RIP Thatcherism 1979-2013
In death as in life Margaret Thatcher retains her unique ability to divide and polarise. The “marmite” Prime Minister who people pretty much loved or hated and who undoubtedly changed politics and the country.
We are, of course, not meant to rejoice in the death of anyone - unless they are a “terrorist” like Bin Laden when the correct response is to punch the air.
Margaret Thatcher famously described the ANC as a “terrorist” organisation and it is fitting that in defiance to this Nelson Mandela outlives Thatcher although clearly ill.
Thatcher despite her protestations as a supporter of the free market and small state neoliberalism when push came to shove was in reality a supporter of raw state power. Nelson Mandela and his ANC needed to be crushed in South Africa just like the miners and Unions did in Brtitain by the jackboots of state power just to maintain state power.
And whilst it might appear ironic that a woman who said “If you can’t stand on your own two feet, you can't expect help from the state.” is about to be buried at vast state expense it isn’t really such is the gap between the “populist” rhetoric of Thatcher and what she actually did.
It is of course unclear how aware Thatcher would have been of the clear evidence that her economic policies failed completely. The 2011 credit crunch and ongoing failure of all the free market institutions that Thatcher saw as offering salvation don’t just represent the fact that she got her economic policy a bit wrong but that her whole economic vision is fatally and irrevotrievably flawed.
Thatcher and her American counterpart Ronald Raegan sold free market neoliberalism to the world in the 80s and many of us saw it then as a fundamentally unfair and socially devestating economic policy that ripped communities apart.
But few of us would have predicted that when finally Maggie Thatcher was buried her economic policy would be buried with her. True there are those such as Cameron and Osbourne that are in denial but they might as well tell us the earth is flat. The truth is plain to see Margaret Thatcher’s economic policies just didn’t work.
The challenge we face now is to look forward not back. Thatcher is no help for those who feel she did a great job in facing the challenges we now have. They can’t be solved by Thatcherism. We have already privatised, marketised, liberalised anything that moved.
Such policies aren’t going to come from the children on Thatcher be they in the Tory or even Labour parties. Thatcher’s children were brought up to think there is no other way and not to listen to others so I fear it will be a while before even reality hits.