Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Margaret Thatcher And The Making Of New Britain



This morning in London World City I was unable to touch-out at the underground station near my work since all electricity was down in the ticket office. So I need to remember to do that tonight on the way home otherwise I will lose five pounds sterling in penalty fares.When queuing up at the local supermarket some minutes later to use their self-service check-out machines I was aware of being behind a thirtysomething female who appeared to be wearing pyjama botttoms along with a leather jacket. A work colleague inside the shop corroborated this was the case and not fashion ignorance on my part. Both occurrences reinforcing my belief that I am living in an exciting, aspirational and dynamic global hub bar none.

The person who essentially forged such a society from the putrid fag ash wreckage of Seventies Marxist Great British hell passed away yesterday. The news reports and documentary analysis to be viewed on British television yesterday certainly painted her historical narrative in very broad brushstrokes though it is true to say that Margaret Thatcher's funeral next week will represent a genuine end of an era for British political culture and our national self-regard. Dominic Sandbrook's history of Sixties Britain included commentary on the funeral of Winston Churchill in 1965 and an Observer correspondent noting that Britain now had all the political clout and importance of Sweden. The days when one could bring up a comparison of this ilk in such wry and self-deprecating fashion are of course long gone and bitterly departed.

I had two direct interfaces with major milestones in Margaret Thatcher's career by way growing up in North Belfast during the 1980-81 hunger strikes and the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement protests. The nature of British government engagement with both periods of crisis is certainly questionable in hindsight. The prisons dispute alone animated a surge of hatred and alienation between the communities that had hardly been seen to date in the province despite barely qualified civil war between 1971 and 1976. The latter period of civil unrest in the mid-Eighties was certainly the point when many loyalist communities in Greater Belfast commenced radical infrastructural decline that can be seen to this day. The Anglo-Irish Agreement also engendered a literal curse to be placed on Margaret Thatcher's head by the Reverend Ian Paisley from his church pulpit that made Neil Kinnock's famous excoriation of Thatcherism sound like a record request to Ed Stewpot Stewart on Junior Choice.

The genuine long term benefits of Margaret Thatcher's political legacy - as flagged up yesterday across the mainstream media - are difficult to engage with for many people under the age of 50 in modern Britain. This in light of hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of hard working people being frozen off the credit-crunched housing market and thrown to the mercy of equally hyperinflated rental outgoings. Or indeed the lack of union membership to protect working conditions, financial capacity for pension contributions or pay rates in general within the private sector. Larry Collins and Tim Atkinson's recent Going South overview of UK economics also underscored the staggering mismanagement of North Sea oil revenues by Conservative administrations - in comparison to recent Norwegian strategies - as being perhaps the most extraordinary act of political ill judgement since World War Two.

Essentially Margaret Thatcher oversaw an unfinished right-wing revolution that left devastating socio-economic fractures across our country. She certainly had the ego and drive to take that revolution much further than her pasty yellowbelly colleagues but the fractures were significant enough for New Labour to arrive in the late Nineties and fill them up with toxic sludge.

All news analysis yesterday would focus on the galling contrast between Thatcher's Britain and Labour's Winter of Discontent. Not being capable of adult rationale in 1979 - being more interested in Sven Hassel pulp novels, Record Mirror or finding a discarded copy of Fiesta behind the local Esso garage - I still find it difficult to conceive of a broader base of social discord, inequality and division being evident then as compared to contemporary times.

Margaret Thatcher certainly scared off the Irish, Yorkshire and Argentinian bogeymen successfully but her contribution to the state of modern Britain today is both direct and terrifying  - a country transformed into a hybrid of The Truman Show and a frozen gulag as managed by bankers for bankers.