher set the bigoted and appalling example. We need no more Thatchers, still less the self – proclaiming spawn thereof.

The problem is that Thatchers children were not living on this earth before the welfare state and the national health system were in use. They have no fucking idea what they are talking about. It is like when they claim that charity can replace welfare. BULLSHIT.

@12. That’s not quite what I meant. What I am saying is that, without Thatcher, there would be no possibility of paying anyone any welfare, because there would be no money to pay. Think “collapse of the USSR”.

Regarding unemployment and Thatcherism, well, correlation isn’t causation. I think that long-term welfare dependence is caused by welfare payments.

We surely cannot say that it is Thatcher’s fault that a welfare recipient is overwhelmingly likely to continue claiming welfare indefinitely. That particular problem was recognised centuries ago. To be fair to Thatcher, she did arrange a situation in which it was relatively easy to get a job, albeit one where an unemployed person might need to move house and/or learn new skills.

But Sally @14 – Bullshit is the Tories stock-in-trade – they know that well enough. It wins them elections (or power rather) because bullshit baffles brains and makes dupes of naive- but- politically-ambitious Lib Dems.

@10: If you’re trying to insinuate any sympathy for Thatcherism on Alan Moore’s part, you need to pay more attention. The significance of Labour winning the 1983 election in VfV is not that they caused economic collapse, but that they kept us out of a world nuclear war, hence the fact that Britain is still around after most other countries have been destroyed. Oh, and Moore identifies as an anarchist.

Vladimir @ 15

I think that long-term welfare dependence is caused by welfare payments.

Not a lack of jobs, then? You cannot grasp the concept that when there is a surplus of labour, that surplus of labour will claim welfare?

We surely cannot say that it is Thatcher’s fault that a welfare recipient is overwhelmingly likely to continue claiming welfare indefinitely.

We can, if Thatcherism means that there are not enough jobs going round. That was the case in the 1980s and the 1990s as unemployment soared to record levels

3. I had no idea you were so easy to please. The ‘Son of Brown’ thing is literally the weakest comeback I’ve ever heard in a Commons debate.

He’d have sounded wittier if he’d said “Oh yeah? That’s not what your mum said last night! As I was shagging her! Nyerr!”

So call me Dave did not deny he is a thatcher child. He just whaffled about Brown.

Why do the Lie Dems support the Con men?

Sally, it looks very much like a fair amount of the Lib Dems are Thatcher’s children too.

21
Good call!

Clegg is thatchers little baby.

23. Chaise Guevara

@ 19 Gwyn

LOL! And well said.

24. Vicarious Phil

Though sounding prescripted Cameron’s response was pretty effective, actually his “not waving, but drowning” was the stronger line, exploiting the sense that Ed Milliband is not PLP’s preferred leader and he’s out of his depth.

Pretty weak piece overall though. It seems Hague had a dodgy haircut in 1977 and wasn’t into punk, oh and the Tories are engineering a recession in order to put the masses in their place? Did they start doing the current recessionary engineering when in opposition? Which is when the recession actually occurred.

I can see that the Tories might be using the credit crunch/fiscal crisis to justify reducing the role of the state which they don’t favour but why a recession? They probably like being in government, if the economy continues to grow and people get new jobs after they lose their old ones in the public sector, the Tories are more likely to be re elected.

That’s not just weak it’s wierd.

So Sally @22 ‘Clegg is Thatcher’s little baby eh?’ Does that mean that the Tories will stand down in constituencies that have a LIb Dem incumbent – to preserve the alliance and Dave’s caring paternal role over them? Ha! you may be sure that that particular ‘baby of convenience’ will be swiftly ejected with the bath water – the Tories will fight tooth and nail – no holds barred – no mealy-mouthed excuses left unvoiced – for an overall majority at the next election – and if they get one, it will be thanks in no small part to Thatcher’s LD baby. But at least junior will have the stress-free consolation of sitting on the red benches for services rendered – if he hasn’t actually come out and joined the Tories by then. He might even be able to concentrate on giving up his stress-related tobacco habit then – it’s an ill wind . . .

The complaint of Simon Jenkins in his well-documented book: Thatcher and Sons (Penguin, 2006) is that Mrs Thatcher’s influence extended through the New Labour governments of Blair and Brown.

I always thought that all of us who grew up in the 80s were Thatchers children, bastard or otherwise.

That’s not quite what I meant. What I am saying is that, without Thatcher, there would be no possibility of paying anyone any welfare, because there would be no money to pay. Think “collapse of the USSR”.

What turned the UK economy around in the 80s?

A: The economic policies of Margaret Thatcher
B: The discovery and rapid exploitation of vast new oil and gas reserves under the North Sea

Now, given that we had several years of Thatcherism before we found the gold buried in the back garden, and it wasn’t exactly ushering in a new Golden Age of prosperity, I tend towards option B.

I often wonder if all these people singing Thatcher’s praises were actually around at the time…

What turned Britain’s economy around?

“During Margaret Thatcher’s premiership public spending grew in real terms by an average of 1.1% a year, while during John Major’s premiership it grew by an average of 2.4% a year.”
http://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/05ebn2.pdf

“As in previous years, the analysis shows that it is only the wider South East (Greater London, the South East and the Eastern Region) that made a positive net contribution to the UK public finances in 2006-07, with the Northern regions, the Midlands and the South West joining Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland as a net drain on the Exchequer.”
http://www.oef.com/Free/pdfs/ukmpubfinfeat(jul).pdf

“Britain remained Europe’s top destination for foreign direct investment in 2009, attracting more than a fifth of all new projects in the region, according to a study by accountants Ernst & Young.”
http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE6506R020100601

I think this is rubbish, and the bit about Thatchers actual kids comes across as sneeringly sexist, although not as much as a comment made a couple of LC posts back but I cant remember which one unfortunately.

I guess I was one of Thatchers toddlers, one of Majors teenagers, and one of Blair and Browns struggling adults. Had a crappy time under all three. Funny how it suits everyone to forget that a generation of us came of age under Major though. Thatcher had the yuppies who made fortunes and the punks who made anecdotes, and Blair had his entitled golden generation. Us people in between may as well not exist, it suits noones politics to acknowledge how fucked over we were by both the Tories and Labour.

@17. I see, thanks for clarifying. I must have misunderstood.

@18. Yes, but that doesn’t explain why long-term welfare recipients almost always continue to claim welfare regardless of who is in government or how many jobs are available. Since Thatcher’s time, EU citizens have migrated to Britain and successfully got unskilled or semi-skilled jobs. Meanwhile the welfare-dependent communities have stayed exactly as they are. This is not Thatcher’s fault.

@28. North Sea Oil was known to exist in the mid-19th century. The trade agreements that set the areas of North Sea owned by the surrounding countries were actually made in the 1960s and drilling was going on long before Thatcher was even born. But production did peak in the 1980s. Perhaps this had something to do with a pleasant political climate for industry?

What turned Britain’s economy around?

“During Margaret Thatcher’s premiership public spending grew in real terms by an average of 1.1% a year, while during John Major’s premiership it grew by an average of 2.4% a year.”
http://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/05ebn2.pdf

Do you ever think about why Mrs Thatcher keep public spending up Bob?

When she took power unemployment in the UK was at about 4% and when she left office it was about 6%. She also created an other milllion to a million and a half long tern unemployed disguised as IB claimants.

When you take into account the enormous drag on the economy of permanently removing 2-2.5million people from the workforce and putting them on benefits the truth is that she massively cut state spending on essential public services.

This is why the public services were on the knees in 1997 and for their other faults New Labour did enormous good by hugely increasing public spending (even if not all the money was spent well).

Vladimir @ 31

Since Thatcher’s time, EU citizens have migrated to Britain and successfully got unskilled or semi-skilled jobs. Meanwhile the welfare-dependent communities have stayed exactly as they are.

Doesn’t that make perfect sense, though? Forget the ‘benefit’ side for a second. If you have had a huge surplus of labour over the years, then those with the least skills/qualifications will be those longest unemployed. Stands to reason. However, when people migrate it is normally those with higher skills/qualifications that do so. No-one will find is unusual that British people who emigrate with good skills will out perform the unemployed in that given Country, so why should it be any different here?

We and Eastern Europeans both have bell curves among the labour market. No-one can be shocked to find that people from the top half of their bell curve are more desirable to employers than our long term sick and long term unemployed people?

Long term, mass unemployment is a feature all over the World, most of whom never see any welfare payments. Who is paying the South Americans in Rio, San Paulo and Bogotta or the Africans in Cape Town, Jo’burg or Kenya to stay unemployed?

There is still about 4 or 5 people for every job and in some places that rises to 10 to 12, per job. That is NOT the fault of the Welfare system, is it?

If Vladimir at 4 is basing his love of Thatcher on the woeful ignorance of economics that Thatcher displays in that clip, then that’s another anti-Tory prejudice I’ve just had confirmed.

@33 Thanks for your response. Interesting points.

You say “Who is paying the South Americans in Rio, San Paulo and Bogotta or the Africans in Cape Town, Jo’burg or Kenya to stay unemployed?”

Good question… and yet these people are still alive. So, clearly, they have some sort of income. Perhaps they are dependent on foreign aid, which is welfare by another name. Or perhaps they do have jobs – but not jobs that are legally recognised by the authorities, such as “subsistence farmer”, “gangster” or even just “cash in hand labourer”.

You also say “There is still about 4 or 5 people for every job and in some places that rises to 10 to 12, per job. That is NOT the fault of the Welfare system, is it?”

Hmm, actually, I completely disagree!

You seem to be talking here about a fixed or semi-fixed supply of jobs. But this doesn’t happen in any reasonable political system, because absolutely anyone can create jobs. Therefore the number of possible jobs scales upward with the number of unemployed people.

There are situations in which it isn’t possible for the average person to create a job, but these are all caused by bad politics. For example, taxes may be too high, or there might be a minimum wage, or starting a business might require costly permits that an average person cannot afford, or perhaps it might even be banned entirely! Or the rule of law may be so weakly enforced that only gangsters can operate businesses.

Thatcherism didn’t have those problems, but it did inherit one very similar and very serious problem from earlier governments: Welfare. If welfare is available, then an employer has to compete with it. It’s a de facto minimum wage.

Welfare *ensures* that people will be out of work unless the value of their labour is worth more than their welfare payments. In a very real sense, the ratio of 5 people to 1 job actually *is* the fault of welfare, unless of course the political situation is broken in some other way (as stated above). The four jobless people are capable of working, but the value of their labour is lower than the going rate, so they claim welfare and either do nothing, or do jobs that aren’t officially recognised. This, I think, is bad politics.

Vladimir @ 35

There are a couple of jobs you forgot to mention:- mugger and child prostitute for example, oh and beggers too. So you feel that being a child prostitute is a better life for a nine year old than her mother claiming welfare? I suppose that is the difference between you and the humans on the board.

So there we have it a vision for the British future. A Country were the super rich earn millions and the rest live in the gutter. Who the fuck looks at squatter camps and thinks ‘Yep, that looks like a good economic model’?

That’s incorrect. I did mention those jobs. I said “Or perhaps they do have jobs – but not jobs that are legally recognised by the authorities.”

I don’t approve of mugging, child prostitution or begging. In a well-managed country, these would be vanishingly rare. Their actual frequency is evidence of the “bad politics” I am talking about. Specifically, corrupt authorities, gangster businessmen, and politicians who honestly believe that welfare and minimum wages are positive things, rather than economic barriers that price the poorest people out of the legitimate job market.

Vlad @ 37

, rather than economic barriers that price the poorest people out of the legitimate job market.

But you are not talking about the ‘legitimate job market, are you? You are talking about a kind of mythical job market that ‘could’ exist, if only we did not have a welfare State. In other words you are trying to suggest that more jobs could be created if people could have jobs if people were desaperate enough to do anything for money.

So what are these ‘services’ that are being done in the World’s poorest communities that you wish you could acquire here? What industries are going on in San Paulo, Bangkok or Cape Town that providing welfare is preventing from springing up here? What is that we are missing out on? What wonderful industries that they got in the World’s impoverished States that we need to replicate? And are you sure that it is worth driving millions of people, both, working and non-working into poverty to achieve them?

Face it. we are talking about child prositution here, aren’t we?


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