Sunday, April 14, 2013
Thatcher's legacy could be Cameron's downfall
In two days Mrs Thatcher will be buried and we can all get on with our lives. The headlines writers will move on; the television news pundits will find something else to talk about.
But I for one seriously fear the consequences of the past week – the cans of worms that have been opened, which threaten to spread bitter conflict through our nation.
All these arguments about whether she was a good or a bad thing for Britain won’t go away quickly.
Sure, she was strong at a time when we needed strength, and many of the changes she wrought with her iron handbag had to be made. But it was the way she went about it that caused so much pain for so many, inciting such resentment and bitterness, that Wednesday’s funeral could never be an event of national mourning; for half the nation, it’s a reminder of past hurt.
Whoever made the decision to parade the body of the most divisive and hated (though, for some, most admired) prime minister of the last century through the streets of London – not the short journey to Westminster Abbey, but the longer, more expensive, more difficult to police route to our national church of unity and peace, St Paul’s Cathedral – must be the most shortsighted person on the planet. That person is, I suspect, David Cameron. Sure, the plans were laid four years ago by the previous administration, but that was before the coalition's deep cuts to the economy, and before this recession had dug itself deep into the very lives most affected by Thatcher's revolution.
From the moment the old warhorse died, Cameron has demonstrated utter insensitivity towards those who suffered under Thatcher, for whom the wounds had barely closed, let alone healed. He just doesn’t understand.
Sure, she let council tenants buy their own homes, and got them onto the property ladder, but that helped create the housing bubble that led ultimately to the credit crunch, and also overnight created a shortage of affordable housing throughout the land that exists to this day.
She smashed the belligerent, intransigent unions, but she left many ordinary working people in this country disenfranchised and demoralised, powerless to face the insecurities of casualization.
Sure, she won those little islands back for our imperial past, but some say the consequences were the resurrection of an antiquated claim to remain a military power, which led us to the folly of Iraq and Afghanistan.
She privatized utilities, which made a lot of foreign shareholders very rich; and she let the North of England decline without help or strategy, just as Cameron is doing right now.
This was no Churchill: even though I was only 13, I remember the London dock workers bowing their cranes in salute as his union-flagged coffin made its journey down the River Thames. By contrast Thatcher was, to many citizens, a political monster who hacked our nation in half.
It wasn’t that Britain didn’t need change in the 1980s, it was the way she did it.
She created a huge underbelly that will never forgive her for the Britain she left us: unequal, unfair, and divided. Imagine their unhappiness and disgust this Wednesday as they watch those who benefited most give the Iron Lady a send-off as grand as the one we all gave The People’s Princess.
The true cost of Wednesday’s event will never be revealed – it’s almost certainly far more than £10million, if you include the planning, the policing, hospitality and salaries of all who take part. The television coverage alone probably costs £1million, if you include the years of executive planning. All this comes straight from the taxes and licence fees of the victims of Thatcherism: around 38 pence for each working person to say thank you.
In the spirit of Thatcherism, surely her funeral should have been privatised and handed to the highest bidder? Sponsors could have put promotional banners on the barriers kettling the protestors demonstrating in their thousands. It could have made a handsome profit.
I’m sure Centrica and Talk-Talk would have been happy to cough up, or any of the corporations created by privatisation.
ITV plc, which, thanks to her terrible 1990 Broadcasting Act, destroyed all regional television production in England, should pick up the tab for the BBC’s coverage. I genuinely fear that David Cameron has made one of the worst mistakes of his career in trying so unashamedly to cash in on Thatcher’s death.
If he isn’t very careful, Maggie’s downtrodden will rise up and bite him in the foot.