Monday, 15 April 2013

Thatcherism is not a Thousand Year Reich

In today’s Guardian, John Harris wonders what happened to that extinct species, the One Nation Tory. He finds a revealing statement by Margaret Thatcher (quoted in a book by Ian Gilmour, one of her cabinet ‘wets’):
“Do not say it is time for something else! Thatcherism is not for a decade. It is for centuries!”
Thatcher said this in 1990, towards the end of her premiership when she was already going round the bend. Nevertheless, the idea that Thatcherism is permanent or inevitable is widely held, even among her opponents.

The apologias by juvenile right-wingers among the comments on Liberal Democrat Voice are only to be expected, but others who ought to know better have been equally fatalistic. Here for example is Paddy Ashdown, speaking in last week’s debate in the House of Lords:
At the time when she did those things, they needed to be done.
Historical inevitability? I never knew Paddy was a Marxist.

More often, inevitability is cloaked in a false notion of pragmatism, where the Thatcher settlement is viewed as so permanent as to be beyond ideology. This has led to the current fad for managerialism, which suggests that most mainstream politicians have given up on offering real political choice.

There is a difference between agreeing with Thatcher and being mesmerised by her. It is time for people to snap out of it.

In politics, nothing is inevitable or permanent. If that were the case, there would be no need for politics. We always have a choice and, the sooner that is recognised, the healthier our politics will be.

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