Farewell Mrs Thatcher: In spite of everything, you are being missed already

For the purposes of full disclosure, I write these words as someone who, back in the late ‘70s and throughout the ‘80s, joined countless picket lines and demonstrations against Mrs Thatcher’s regime, shouting on top of his voice (and to the detriment of his vocal chords): “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, Out, Out, Out!”. Indeed, when I was putting this blog together, three years ago, I went so far as to write in the ‘About’ page: “My break from Britain occurred in 1987 on the night of Mrs Thatcher’s third election victory. It was too much to bear. Soon I started planning my escape.” And while my views on the Iron Lady have not changed one iota, I feel the need to express my sorrow for her passing; a sorrow that I have been feeling well before her death; indeed one that began to creep up on me a few short years after her ‘admirers’ in the Tory party sent her packing.

As the tributes fly in, following the announcement of Mrs Thatcher’s death, perhaps this small tribute from someone who opposed almost everything she stood for, and certainly her main economic, social and foreign policies, may be of some significance. Indeed, Mrs Thatcher was the sort of person that would appreciate a sworn enemy’s eulogy a lot more than the platitudes of the many sycophants that are piling up.

So, why is someone who kept screaming at ‘her’ “Out! Out! Out!” (when in government) is missing her after her final exit? The reason is simple and has to do with a combination of two attributes: First, she was the last British politician to have meant what she said. A ‘conviction politician’ as those rare birds were once called. Secondly, she had a sense of history that informed her actions. While I abhorred both her convictions and her historical take of the past, at least she had convictions and did base her thinking on an historical take that extended beyond the past… week of events. This combination is sorely missed in our current predicament when politicians are mere market research-driven simulations, and in which to have convictions is considered outdated, a sign of weakness, a relic of an antiquated past. With Mrs Thatcher, at least you could trust that she meant what she said. Oh how I miss that in a politician…

A time of death is not a time to offer a full critique of the life that just ended. It is a time to reflect generously on that life’s effect on all of us. I shall never forget the feeling of admiration for the way she addressed the House of Commons, of her formidable defence of her government and her philosophy (which was, in my estimation, that much more impressive given that both her government and her philosophy were indefensible). If I delve a little more (see below) on her contradictions, it is not out of an urge to diminish Mrs Thatcher; in fact, I believe deeply that we are all contradictory creatures and that the greater our ambition the greater the antinomies within us. And by golly, did Mrs Thatcher display great ambition and, thus, great contradictions!

She was the first woman Prime Minister but had little sympathy for the suffragettes (and the women’s movement in general) that broke the barriers to women’s progress, thus allowing her to rise up. She wanted to liberate Britons from the state but ended up granting Whitehall (Britain’s London-based functionaries) hitherto unheard of authoritarian powers. She sought to impose libertarian values, only to discover that she needed an autocratic state in order to do so (which explains nicely her fondness for, and defence of, General Pinochet). She preached judiciousness, on matters economic, and thrift, yet her government built the ‘British Miracle’ on the twin bubbles of real estate and the City created by spivs who worshipped her. She was keen to see the end of the old Etonian ruling circle but, unwittingly, created the conditions for the resurgence of that aristocratic clique (just take a look at the present cabinet). She championed a ‘share owners’ democracy’ but delivered a Britain in which ownership of businesses (and wealth) is more concentrated in the hands of a minority than at the time she became Prime Minister. She campaigned against totalitarianism in Moscow while insisting that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist who deserved to languish in gaol. Above all other contradictions, she argued passionately about a return to the Victorian moral life but gave rise to a regime in which it was impossible to imagine anything good being done for its own sake (as opposed to for profit).

Despite all these contradictions, the world was a better place when it allowed formidable personalities, like that of Mrs Thatcher, to rise to the top. It is highly questionable whether someone of Mrs Thatcher’s strong convictions and bravado could rise again to a position of genuine power. And this is, surely, a sad reflection on the world after Thatcher.

Lastly, on Europe, while it is true that Mrs Thatcher only turned against the European Union when the Labour Party turned pro-European, she was quite right on what monetary union meant in the absence of democratic checks and balances. Undoubtedly, her hostility to the Eurozone project had little to do with her commitment to democracy (given the way in which she diminished democracy at home, especially at the local government and regional level) and a great deal with having to cede her own prime ministerial power to Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin. Whatever her motives, nonetheless, she was spot on when, in her final parliamentary speech as Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher, famously said about the Eurozone: “It’s all politics. Who controls interest rates is political. A single currency is about the politics of Europe.” Europe’s leaders and citizens can do a lot worse than to remember, and mark, these words.

53 thoughts on “Farewell Mrs Thatcher: In spite of everything, you are being missed already

  1. Pingback: The Tories are really worried about the history books. | Bedford Burrow

    • Just wait for the non-state state funeral (paid out of taxpayers’ money) on Wednesday. Note that they have cut state expenditure on welfare support, and make long nasty speeches about the workshy and lazy unemployed people in the UK— but it is fine to waste tens of millions of pounds to celebrate Thatcher’s life and profound philosophical teachings !!

      It is really a disgrace that the neoliberal lobby is using her death to promote neoliberal propaganda: it shows that the conciliatory line that Yanis (and others) has promoted is self-defeating. We are still at war, and the death of a geriatric general should be celebrated and no compromises uttered. The witch has gone to Hell, and we are still suffering.

  2. http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2011/09/from-the-archives-ridley-was-right/

    Saying the unsayable about the Germans, Dominic Lawson, 14 July 1990

    It is said, or it ought to have been said, that every Conservative Cabinet minister dreams of dictating a leader to the Daily Telegraph. Nicholas Ridley, the Secretary of State fro Industry is, so
    far as I am aware, the only one to have done so. It happened when the late Jock Bruce-Gardyne, long-time writer of the Telegraph’s economics leaders, was staying with Mr Ridley. The then deputy
    editor of the Telegraph, Colin Welch, rang up to urge Jock to file a promised leader for the next morning’s paper.

    Colin Welch: Is that Jock?

    N. Ridley: Yes.

    CW: Where is your leader? We need it now.

    NR: Right oh!

    CW: I’ll put you on to the copytackers.

    At which point Ridley delivered an impromptu pastiche of a Bruce-Gardyne leader, unfortunately too sureal to pass Mr Welch once he read it and divined its true author.

    After I had visited Mr Ridley in his liar, an 18th-century rectory in the heart of his Gloucestershire constituency, I could see why he should delight in such innocent deception. As we ate lunch
    together I stared through what I had thought was a window behind my host’s left shoulder. But it was in fact a magnificent trompe l’oeil, painted by Mr Ridley in 1961.

    The house’s – real – garden, designed by Mr Ridley, a civil engineer by training, is similarly baffling. One secluded section turns cunningly into another, and from any one fixed position it is
    impossible to see where the next turn might lead.

    But Nicholas Ridley’s passion for illusion is most definitely only a pastime. In modern political life there is no more brutal practitioner of the home truth. Not even Mrs Thatcher – whose own
    views owe much to his – is more averse to hiding the hard facts behind a patina of sympathy or politician’s charm. In a mirror world Mr Nicholas Ridley would be Mr Cecil Parkinson.

    Even knowing this, I was still taken aback by the vehemence of Mr Ridley’s views on the matter of Europe, and in particular the role of Germany. It had seemed a topical way to engage his thoughts,
    since the day after we met, Herr Klaus-Otto Pohl, the president of the Bundesbank, was visiting England to preach the joys of a joint European monetary policy.

    ‘This is all a German racket designed to take over the whole of Europe. It has to be thwarted. This rushed take-over by the Germans on the worst possible basis, with the French behaving like
    poodles to the Germans, is absolutely intolerable.’

    ‘Excuse me, but in what way are moves toward monetary union “The Germans trying to take over the whole of Europe”?’

    ‘The deutschmark is always going to be the strongest currency, because of their habits.’

    ‘But Mr Ridley, it’s surely not axiomatic that the German currency will always be the strongest…?’

    ‘It’s because of the Germans.’

    ‘But the European Community is not just the Germans.’

    Mr Ridley turned his fire – he was, as usual, smoking heavily – on to the organisation as a whole.

    ‘When I look at the institutions to which it is proposed that sovereignty is to be handed over, I’m aghast. Seventeen unelected reject politicians’ – that includes you, Sir Leon – ‘with no
    accountability to anybody, who are not responsible for raising taxes, just spending money, who are pandered to by a supine parliament which also is not responsible for raising taxes, already
    behaving with an arrogance I find breathtaking – the idea that one says, “OK, we’ll give this lot our sovereignty” is unacceptable to me. I’m not against giving up sovereignty in
    principle, but not to this lot. You might just as well give it to Adolf Hitler, frankly.’

    We were back to Germany again, and I was still the devil’s – if not Hitler’s – advocate.

    ‘But Hitler was elected.’

    ‘Well he was, at least he was… but I didn’t agree with him – but that’s another matter.’

    ‘But surely Herr Kohl is preferable to Herr Hitler. He’s not going to bomb us, after all.’

    ‘I’m not sure I wouldn’t rather have…’ – I thought for one giddy moment, as Mr Ridley paused to snub out his nth cigarette, that he would mention the name of the last Chancellor of a united
    Germany – ‘er… the shelters and the chance to fight back, than simply being taken over by… economics. He’ll soon be coming here and trying to say that this is what we should do on the banking
    front and this is what our taxes should be. I mean, he’ll soon be trying to take over everything.’

    Somehow I imagined (and I admit it, because Mr Ridley is for ever accusing journalists of making things up) that I could hear a woman’s voice with the very faintest hint of Lincolnshire, saying
    ‘Yes, Nick, that’s right, they are trying to take over everything.’ I can at least recall, with no recourse to imagination, the account of one of the Prime Minister’s former advisers, of how he
    arrived for a meeting with Mrs Thatcher in a German car. ‘What is that foreign car?’ she glowered.

    ‘It’s a Volkswagen,’ he replied, helpful as ever.

    ‘Don’t ever park something like that here again.’

    The point is that Mr Ridley’s confidence in expressing his views on the German threat must owe a little something to the knowledge that they are not significantly different from those of the Prime
    Minister, who originially opposed German reunification, even though in public she is required not to be so indelicate as to draw comparisons between Herren Kohl and Hitler.

    What the Prime Minister and Mr Ridley also have in common, which they do not share with many of their Cabinet colleagues, is that they are over 60. Next question, therefore, to Mr Ridley: ‘Aren’t
    your views coloured by the fact that you can remember the second world war?’ I could have sworn I saw a spasm of emotion cross Mr Ridley’s face. At any rate he answered the question while twisting
    his head to stare out of the window:

    ‘Jolly good thing too. About time somebody said that. It was pretty nasty. Only two months ago I was in Auschwitz, Poland. Next week I’m in Czechoslovakia. You ask them what they think about the
    second world war. It’s useful to remember.’ It’s useful to know that Mr Ridley’s trips to Poland and Czechoslovakia are efforts, in the company of some of Britain’s leading businessmen, to persuade
    East Europeans of the virtues of doing business with Britain. How very annoying to see the large towels of Mr Kohl and his businessmen already covering those Eastern beaches.

    But, hold on a minute, how relevant to us, now, is what Germany did to Eastern Europe in the war? Mr Ridley reverted to the sort of arguments he must have inhaled with his smoke when he was a
    minister of state at the Foreign Office:

    ‘We’ve always played the balance of power in Europe. It has always been Britain’s role to keep those various powers balanced, and never has it been more necessary than now, with Germany so uppity.’

    ‘But suppose we don’t have the balance of power: would the German economy run Europe?’

    ‘I don’t know about the German economy. It’s the German people. They’re already running most of the Community. I mean they pay half of the countries. Ireland gets 6 per cent of their gross domestic
    product this way. When’s Ireland going to stand up to the Germans?’

    The strange thing about Mr Ridley’s hostility to the Bundesbank and all its works is that, if he had ever been Chancellor of the Excehquer – a job he admitted to me he had once coveted, but no
    longer – then he would probably have matched the Germans in his remorseless aversion to inflation. But as he pointed out, ‘I don’t think that’s relevant. The point is that when it comes to
    “Shall we apply more squeeze to the economy or shall we let up a bit?” this is essentially about political accountability. The way I put it is this: can you imagine me going to Jarrow in
    1930 and saying, “Look boys, there’s a general election coming up, I know half of you are unemployed and starving and the soup kitchen’s down the road. But we’re not going to talk about these
    things, because they’re for Herr Pohl and the Bundesbank. It’s his fault; he controls that; if you want to protest about that, you’d better get on to Herr Pohl”?’

    There might be more financial discipline in a British economy run under the influence of men like Herr Pohl, Mr Ridley agreed. But, he added, suddenly looking at me through his bifocals, ‘There
    could also be a bloody revolution. You can’t change the British people for the better by saying, “Herr Pohl says you can’t do that.” They’d say, “You know what they can do with your
    bloody Herr Pohl”. I mean. You don’t understand the British people if you don’t understand this point about them. They can be dared; they can be moved. But being bossed by a German – it would
    cause absolute mayhem in this country, and rightly, I think.”

    The rumbustious tone of Mr Ridley’s remarks and the fact that our conversation was post-prandial may give the misleading impression that the politician was relaxing, and not choosing his words too
    carefully. Far from it. Mr Ridley had the smallest glass of wine with his lunch, and then answered all my questions with a fierce frown of concentration, one hand clutched to his forehead, the
    other helping to provide frequent supplies of nicotine.

    And although he has not been so outspoken on the matter of Europe before, it is no secret that Mr Ridley was a supporter of Enoch Powell long before Mrs Thatcher was ever a force in the political
    firmament. I reminded Mr Ridley that he had voted for Enoch Powell in the 1965 contest for the leadership of the Conservative Party, and asked him, ‘If Mr Powell had been elected and then become
    prime minister in 1970, would there ever have been a need for Margaret Thatcher?’

    At this point, Mr Ridley’s frown of concentration became an angry scowl, and to aid his pondering further he removed his spectacles and poked himself in the eyes with the ear-pieces.

    ‘I think that it is possible… right. But then you have to put against that some extraordinarily correct but totally unreasonable belief that Enoch might have developed, which would have meant
    that his prime ministership would have been a failure.’

    I must say that at this point I was overcome with admiration for Mr Ridley. Any other politician in the same position would either have said, to be safe,

    ‘Yes there would still have been a need for Margaret Thatcher’ or, less sycophantically, ‘I don’t think there’s much point in answering such a hypothetical question.’

    Similarly, when I asked Mr Ridley how he felt, as a self-described ‘Thatcherite before Mrs Thatcher’, seeing old Heath-men like Kenneth Baker, Douglas Hurd and Christopher Patten gain greater
    preferment under the lady, he was quite unable to come up with the diplomatic evasion. Instead he produced an expression halfway between a smile and a grimace: ‘I don’t want to go into colleagues,
    and that. That’s getting close to what you put in your memoirs. I’m not going to say things about the current differences in the government because I think on the whole it’s a very good government.
    And of course everybody in it has slightly different views about things.’


    ‘Well, less than slightly, but I’m not going to divulge those or talk about them.’

    ‘Why not?’

    ‘Because it would weaken the government.’

    ‘It might help to strengthen the government.’

    ‘Yes, but I’ll do that my own way, not your way.’

    ‘You think your way is successful?’

    ‘Oh yes, I’m quite happy.’

    ‘Does that mean you are still winning the important battles in Cabinet?’

    ‘That presupposes that there are battles. We’re moving pretty well along in the right direction. If I felt out of sorts with the whole thing I would resign. It’s not an idle threat.’

    That certainly will be believed. Mr Ridley is still serenaded by the Right as the only minister to resign from the Department of Industry after Mr Heath’s famous U-turn of 1972. Mr Heath still
    insists that he sacked Mr Ridley. The truth – as usual in such matters – appears to lie somewhere in between.

    Whatever, it seems that only Mrs Thatcher changing her views on Europe – a nearly incredible proposition – would cause Mr Ridley to leave the Department of Industry in such traumatic circumstances
    for a second time.

    Or, as Nicholas Ridley put it to me with his habitual but constantly surprising and un-English directness, ‘I’ve been elected to Parliament nine times, I’ve been in office for 14 years, I’m still
    at the top of the political tree, and I’m not done yet.’

  3. http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/7256363/ridley-was-right/

    ‘It’s very easy to be wise with hindsight,’ Nick Clegg this week told a BBC interviewer who had tasked the Deputy Prime Minister with his long-held view that the euro is a wonderful currency which Britain was crazy not to join. A cross-sounding Clegg went on to argue that ‘no one’ had envisaged that the eurozone might be in the plight it is today. This we can only describe as being foolish with hindsight.

    Although it is true that no one forecast the exact circumstances of the crisis, one politician did set out with startling clarity the main reason why the currency was misconceived — and it cost him his job. I refer to Nicholas Ridley, who in July 1990 gave an interview to The Spectator warning of the explosive consequences of the loss of national economic sovereignty implicit in a single European currency. ‘There could be a bloody revolution,’ he warned those who bought the 14 July 1990 issue. Extreme as that might have sounded, the riots in Greece are an illustration of exactly what Ridley forecast if a population felt they were being told how they must suffer, by a power unelected by them (indeed, in the case of the European Commission, unelected by anyone).

    The issue here is sovereignty, not economics (although the idea of Greece and Germany sharing the same currency was always an absurdity). Ridley himself had no problem with the idea of balancing budgets or privatising inefficient state enterprises — after all, he was one of Margaret Thatcher’s most faithful supporters in implementing exactly those policies. His point was that those imposing harsh measures have to be elected by the people on the receiving end. Or as he put it in his interview with me: ‘When I look at the institutions to which it is proposed that [our] sovereignty is to be handed over, I’m aghast… unelected reject politicians with no accountability to anybody, who are not responsible for raising taxes, just spending money, who are pandered to by a supine parliament which also is not responsible for raising taxes, already behaving with an arrogance I find breathtaking; the idea that one says “OK, we’ll give this lot our sovereignty” is unacceptable to me. I’m not against giving up sovereignty in principle, but not to this lot. You might just as well give it to Adolf Hitler, frankly.’

    Without that last sentence, Ridley would probably have been able to continue in his job as trade and industry secretary. His unprovoked rhetorical use of Adolf Hitler to reinforce his argument amazed me at the time. I retorted by saying ‘Surely Herr Kohl [Helmut Kohl was then the German Chancellor] is preferable to Herr Hitler. He’s not going to bomb us, after all.’ I had thought that this would cause Ridley to backtrack, but he dug deeper. ‘I’m not sure I wouldn’t rather have the shelters and the chance to fight back than simply being taken over by… economics. He’ll soon be coming here and telling us that this is what we should do on the banking front and this is what our taxes should be. I mean, he’ll soon be trying to take over everything.’

    It was doubly unfortunate for Ridley that the week after our interview was published the then head of the Bundesbank, Karl Otto Pohl, was to visit Britain — a fact of which I was unaware at the time, but which greatly increased the pressure on Margaret Thatcher to ask Ridley to resign. She did so, and he quit, complaining that though he had not been misquoted by The Spectator, ‘I deeply resent the journal’s assertion that I associate present-day Germany with the aggression in the past. I do not hold that view.’ Yet, as the above makes clear, it was he who out of the blue drew a comparison between modern German economic expansionism (as he saw it) and the threat posed to us by the Nazis.

    On the other hand, it is true that Nick Garland’s cover illustration, which showed Ridley painting a Hitler moustache on a poster of Helmut Kohl, was dynamite — and reproduced across Germany to howls of outrage. I had suggested to Nick that he should do a cover illustration showing Ridley as a landowner taking a shot with his Purdey at a German eagle. Nick, as usual, had a much better idea; but I have often wondered if Ridley might have survived had The Spectator employed a less gifted cover cartoonist.

    Occasionally it has been suggested that the whole interview must have been off the record, so inflammatory were Ridley’s remarks. In fact it had been agreed — almost a month in advance — that the interview would be entirely on the record and tape-recorded. On the morning the interview was published — when all hell broke loose — I rang up the Department of Trade and Industry, offering to send them a copy of the full transcript. One of its press officers said: ‘You do realise that we are going to look for anything we can find in it to knock down your account.’ I replied that it was precisely to protect the reputation of The Spectator that I wanted them to see that it had all been as reported.

    There was a reason, however, why Ridley felt able to say such things about the Germans. (‘The British people can be dared. They can be moved. But being bossed by a German — it would cause absolute mayhem in this country, and rightly, I think.’) The reason was that Margaret Thatcher held exactly the same view. That same summer I bumped into a Cabinet minister at the Wimbledon tennis championships, who said, only half in jest, ‘If Boris Becker wins again this year, Margaret will be hell in Cabinet the next day.’ (He did, and presumably she was.)

    Unfortunately, the issue of anti-German prejudice on the part of British politicians old enough to remember the war completely occluded the real argument. As we wrote in our leading article in that 1990 Spectator issue: ‘A distinction must be made between the emotional colouring of an argument and the argument itself. The logic of Ridley’s argument cannot be dismissed as mere prejudice. It is an argument about political accountability.’ It still is; and the Eurocrats still don’t get it.

  4. Yanis, I must share the following from someone far more seasoned than I… I’m sure you are familiar with the Australian Mike Carlton – a cutting tongue when in form:

    “Another great myth of St Margaret, touted by Rupert Murdoch this week, is that she was “a champion of the profound idea of freedom,” a prime mover in the collapse of Soviet communism. Tosh, Lord Copper. The truth is more complex. Ronald Reagan called on Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall but Thatcher was secretly keen for it to stay up. Papers from the old Soviet foreign ministry revealed that she fought tooth and nail against German reunification, fearing that it would consign Britain to second-class status as a European power.

    For the Iron Lady, freedom was malleable. She sold arms to Saddam Hussein and sent the British SAS to train Khmer Rouge guerillas in Thailand. She supported the apartheid regime in South Africa, proclaiming to Commonwealth leaders in 1987 that “the African National Congress is a typical terrorist organisation … anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud cuckoo land.”

    In 1999, by then well out of office, she developed a mad crush on Augusto Pinochet, the homicidal Chilean tyrant who had sought asylum in Britain. “It is you who brought democracy to Chile,” she very publicly assured him. Her oafish son Mark traipsed around the world invoking her name to enrich himself on dodgy arms and construction deals.”

    So I make this comment as an observer rather than as a participant – it seems to me there is a great whiff of nostalgia in your comments. Just like an old Bruce WIllis movie where the ‘hard as nails’ detective needs an equally competent baddie to give him reason to live. As opposed to the PR shapeshifters who now run the EU joint.

    Meanwhile in Oz we have a Labour Party that is anti-immigration. Yet I still remember my immigrant father proudly sharing that having met Gough Whitlam in person in the 70’s, the great man could spell his greek name in full (all 10 letters). Go figure….

  5. Pingback: Margaret Thatcher R.I.P. | Arun with a View

  6. Hitler was, then, a conviction politician. This does not mean he should be admired or respected.

    Paddy from Ireland

  7. Well Well, I did not know this!

    “Lastly, on Europe, while it is true that Mrs Thatcher only turned against the European Union when the Labour Party turned pro-European,”

    This ties in with her turnaround on her belief in the validity of Climate Change. She supported the theory in the late 1980’s but by 2003 had rescinded this view.

    I made the comment to some friend the other day that this is because Climate Change had developed into a political issue that split along left/right lines. Her instincts kicked in and she fell in line with her fellow Conservative’s.

    • Thatcher’s attitudes and policies on society were always extreme right wing — opposed to women’s rights, opposed to the role of the state in social protection (welfare state), opposed to just about all of the progress that had been made since the late Victorian period. In that, she differed markedly from her predecessors, who were centre right conservatives who were largely patriarchal but had come to terms with the social effects of World War II and the national consensus that found expression in the Beveridge Report etc.

      Thatcher also differed (obviously) in her fascination with Hayekian thinking and the supposedly more practical embodiment in Friedman’s monetarist theories. However, in my opinion it would be a mistake to think that she saw neoliberal economics as a technical solution to the rather serious problems of deindustralisation in advanced economies. Her objective was stated as being “a return to Victorian values” — by which we can deduce she meant the early Victorian period, or the very early stages of capitalism itself. It does not take much intellectual ability to decipher this as a clear intent to remove most of the twentieth century achievements in managing polity, economy and society.

      Basically, she was a rather nasty piece of work with limited intellectual grasp of our society and history who was determined to force her obnoxious ideas onto society. She had enough political acument to engage advertising consultants for everything (Blair took this even further) and change her voice, her appearance, her style … to persuade or fool people into voting for her. That she announced openly her intentions does not mitigate the evil behind them; on this I cannot support Yanis. She was an arch-manipulator who rarely resorted to outright lies — but could do so when needed.

    • Guest – In one comment you say

      Thatcher’s attitudes and policies on society were always extreme right wing

      then you say

      Thatcher also differed (obviously) in her fascination with Hayekian thinking

      Only someone clueless about Austrian economics would class it as “right”, it is neither left (socialistic) or right (fascistic) nor is it centre. Austrian economics does not fit into the 2 dimensional narrative pumped out by the mainstream media.

    • @Richard
      I am not clueless about Austrian economics, and Hayek in particular, thank you. It is you who are clueless.

      As far as the entire world is concerned, Hayek is on the Right. The systemic view of free markets and a weak state in his theories places them clearly in that area of politics.

    • Addendum: I also made a differentiation between Thatcher’s conservative social position and her views on the economy; the latter was loosely Right but specifically neoliberal, as a derivative of Hayek/Friedman.

  8. It is a nice attempt at being judicious and diplomatic but lauding people for being “conviction politicians” can only serve to put Hitler in a new light! Convictions, he had!

    • Barry, it’s hard to defend Mrs. Thatcher really (and you can always read the article at counterpunch org, “The Queen Mother of Global Austerity and Financialization”, and I don’t think Yanis Varoufakis is less critical towards her.
      But… Thatcher, whatever she was, was no Hitler. You can kill every discussion with Hitler.
      It can even be horrible to use Hitler as an example. Joschka Fischer defended the war against Serbia in 1999, much to the displeasure of Peter Handke, to go off topic a bit, by stating Milosevic and friends were “Hitler”. It seems they were rather – Milosevic and others.
      Hans Magnus Enzensberger was not intelligent enough to avoid the comparison.
      In 2003 Saddam Hussein (remember, the man who was a cruel dictator but had no atomic or chemical weapons and no Al Quaida in his country – whereas after the western war and the ongoing killing there is Al Quaida in the country. He was called – hey, yes. Hitler.

      In fact, as I understand it, Yanis Varoufakis also wrote about the difference between Maggy Thatcher and nowadays-manager-type politicians like, I forgot her name, Angela….something. She is only one of a whole lot.
      Angela something and Maggy Thatcher are both most certainly not Hitler. Angela something would *not* speak about the Eurozone like Thatcher did in the sentence Yanis quoted. Angela and Francois and Manuel and so many would drown their words in slime and talk about that people should be free to “decide the way they want” and how great and wonderful Europe was. They would shortly smile and walk away, helping to make millions poor, with a lot of help of many media. Doubtful that Thatcher would have *acted* otherwise – certainly not. But without the lies and the slime coming from those manager-type-people whose single aim is to stay in power, you can fight people, really.

    • But without the lies and the slime coming from those manager-type-people whose single aim is to stay in power …

      Indeed — to stay in power. It’s the good life. And after “serving” a few terms and making the right contacts, a la Tony Blair, there’s even a better life that awaits them after politics.

      I understand very well Yani’s point: having convictions. It reminds me of my wife’s brother-in-law, the sociopath — err, politician (of the left-leaning variety), and the comfortable life that he now lives, far, far away from his constituency, in some exclusive gated community in Mexico a few hundred feet from the beach. To be fair to the man, he did invite my family for a two-week stay once 🙂

  9. Considering you are an unrepentant Leftie your ‘obituary’ of Lady Thatcher is quite polite. You may have been one of those who screamed ‘Out, Out, Out’ during the 1980s but then again you are not British but Greek. I well remember the Britain Margaret Thatcher inherited in 1979. I well remember the terrible things that happened in the 1970s – the three day week and all that. One remembers Jim Callaghan’s problems with the unions – the dead unburied and rubbish stacked up in Oxford Street etc. The feeling in the country was enough was enough.

    You mention Rupert Murdoch and Wapping. Technology had moved on and Murdoch, for all you might hate him, tried to get the Print Unions to to a deal so he could move from a cramped and outdated Fleet Street to Wapping. They were having none of it. Even today The Times has never made Murdoch a bean: he has lavished money on it. So where is the economics in all of this ?

    The Coal Board tried to get the NUM to negotiate regarding pit closures, but they would not play ball. And then along comes Arthur bloody Scargill. He cared more about his stupid and crass revolutionary politics than he did about his members and their interests. I use to have to deal with people like him and quite frankly they were impossible to deal with because they had no sense at all. Their members were just cannon fodder to them. What is the point in digging coal you cannot sell, or is of such poor quality dug from pits that were virtually exhausted ? So he miss calculated and took on Lady Thatcher and lost. She won: democracy won (no ballot Scargill) and the rule of Law won. If you want to blame anyone for what happened to the mining industry blame Arthur Scargill and the NMU. And his attitude can be discerned from the recent High Court case regarding a London flat.

    As to your other point about her sense of history, yes this is true. Lady Thatcher was born in the 1920s. She remembered very well the 1930s and the Second World War. This was why Ted Heath was so keen on the EU, as it has become. She was far more pragmatic, and gradually the Europeans began their deluded project, but she would never agree to that because she saw the problems and the reality. So should everyone else (you included) because the ERM never worked, so why would the Euro work ? It didn’t and hasn’t and doesn’t. We have begun the 21st Century as we did the 20th: with a German problem. Maybe there are no tanks nor dreadnoughts, but the reality of German power is no different. What is different today is German hegemony and the lack of a balancing power, but that is also by design. The British, usually loathed on the Continent, have been driven to isolation and withdrawal. This serves German interest very well indeed. But ask yourself does it serve Greek interests ?? Does it actually serve Europes interests ?

    All political careers end in failure. Churchill’s did. He had the opportunity to leave at the end of the war and the King wanted to make him a Duke. He stayed too long. Lady Thatcher stayed too long too. I do not share any of the nasty and vicious comments of many. Some of that I think is because she was a woman, and stupid men hate being in the company of clever women, and she was very clever and very sharp – memory of an elephant actually. Unlike you I knew her slightly, although some of my friends knew her much better. I had little in common with her, but that was I suppose a ‘class thing’. I would not describe her as a true Conservative; rather she was (as Julian Critchley observed) more of a Manchester Liberal. But unlike you I am glad she won the 1979 General Election and I will close with one interesting fact: when she fought and won her last election she increased her vote. Tony Blair only ever lost votes, as most politicians do. So the British People did not share your view. We were, as always, different.

  10. It is so true that we are lacking politicians on “the left” with convictions. One might even say they lack principle, which I do believe Ms. Thatcher (to whom the devil has now said: “sorry, there is no alternative”) definitely had, though I highly disagreed with hers. Some Brit once gave me a “Bollocks to the Poll Tax” t-shirt. If I can find it, I’ll wear it to spite her.

  11. “The story goes that when was Thatcher asked what was her greatest accomplishment, she smilingly answered, “Tony Blair.”” – David Frum

    • Vasilio, thank you much for that Frum-quotation. I did not know it. And it makes sense, sadly enough.

  12. This is – by far – the most judicious and thought-provoking comment I have right on Mrs Thatcher’s death. As is so often case, you’re spot-on in your analysis.

  13. When we oppose someone, we claim them for ourselves. They become our responsibility and are taken into our care, not in spite of the harm they do us, but because of the harm they do us. We shape them, nurturing a figure that can articulate the nature of an uneasy relationship, that can shoulder the burden of pain, outrage and the sense of betrayal we feel.

    We oppose Margaret Thatcher, and in her death we need to honour her. She is a worthy enemy who has done enormous damage to so many of our institutions. As figurehead of a movement, she has inspired so much art, seeded so many communities, ensured that power has shifted from those very institutions that were destroyed, those institutions that were insufficient. She has moved the grounds of contest and by doing so she has made us stronger. We are yet to realise just how profoundly, because we are suspended in the despair of two generations of defeat. We bequeath to our children the resources they need if they can just imagine how to wield them. We pass down incumbrance, as powerful a tool to the twenty-first century as labour was in the previous two. Our creditors are as dependent on us as The Captains of Industry were on the exersions of our grandparents. There are comparable hierarchies of implication and interest, comparable opportunities to agitate and strike. Recently, political resistance has been decoupled from these lines of implication. At some point they will remeet.

    So rest peacefully Lady Thatcher. Savour your victories, pyrrhic though they might be. They were hard fought and well won.

  14. This is a superb comment, Yanis, from which I learnt a lot. I think and thought about her way of politics like I did and ever will, but yes, what you say sounds true. And i agree with anna v and what she writes above.
    It might be better today to criticise the manager-type politicians of today, be it Merkel and Schröder before, Lagarde and so many of the Troika, Barroso, Monti or countless others, and on a day like this not Mrs. Thatcher.
    Your blog-entry has it in its entirety. Not lying about how ‘wonderful she was for mankind’, (yes, the miners and all were a fact) yet – describing her in a very good way.
    If we all, leftists of all kinds, were openhearted and honest (you see the indifferent snobs laughing dumb-sarcastically when you just write the word down…) like this article is, we had better chances. Not the best today actually, but better ones.

    And I agree wholeheartedly to what you write about the Labour party. Like in Germany, where Schröder’s SPD and the green party killed more justice and good things than Thatcher’s ennemy Kohl before, so the Labour party from Blair on killed a lot of things. “Wer hat uns verraten – Sozialdemokraten” is the appropriate german term for that, an old ‘shout’. often true.

  15. I think nostalgia is getting the better of your judgment. Everyone deserves an eulogy as a human being but as a politician the only eulogy that Thatcher and Thatcherism needs is this: “Good riddance, may you rot in Hell”

  16. Paying a part of the salaries by Treasuries was known to Slovenia from old days under Tito. When liquidity crisis in 1980’s threatened Yugoslavian economy, many corporations took to paying their workers with “points” that could be used in particular stores and companies. Slovenia had advantage of knowing how parallel currency can work and it is probably that Portugal took the advice from them.

    Bernard Lietard talks a lot about parallel currencies in Ecuador and Swizerland as a solution to present day liquidity crises. Even tough Treasuries are not parallel currency but fiat money started out as Treasuries that evolved into small bills that we use today.
    Under Maastricht Treaty which bans outright selffinancing for governments in crisis. Paying government employees with small Treasuries could be the way out, providing that banks will accept them as payment on credit servicing. If not, then it would be the equivalent of the pay cut since people could not wait for maturity and they will sell them at the discount to the banks on black market. That was how Regulars in American Revolutions ended up having to sell their Treasuries imediately to the wealthy who got full price at maturity.

  17. Maybe you are looking for Victor Orban in Hungary that is using dictatorial aproach in order to kick the old guard bankers out in order to implement Keynesian approach?

    There are a lot of fascist atributes to Victor Orban, but lets remember that Hitler also implemented Keynes to get the Germany out of the Depression in 1933. He took the Germany a lot further after realizing God like treatment after geting germans employed and fed and gave them the purpose. He took them a lot further then FDR who did not abuse similar God like fetishizm by Americans which lasts till today.

    Lets just pray that Orban will not go all the way as Hitler did. Affter kicking the old guard bankers out which is completed by now, he will use central bank to finance the developement and employ all Hungarians, which is the old communist way.


    In capitalism, only banks can create money while states can only borrow from those banks, Roosevelt did it a roundabout ways trough state owned banks to finance employment and infrastructure and war later on. Create a bank with Treasuries as a capital base and reserve requierment and you can print money to finance anything needed. That was the FDR way.

    Slovenia and Portugal are on the way to finance public expenditures directly via Treasuries. They are implementing paying the part of the state employee’s salaries with small amount Treasuries.



  18. Are you suffering from a Stocholm syndrom?
    Hitler and Stallin had much more conviction and sense of history at the time.
    Also Pinochet and Franco had conviction, Pol Pot and so on and on and on.

    Moderation is the key.

    There are some present day politicians that are causing the opposite results from what they prophesize who also have a strong conviction and some limited sense of history. What about Putin and Merkel? Beppe Grillo?

    I get it, you are asking for the same attributes on the left, not on the right, for someone like Roosevelt or Tito. Maybe that one is Ecuador’s Correa?

  19. Normally I would agree with you. It is manifestly better to bury the dead without speaking ill of them, but there are exceptions, people whose “body of work” calls out for excoriation and Margaret Thatcher—may she fall through worlds forever— is one of them.

    You are right about one thing however; the emergence of Thatcher and Reagan could only have come about through the absence of a real Left and the presence of an implicitly bourgeois, faux Left, so feckless and reactively PC that working people might feel justified voting for a Thatcher against their own interests. Just like today in fact . . .

  20. Yannis praises her for being a politician and not a puppet of the kind we are experiencing today. He has a point there but i won’t miss her, in the same sense that i did not miss her beloved Pinochets and Bothas.

    I was in London during the poll tax issue and witnessed first hand the police horses charging protesters. But i did not detest Maggie more than bbc (and the rest of the media) for their lies and i was surely more disgusted by the Labour’s oportunism.

    There’s also one more thing to remember when discussing Maggie. If it was not for the succesfull Falklands campaign, she may have not lasted long in power. Luck is a major political factor and she was lucky.

    Anyway, i don’t think i will ever give her another thought.

  21. Yani,

    Let me know how I can send you a plot that shows the production of coal in the UK from the 1850’s (before Jevons published his “Coal Question”) until today. You may ask what does that have to do with Maggie, the coal miner’s strike and the 80’s demonstrations.

    Coal production in the UK peaked in the 1910’s and started an irreversible decline in the 1920’s. By the early 1980’s, coal production had dropped to the same level as in the 1870’s. To make the position of the coal miners even worse, oil production from the North Sea fields had started in 1975 and the UK had become an oil-exporting country.

    So, the coal miners went on strike at a moment when the importance of coal for the British economy had diminished. Maggie could crush them, and she did. The steelworkers too. The UK was not an “island” anymore. My guess is that her decisions were based on personal convictions and not on energy economics. What was happening in the energy area and world commerce, however, strengthened her hand. It also made people believe that the economic growth that followed was a result of “Maggie’s policies” and not the consequence of a transition that had started well before Maggie became PM. Maggie may have just happened to be at the right place at the right time in order to get the admiration of her supporters and the wrath of her detractors.

    These are, perhaps, the musings of someone who likes to see political economics through an “energy availability” filter. Still, every time I look at the UK coal production plot I cannot help thinking that the 1984 strike was the “last hurrah” of British coal, an ill-timed fight the British workers were going to lose because of forces stronger than Maggie’s will and convictions.


  22. So Yanis, bad politics from a strong politician is better than better politics from a weaker politician?
    I agree with Guest (xenos) and hand over to Billy Bragg:

    This is not a time for celebration. The death of Margaret Thatcher is nothing more than a salient reminder of how Britain got into the mess that we are in today. Of why ordinary working people are no longer able to earn enough from one job to support a family; of why there is a shortage of decent affordable housing; of why domestic growth is driven by credit, not by real incomes; of why tax-payers are forced to top up wages; of why a spiteful government seeks to penalise the poor for having an extra bedroom; of why Rupert Murdoch became so powerful; of why cynicism and greed became the hallmarks of our society.

    • I agree wholeheartedly with Billy Bragg. But I do not see why my piece is incompatible with his comment. On the contrary, I think they are complementary. If you read my ‘obituary’ again, you will see my point – I hope. Anyway, I sincerely believe that the day of an enemy’s death is not the time to launch a fully fledged attack on her/him. Respect for enemies, on the day of their passing, is the mark of decency.

  23. Yanis, you are letting your admiration for her formidable powers of being able to crush her opponents in both the House and outside to bias your assessment – I remember vividly the way she used to make Neil Kinnock look like a fool during PMQs. I felt sorry for Kinnock and could not but admire Thatcher for being able to demolish him with such seeming ease. So many of the left are like Kinnock, so lost, so lacking in any detailed political economic framework with which to attack the opposition. She had a detailed explanatory framework tied to moral convictions that Kinnock and his successors appear to have lost.

    Personally, I feel no sorrow that she is gone. And I am afraid that I must reject the assumptions that appear to underlie your admiration for a conviction politician, for therein lies possibly a formidable fanatic. This is certainly the way I felt about the poll tax. And the way in which she destroyed England’s industrial base, with the assistance of others of course. Like you, I decry the lack of any sense of ethics in current politicians, but this is not leading me to want to see people like Thatcher in office ever again. Sadly, they are in office again and are worse than she ever was.

    One thing I will say for her. What she wasn’t and what some current politicians are is a psychopath. In the view of the world’s leading expert on psychopathic behavior, Robert Hare, corporations and related institutions have become more psychopath friendly. Whereas in the past they were sidelined or sacked, they now tend to be promoted if they are intelligent and ordered in their behavior, irrespective of how much emotional damage they create in the environment around them. The emotional damage that Thatcher created was not of this sort; nor was it due to manipulation for its own sake or purely for for her own personal aggrandizement. I don’t think you can say this about many of the current crop of politicians.

    • Larry,

      I spent 1984 on the barricades with the miners and experienced the brutality of the Thatcher regime up close and personally. I was there when mounted police attacked unionists outside Murdoch’s Wapping ‘castle’. I saw the desperation in the eyes of the families of steelworkers that Mts Thatcher wrecked. I lived through 11 years of Thatcherism inside the universities that lost their academic innocence, and never recovered it, due to her and her cronies’ decisions (Sir Keith Joseph being the worst). Later, I lived in Scotland, in Glasgow, were the scars Thatcherism left behind refused to heal. BUT, let me add this, since you mentioned Kinnock: It was the Labour Party’s betrayal of the British working class that did more to damage the nation’s soul than anything Thatcher did. For this reason, I ‘miss’ her, so to speak: She was a true class warrior. A constant reminder that the only people whose stopped believing in class war was the Labour Party. Ultimate proof of that was a (once) young man that went by the name of Tony Blair.

    • BUT, let me add this, since you mentioned Kinnock: It was the Labour Party’s betrayal of the British working class that did more to damage the nation’s soul than anything Thatcher did.

      Much like Barry Obama (and the Democratic Party) today: a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If anyone can gut social security, it’s Barry!

    • Yanis,

      I don’t know how to get my reply below yours. But here goes anyway.

      I accept your account of the events of the time; I was there, too. I and others tried to convince the apathetic in the universities that Thatcher was going to destroy their world, but they felt that the old boy network would protect them as it had done in the past. Nothing one could say would convince them that she had already riven the old boy network and partially replaced it with another, which didn’t like universities. When they saw that we were right, it was too late.

      Though I did not demonstrate, as that is not my style, when I could legitimately do so and as often and as amusingly as I could, I critiqued her economic and social policies in my lectures. And carried on a disheartening debate with some of my more neoclassical economic colleagues. Some of them went so far as to consider economic history irrelevant to the discipline. And so it became at Leeds.

      You are right about the Labour Party and one of the real warriors on this battlefield was Ralph Miliband whom I knew. It has been a grave disappointment to see his sons, whom I knew when they were quite young, espouse the doctrines they do. I have a theory why David is more right-wing than his younger brother. But I won’t bore you, and your readers, with it here. Suffice to say that neither brother has come up with an alternative narrative that would resurrect the Labour Party and reconnect it with its roots.

      While one can view Thatcher as a true class warrior, the problem with having a class warrior without a worthy opponent is that you end up with a scourge. And that is what we ended up with, particularly after the Falklands.

  24. No and no. Our current financial situation is her step-child. She would be proud and I would be suffering because I don’t belong to the 10% that gained 40% more un-taxed income. She was a bad prime minister and also half lunatic, she was elected three times but hey in Greece there are still people voting for New Democracy and PASOK, so if ppl in Greece are non-rational why should be elsewhere? Anyway, the entire brit rock and punk scene is so happy she’s dead! They were writing songs about her death for years!

    • The woman who took UK out of IMF funding and transformed it in the 6th largest economy in the world a bad PM? OK You know your facts No one can argue that
      FWIW a recent poll by Sunday Times shows that 27% of Britons consider her a the best PM the Kingdom had after WWII

    • If there is any country that needs someone like Thatcher at the moment it is Greece.

  25. While I agree with your appraisal of her opinion of the eurozone, and actually I would go further and concede that her opposition to Germany’s reunification was sound, I cannot share your opinion on the role she played in destroying my country.

    When I first arrived in Greece, I was asked what I was doing here. My reply? “I am a refugee from Britain.” The damage she wrought, the return to early Victorian moral values (that is, ignoring humanity and prioritising money-making above all else) and the collapse of the social stability that the UK had managed to achieve in the post-war period — despite being a rather uncompetitive and divisive economy — are nothing less than shameful. She was succeeded (in ideological terms) by the war-criminal Blair (who admired each other reciprocally) and both of whom I despise.

    No, on this I have to disagree with you Yanni: Thatcher was an evil woman, who damaged my country and its heritage. Since I know Greece almost as well as my own country, I can assert that we was far worse than the 1967 dictatorship. Her impact was wider and more devastating, and extended even beyond the UK, with the emphasis on free markets and a rather crude interpretation of Hayek et al. The world is a better place without her.

    • I am sorry that I see so many people not able to see that the day of the death of anybody is not the day of reckoning of history. In Greek we say θεός σχωρέστην , similar to “god have mercy on her”. It is a form of maturity to be able to put away vindictiveness urges at such times. After all it was her power when in action that displeased you and make you say “The world is a better place without her” . You should have added “in power”. But she has been powerless politically for many years and with dementia the last years. She is just another human who has died. Time enough for political criticism later.

    • Anna: I am not celebrating her death. It comes far too late for that – like the deaths of many evil people in world history. However, there are far too many people in the UK currently lauding her “achievements” and supposedly positive impact on British history and politics. From my youngest days (before Thatcher was in power) I recognised her as a manipulative stubborn woman who was determined to use everything (and I mean everything) available to force her derivative ideas on the country. This meant squandering oil revenues (that had not been available to the Labour government when it went cap in hand to the IMF) to destroy trade union power. It meant the dogma of obsessing over the money supply (not that anyone could measure it) over fiscal policy, with the resultant over-valued pound and a hastened collapse of British industry. It meant milions of lives damaged or destroyed by unemployment; it meant a consistent attack on independent institutions such as universities and courts, to try to impose political power over them.

      In short, this evil woman actually did many of the things that the Troika are now doing to Greece. In her own words, “Just rejoice” at her death, as she rejoiced in the deaths of others.

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