I'm sure all of you (except those who were locked up in prison with no access to the Internet) vividly recall the Saturday list I published on 13th April 2013. NO??? Let me jog your memory. It was entitled "10 things that changed as a result of Margaret Thatcher". What! You stlll can't remember? Let me remind you fo the list
1. The Conservatives became Eurosceptic Party. Under Ted Heath they were avidly pro European.
2. Vital nationalised industries disappeared into foreign ownership. Steel, Rail, Airports, Electricity and Water companies, all formerly deemed vital national assets were privatised and flogged off to foreign owners.
3. Centralisation of power. Due to the political activities of local left wing authorities, huge swathes of decision making and tax raising powers were removed from local control. Metropolitan authorities were dismantled and tax raising powers were restricted. Although localism has been trumpted as "a conservative value" this is a sham as Councils cannot set taxes at levels they see fit.
4. The Europeanisation of Great Britain. Despite Margaret Thatcher claiming to be Eurosceptic, she signed the "Single European act". This piece of legislation secured the central role of Europe in British life and was the legislation that opened the way for the mass immigration from Eastern Europe.
5. Entrenched Mass unemployment. Before Thatcherism, unemployment was seen as evil and wasteful. Under Thatcherism it rose to over 3 million and has never truly recovered. One of the most unfortunate side effects of Thatcherism was the culture of benefits dependency. Whole swathes of the country had industries destroyed. In the absense of new jobs, generations of families have embarked on new careers as welfare dependents.
6. Downgrading of the Armed Forces. Thatcher presided over the biggest run down of military capability in the history of the British Armed forces. Had the Falklands been invaded two years later, the Navy would not have had the capacity to retake the islands. Despite the ever increasing number of commitments, budgets and capabilities have been trimmed virtually every year.
7. Destruction of the consensus on education. Despite having presided over the near destruction of the Grammar School system of Education under Ted Heath, as education secretary, under Thatcher the decline of the Grammar system was halted and reversed. The political consensus that the Grammar system was not fit for purpose was destroyed. The concept of parental choice as adopted as the new holy grail in education.
8. The rise of homelessness in Great Britain. In the 1970's homelessness was virtually unheard of. Now it is part of daily life. This is all part of the long march of Thatcherism.
9. The demise of Social housing. Thatcher adopted the policy of selling council houses to tenants. This turned many working class people into Conservatives and introduced a previous level of aspiration unheard of in the working class. Perhaps the most contentious aspect of this policy was the fact that receipts from the sales were not reinvested in the housing stock. We now see the effects of this, with working class families unable to get accommodation.
10. The rise of the career in politics. Prior to Thatcher, most people entered politics after establishing a career elsewhere. Politicians were supported by non political civil servants. Thatcher didn't trust the civil servants and gave rise to a whole new breed of ideological appointees. This whole new race of people, living off the public purse, have grown into a very lucrative industry for all concerned. Of all the changes Thatcher brought about, I believe that this is the most dangerous and divisive. These advisers come are usually highly intelligent people, who come straight from University. They have little experience of life and no understanding of the constraints of working for a commercial organisation. They believe they "know better" and they are the people who draw up the "blue sky thinking" that influences policy.
When I reread this list, it struck me how it is the legacy of Thatcherism that has lead us to where we are today. She fostered Xenophobic anti Europeanism, that weakened the EU and encouraged Putin. The selling off of our energy industries, relying on the market desperately undermined our energy self sufficiency and made us vulnerable to reliance on Russian gas. We are not as exposed as some nations, but the UK used to be self sufficient and as it our enegery supplies were nationally owned, we were insulated against wild fluctuations in electricty and gas prices. The downgrading of the armed forces has made us impotent in the face of Russian aggression. And worsy of all "The rise of the career in politics" has lumbered with a bunch of totally useless idiots running the country. The demise of social housing, the rise of homelessness and the centralisation of power have resulted in a totally unaccountable elite whilst those at the bottom rot. Sadly the goodthings she did, such as the signing of the Single European Act, enabling us to live and work anywhere in Europe have been undone by her successors. It really is quite tragic.