New Internationalist

Thatcher was bad, but her toxic ‘children’ are worse


Just as Chumbawamba promised, my copy of their EP, ‘In Memoriam’ arrived in a little CD envelope less than 24 hours after the death of Margaret Thatcher was been announced on 8 April.

The speed of the delivery says as much for the organizing capacities of the Leeds-based agit-prop-folk-punk group, which had the CDs pressed and ready to go for four years, as it does for the efficiency of the Royal Mail. I’m pleased to have it – a reminder of youthful bile and passion as well as sadness.

Yet I haven’t played the CD yet. Not because I disapprove of it – I don’t. I paid my advance fee of £5 ($8.70) happily for it a few years ago. But where once we fought against a person, now we fight an ideology and the inhumanity of Thatcherism which has become the norm.

Simply, Thatcher was bad, but her toxic children – David Cameron and George Osborne and their ilk – are even worse.

In 2009 I wrote a piece about anti-Margaret Thatcher music for this blog and interviewed Chumbawamba. It was fun thinking about anti-Thatcher songs and the communities that the songs themselves inspired. (I forgot, inexplicably, Elvis Costello’s ‘Tramp the Dirt Down’. Sorry, Elvis.)

On Sunday 14 April, it looks as if ‘Ding, Dong, the Witch Is Dead’, from The Wizard of Oz will enter Britain’s singles chart in the top five. In the Judy Garland film from which it comes, the song is one of joyful celebration and release from tyranny. (Let’s not dwell on the misogynist implications of the witch word or the conflation of munchkins with workers.) No one should ever need an excuse to listen to a good Judy song, but right now I’m wondering what there is to celebrate.

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  1. #1 Mark 12 Apr 13

    Correction for 1st paragraph - ’was 'being' announced’

  2. #2 Dr David Hill - World Innovation Foundation 14 Apr 13

    A bit of perspective is needed when it comes to Thatcher. In this respect she may not have got everything right but where clear comparisons have to be made with other prime ministers to see if she was good or bad for Britain. Taking no sides the following are the major changes to society that prime ministers from Wilson to Brown made - good and bad for the UK.

    THE FIRST WILSON ERA
    1. He promised a new Britain forged in the white heat of a second industrial revolution – it failed miserably. 2. The Labour administration never escaped a cycle of economic crises vainly battling against a further devaluations of the £. 3. He failed in the UK’s application for membership of the EEC. 4. He was forced to devalue sterling.
    THE HEATH ERA
    1. He took Britain into the EEC after two previously failed attempts. 2. He worked through an era where the UK was dogged by torrid industrial relations and where industry put UK on a 3-day week to conserve fuel due to dangerous low levels that was caused by a combination of domestic action (coal miners work-to-rule) and a quadrupling of fuel prices in the wake of Israel’s’ Yom Kippur War’. He called a general election on the question of, ‘who governs Britain – the unions or the elected members of the people?
    THE SECOND WILSON ERA
    1. He oversaw a country that had continual economic and industrial unrest. 2. He presided over the referendum of the UK’s membership of the EEC. 3. He presided over the collapse in the value of the £ which prompted the humiliating rescue operation by the IMF
    THE CALLAGHAN ERA
    1. He faced an increasing one-sided confrontation with organised labour in the form of rampant strike action that came to a head in the so-called ‘Winter of Discontent’; a phrase borrowed by Callaghan himself from Shakespeare. 2. He oversaw Britain being ‘strikebound’ with public servants staging mass walk outs, leaving food and fuel supplies undelivered, rubbish uncollected and bodied unburied. Indeed things became so bad that Hull was dubbed ‘the second Stalingrad’.
    THE THATCHER ERA
    1. She took on a country that was descending into industrial and economic chaos. No prime minister before her had taken to task the unions to create a balance in the power of government and unions and where it had become a one-sided affair with the unions calling wildcat strikes at will. 2. She adopted a style of self-confidence with no weakness. 3. She introduced an environment of free-market policies. 4. She introduced trade liberalisation. 5. She allowed deregulation. 6. She presided over the £ being forced out of the ERM and costing the UK £3.3 billion. 7. She instigated sweeping privatisation. 8. She undertook the breaking of the power of the unions. 9. She focused on the individual. 10. She created the enterprise culture.
    THE BLAIR (AND BROWN) ERA
    1. He adopted many of the policies of Thatcher as he never withdrew any of the eight elements that she had introduced. 2. He introduced the minimum wage. 3. He introduced student tuition fees. 4. He increased taxes but not for high-earners. 5. He introduced the Civil Partnership Act 2004. 6. From 2001 to 2005 he increased public spending on average by 4.8%, transport by 8.5%, health by 8.2% and education by 5.4%; all in real terms. 7. He introduced tax credits. 8. He oversaw an administration where the highest tax rate was 40%, making the rich richer than ever and it was only in the last month of Brown’s administration did the tax rate go up to 50%. 9. He allowed the banks to be more liberalised and deregulated because they were laying the ‘golden eggs’, but which eventually brought about the collapse of the UK economy and something that will affect the economic fortunes and their standards of living of the British people for decades; especially the working and middle class.

    Overall we all have to decide whether Baroness Thatcher’s was good for Britain or malevolent.

    Dr David Hill
    World Innovation Foundation

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Louise Gray a New Internationalist contributor

Louise Gray is a music columnist for New Internationalist and the author of the No-Nonsense Guide to World Music. She writes regularly for The Wire and many other music and art publications. Find our more at her website.

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