Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Clement Attlee v Margaret Thatcher

I do not feel inclined to let today's events in London pass without comment - sorry:

The reverence accorded to Margaret Thatcher needs be seen in context. I did very well out of Thatcherism, but then I am a (reasonably) well educated, middle-class white man from the south east of England, so the chances are that I would. I also won with the National Health Service,  free further education, easy employment when I wanted to work and a very generous social security system for when I didn't. Oh yes, and the minute I bought a house, property values soared, securing me a valuable asset for later. My generation got all the goodies and then pulled the drawbridge up behind us. Thatcher would be proud of that, hell, she was proud of that.

She was my MP in the 1960s when I lived in Finchley, I disliked her then, grew to distrust her and finally to detest her and everything she and her bully-boy government stood for. But time has mellowed me [Not much - Ed.] and it is time for a more objective take on it all, in a subjective way of course.

Leaving aside the lack of precedent for what is in effect a state funeral for someone who was not a head of state,  does not have the suport of the whole (or even half) of the population, and was not a 'national treasure', her ceremonial funeral is costing in the region of £10m. The chances are that the majority of the bill will be paid by the tax payer - and I doubt the £10m includes 'lost production' while the great British public, lucky enough to have a job, watch the display at their workplaces, or just take the day off. All this in the same week as the disabled and unemployed have their benefits cut to save the public purse £100m, the equivalent of a handful of City bonuses.

This was the Prime Minister who did not know the meaning of the word compromise,  who brought the 'big bang' to the City of London and paved the way for what turned out to be unregulated financial services that destroyed the savings and pensions of millions of Britons, sowed the seeds of the greatest, and most destructive social divide between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' since Victorian times, and celebrated greed and personal gain over communal wellbeing. She also befriended General Pinochet in Chile (if you don't know, Google him), thought of Nelson Mandela as a terrorist and, and, and...

Many who revere her appear to have done very well out of Thatcher and her spiteful regime. They seem to see the cost of things rather than their value. They have bought into the gung-ho simplicity of Thatcherism 'making Britain great' again. Maybe one of them can tell me how that greatness manifests itself? Preferably without recourse to saying how extreme the unions were in the 1970s. At the same time, maybe they can explain how extremes in either direction are anything but divisive.

Time of course will tell exactly how much damage her crass worship of market forces will wreak on our society, but while we wait here is a summary of the various achievements of two British Prime Ministers as recorded on the official Downing Street web site:

Margaret Thatcher
1979 - 1990

Major acts

Housing Act 1980

Gave security of tenure, and the right to buy homes, to tenants of local authorities and other bodies.

Clement Attlee

1945 - 1951

Major acts

National Health Service Act 1946

Made healthcare free on the basis of citizenship and need rather than the payment of fees or insurance premiums

National Insurance Act 1946

Introduced social security, in which persons of working age had to pay a weekly contribution and in return were entitled to a wide range of benefits when they could no longer work

Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946, Electricity Act 1947, Transport Act 1947

Nationalised the coal industry, electricity utilities, railways and long-distance haulage

Town and Country Planning Act 1947

Planning permission now required for land development; ownership alone no longer sufficient

Children Act 1948

Established a comprehensive childcare service, reforming services providing care to deprived and orphaned children

Nurseries and Child-Minders Regulation Act 1948

Paid child-minders now registered and regulated; inspection regime in place to check their methods and facilities meet basic minimum standards

National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949

Allowed the creation of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales, gave the public rights of way and access to open land


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