Are we all Thatcher’s children?

The BBC has been on Thatcher overdrive lately with play after drama after documentary on the Iron Lady. What struck me most about each of them was that the somewhat negative content they contained stood in stark contrast to the suprisingly positive conclusions they came to about her and her legacy. It almost felt like they were acknowledging that what she did was painful at the time but history has proved her right in doing it. It seems that the BBC and the country in general, as one commentator put it, has come to ‘love’ or at the least ‘admire’ Margaret Thatcher. 

It is no secret that poll after poll places the Tory titan as the best PM by a mile which reinforces Marr’s idea that Britain has ‘come to terms with Margaret Thatcher’. Her impact on the British political landscape is evident by the fact that politicians, of all parties, deem her important enough to invite to tea and pose like schoolboys for a photo-op. Even the great moderniser of the Labour Party, Tony Blair, fawned at her feet praising her for the things she did in the 80’s and claiming to the chagrin of his own party that much of it was ‘neccessary’, his party’s unease was exaccerbated by the fact that the first invite to Downing Street was extended to Margaret Thatcher before any Labour grandees.

Another remarkable thing about Thatcher is he way she dominates the news like no former PM ever has or ever will. She left office 20 years ago yet she is in almost every news paper on a daily basis, some commentary is positive whilst some, predictibly from the left wing rags such as the Guardian, is negative. The re-evaluation of the Thatcher legacy continues in earnest and as it does, the full fruits become apparent and the old misconceptions of her and her legacy are finally being understood. One of the documentaries on Thatcher that I found most compelling was a repeat of Andrew Marr’s ‘History of Britain: Thatcher Revolution’ which was frank and objective rather than subjective or over emotive which has characterized previous attempts at evaulating the Thatcher legacy.

All previous attempts to document the Thatcher years have come out as either lovey-dovey Thatcherite propaganda which fail to explicitly acknowledge the pain that some of her policies caused or a left wing witch hunt which focuses solely on that hurt. As the Chairman has said on many occasions ‘The left cling to their demonisation of Thatcher like a child to a security blanket and ignore the country we are today because of her.’ Marr’ s analysis was refreshingly objective and impartial and focused explicitly on both the positive and negative aspects of the Thatcher years, giving precedence to neither but coming to a rounded conclusion of their impact.

I think he summed up the Thatcher years, and Thatcher herself, perfectly when he claimed that she was a woman who made many mistakes but did remarkable things. She could be harsh, she bullied people close to her and indeed people she never met to secure her position. However in 1979 she took a country which had lost faith in itself, a country so bad that the then sitting Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan famously said that were he a younger man he would emmigrate, and gave it what it thoroughly needed; a long and repeated handbagging. Because of this she left it stronger richer and more self confident.

Marr concluded to say that In many ways Thatcher still defines the country we live in today, New Labour is in all intents and purposes ‘Blue Labour’ and the Labour leadership openly acknowledge what she did was neccessary and follow her economic policies rigorously. We are none of us whatever our ages Harold Wilson’s ‘children’ or Heaths ‘children’ or John Majors or Tony Blairs. Ultimately we are all of us like it or not, rebel or not, the children of Margaret Thatcher and it is refreshing to see that old horror stories are being put to bed and the paradoxes of the Thatcher revolution are finally being understood.

I encourage as many people as possible to watch Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk to Finchley, tonight BBC4 10pm, which has recived rave reviews from all sides of the political spectrum. Even veteran actor Sam West said “I’m a socialist and, like Ted Heath, no fan of Margaret Thatcher’s, but I was fascinated by this script because for the first time it made it possible for me to admire her. This drama crystallises her struggle and unites her friends and foes. In the end, much to my surprise, I found myself rooting for her!”

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28 thoughts on “Are we all Thatcher’s children?

  1. Davis has gone of the rails!

    I’m waiting for a program documenting the woman’s wreckless behaviour which ended her career and bitterly divided the conservative party for 15 years.

  2. Daniel I take issue with this :

    “the woman’s wreckless behaviour which ended her career and bitterly divided the conservative party for 15 years”

    We divded ourselves Daniel and it is us as a party who were reckless. Granted Thatcher was being hard headed towards the end of her career and she did need to go however I think that was not for us as a party to decide. Thatcher needed to be booted out by the people not by her own party. We treated her poorly and we paid the price for it. I think had we lost the election in 1992 we would be in power now. By toppling her we made her a martyr, the ardent thatcherites of the party could not come to terms with the fact that the blessed margaret, who had led them to unprecedented success, was tossed aside purely for certain tory grandees own ambitions and desires for a 4th term in goverment. They did not stand on principle they stood against her out of a desire to save their own skin and it backfired.

    The thatcher story was denied closure by the actions of the party who threw her out. It was the duty of the public to get rid of her not jumped up politicians who lived to rue the day they threw her out.

  3. Margaret Thatcher was the leader and therefore ultimately to blame for the loss of confidence in her leadership. Her reckless style of government, particularly in the last couple of years, forced loyal colleagues to seriously doubt her ability to win the general election. ‘hard-headed’ is one way to put it. Others would say stupidity.

    The poll-tax was an unmitigated disaster. It was one she made and the decision that contributed most to bringing her down. Her uncompromising stance on Europe was a diplomatic error. European leaders resorted to meeting behind her back because she was completely intransigent. You, dan, might delight at “NO, NO, NO!’ but her party and the country couldn’t believe how fast and loose she was behaving with Britain’s diplomatic relations.

    She was a titan, and the country watched as she destroyed herself.

    She then went on to do all she could to perpetuate her own war with the party, not letting go till her health failed her. And this is from someone who is a supporter of the Thatcher government’s reforms.

  4. Thatcher was and remains a titan figure within the party. She over came great obstacles to achieve great things granted she made catastrophic errors towards the end, I personally feel she was dilluded by her own status and legacy and thus her judgement was blinded. I feel though that the 15 years of wilderness you chalk down to thatcher was our fault as a party and not just her. Her ‘war’ against the party was born out of our treatment of her, had we not pushed her, she would eventually have been toppled but in a legitimate way. The conservatives could not stay in power forever and I feel that it would have been better for us as a party to fall in 1992 under Thatcher so then a new leader could step in with a new mandate.

    Instead Thatcher has pretty much hand picked every leader weve had since her! The candidate she has backed has always won the leadership (not too sure about cameron her health had failed her by then) I think the mannor of her exit has made her a martyr which has bitterly divided the party. Had she fallen by the will of the electorate then the ‘godlike’ fallacy that surrounds Thatcher would have died with her. Instead she is martyred. I dont take issue with your argument that she ‘went off one one’ towards the end of her premiership but I think the way we toppled her made her ‘semi divine’ to some in the party and paralysed us for 15 years. The tory civil war could have been avoided had thatcher lost the 1992 election which she almost certainly would have.

  5. Let’s quickly pick through this…

    Thatcher is a titan, true. She did overcome great obstacles, true. Our electoral problems were not solely her fault, true. It is also true that in 1990 Conservative MPs were facing wipe-out under her leadership. 20 points plus behind in the polls and no sign of recovery.

    Ultimately, she was the leader, and loyal colleagues voted against her. The main reason for this was that she had lost her ability to lead the party and country in a professional manor.

    Your speculation about what might or might not have happened at 1992 and beyond if thatcher had not been pushed is mere speculation. I prefer the facts. The conservative party was facing a bad defeat in 1992, and the whole thatcher project of the 1980s was under threat by a pre-blair labour party. These were the concerns of the tory grandees. As for the younger members of parliament, they were very concerned about their newly won seats. It is all very well for you to retrospectively argue that it would have been better to keep her in place, but those involved at the time thought otherwise for the reasons I’ve discussed.

  6. You are right were all but oblitereated in 1997. The tide wasnt just against Thatcher in the early 90’s daniel it was against Tories in general. I also believe that whilst they thought Thatcher had gone off the rails at the end I think many in the public did believe she deserved a more dignified exit and i think they felt cheated that they didnt have the chance to kick her out themselves. It is their democratic right.

    I think the Tories were pointlessly buying time which resulted in sending us in to limbo for 15 years. Look at it objectively had Kinnock won in 1992 it wouldnt have been a landslide… it would have been ‘a minority majority’, black wednesday could have been a part of the Kinnock legacy not the Major legacy and the fallacy of the electorally undefeated Thatcher would have been blown apart. We owed her our allegience. Also had Kinnock won in 1992 then Smith or Blair wouldnt have had the chance to step in and take the country by storm and the tories could, i emphasise could, have won in 1997 and I think we would still be in power today meaning Labour would have gone in to meltdown. Kinnock didnt have the answers the country needed in 1992 neither did major and I think the electorate would have given Kinnock the old heave ho in 1997 meaning the Tories, perhaps under Hague, could have stepped in and revelled in the fruits of the thatcher legacy that Labour have enjoyed.

    We went about it in the completely wrong way. We bought ourselves extra time but delayed the inevitable resulting in a stronger opposition and an even greater whooping in 1997. Thatcher should not have been pushed by her party and even Cameron has said were he an MP then he would have backed Thatcher, that isnt to say she wasnt wrong in things she did but it wasnt our job our our right to toplle her, particularly when you take in to account that she very nearly won the first ballot in the leadership contest outright. End of.

  7. All this is mere speculation. You have grounded none of your assessment in the realities of November 1990. I love the way you spit out historically incoherent dribble and then say ‘end of’.

    If we were proper historians and we were to assess the reasons why Margaret Thatcher was forced out by her own MPs, then there are many irrelevances in your comment.

    – The 1997 general election was on no-one’s mind in 1990. The 1992 election was on everyone’s mind. And the Conservatives were about to lose it.

    – The public were very hostile to Thatcher in 1990, look at all the opinion polls from the period. Mrs Thatcher’s ‘dignity’ was far from the public mind. Furthermore, if the public felt cheated then the 1992 election result suggests they weren’t too bothered.

    – As for ‘pointlessly buying time’, you may say that, but it is a completely retrospective assessment. The MPs who were worried for the survival of the Thatcher reforms and the MPs who were worried about their seats, clearly did not take your highly retrospective view.

    – The rest of your second paragraph is highly speculative. It becomes more speculative as you continue. It is not worth serious comment.

    – In your last paragraph you largely repeat the retrospective and speculative comments made earlier. Once again you neglect the plight of Conservative MPs and the hostility of the electorate in November 1990. As a result, you miss the point. Margaret Thatcher had lost her credibility.

  8. Daniel your critique is hollow. You claim it is all ‘speculation’… well what else can it be when the event hasnt happened or isnt ever going to happen? Of course its speculation! I am looking at the situation in hind-sight. At the time perhaps I would have taken a different opinion and Im sure as you suggest the decision that was taken at the time was taken because they believed it to be in the interests of the party. However when we do look back we should be able to recognise that the decision was wrong! They thought by removing Thatcher they could win the 1992 ellection… they did.. just. But what happened then? They scored a hollow victory that was to culminate in a pounding in 1997. They needed to loose the 1992 election, and Thatcher needed to be the leader that lost it for them.

    Had Thatcher lost in 1992 the semi divine image that has now taken hold of her legacy would have been shattered. The unstoppable Mrs T would have been stopped dead in her tracks by the people not the party. Thus she and the ardent Thatcherites couldnt infight because it wouldnt have been the party’s fault! Also had we lost in 1992 I believe, as did much of the public, that Kinnock was unsuited for government and would cock it up royally. He wasnt as popular as Blair or Smith and I wholeheartedly believe he would have either been a minority 2 term leader, or he would indeed have been a one term wonder. This is obviously speculation but I think it is highly likely. One fact however is that by Kinnock winning in 1992 Blair wouldnt have come in until much later… if at all!

    I stand by my belief, which granted is in hindsight, that the way Thatcher fell has damaged the conservative party considerably so much so that only now are we begining to resurge. Remember I am responding to your rash and over generalised assertion that the misfortunes of the Tory party are solely down to thatcher… this is bollocks to be frank.

  9. Not hollow. My analysis is grounded in the events of 1990. I simply ask why after three election victories the Conservative party felt sufficiently moved to defeat Thatcher in the first round, and why each of her cabinet members then advised her to step down.

    If we were to answer that then Maragaret Thatcher’s loss of credibility is an integral reasons.

    Again your second paragraph is your own view of what might have happened if Thatcher was not ditched, if we had lost the ’92 election, if kinnock was unsuited for government, if Kinnock had “cocked it up”, if Blair had come a long later or not all… and so on.

    I’m not sure what your argument is. but it’s full of ‘ifs’. You cannot conclude from arguments that you yourself acknowledge are speculative, that Mrs Thatcher’s removal from office was wrong.

    I tend to go by the historical facts rather than my own fiction. It worked like this: Thatcher lost credibility, particularly over the poll tax and Europe, but also her overall style of leadership which was grinding for her colleagues and the country. She was doing so poorly that the party looked like it was about to lose the 1992 election badly. The Thatcherite program was threatened by an un-reformed labour party. Many Conservative MPs were worried about their seats. So, Thatcher was ditched. The party replaced her and enjoyed a leap in the opinion polls and an unexpected victory at the 1992 election. The decision to give Thatcher the heave-ho was justified.

    You can layer on top of these people’s heads the following 15 years of political party history. And you can analyse the last 15 years of political history in such a way that makes the decision to ditch thatcher wrong. However, it is simply your speculation. It is not grounded in any academic argument and you could quite honestly be completely wrong yourself. What is more, if we were to go by your logic, in another 15 years time, someone just as ignorant as you could analyse the last 30 years of political history in such a away that makes the decision to ditch Thatcher right.

    My simple point is that she was the leader and she failed.

  10. You ignore the fact that I recognise she failed and I have explicitly acknowledged it… To quote myself, I said ‘Thatcher was being hard headed and needeed to go’ Im not denying she was wrong. I am not denying she needed to go. I am saying that the way we went about it and the way she did go was wrong. We should have waited and let her get kicked out by the electorate. I feel we were bound to lose sooner or later… we chose later and we paid a greater price for it: namely 15 years in opposition. You chalked this down to Thatcher, I disagree.

    Granted the actions of people like Howe and Lawson were a gamble. They thought that they could ‘turn the party around’ in time for 1992 and all would be dandy. But surely if you are focusing purely on ‘history’ as you claim… even you can acknowledge that the 1992 election win was delaying the inevitable which gave the Labour party more room to maneouver and gave rise, inadvertedly, to Blair and the landslide of 1997. Do you honestly believe that the election of 1992 would have been a landslide to Labour?

    Anyway this is getting boring and I feel we are getting no where. I stand by my belief that the way Thatcher fell was wrong and it was that that resulted in us claiming a hollow victory in 1992 only to face a greater defeat in 1997 which, due to the strength of that victory, denied us 3 general elections. It was that not solely the actions of Thatcher as you claim that conspired to send us in to the political wilderness. I also reiterate that I am only challenging your rash and over generalised claim that Thatcher was to solely to blame for the Tories electoral decline because she wasn’t and you continue to side step that critique prefering to focus instead on the fact that she needed to go which I have already acknowledged!

  11. I ignore the parts of your argument that are not constructive.

    1. I did not chalk the conservatives problems all down to Thatcher. Nevertheless one of the main reasons for her undignified exit was her undignified behaviour.

    2. Your view that “we should have waited” is atrocious. “We” implies that the conservative party of which you are now a member is the same conservative party that existed in 1990. It also implies that you are evaluating the way those MPs voted on your version of what would have happened if she were not pushed out of office. This is a gross malpractice. Equally i could say that in 2010 we look set to win an even bigger majority than Thatcher won in 1983, which makes the exact time of Thatcher’s departure perfect. From this I could conclude that those who pushed her were right to do so. But this would be no better than the mindless speculation of your own.

    3. In any case, what I said was that I was looking fwd to a program where her catastrophic failings are documented. She turned a 100 seat majority in 1987 to a 20 point poll deficit by 1990. That was my point in reaction to your colleague’s arbitary blog on a former Conservative Prime Minister.

  12. I shall have this discussion with you on a one to one… there is just too much I want to say on this issue and ive run out of steam for it today. The last thing I will say however is:

    “That was my point in reaction to your colleague’s arbitary blog on a former Conservative Prime Miinister”…

    A prime minister whom you seem to adore one minute then deplore the next. If there are issues at my end on inconsistency then I feel you are guilty of this also. That really is the last word I will say on this issue until we can have this discussion on a more in depth basis.

  13. That’s a pity, I was enjoying that.

    Perhaps I should clarify. I support the Thatcher government’s economic reforms. This, however, should not prevent me from criticising other aspects. I should hope you can get your head round that.

  14. I don’t think anyone can deny that we are all Thatchers children, that being the main point of an excellent article. The Conservatives still live in the shadow of the greatest leader we have ever had, and I don’t really believe we have or can replace her, certainly not with Cameron.

    In regards to 1992, I think Thatcher might well have lost had she continued, however, it also has to be taken into account that the Welsh Windbag was virtually unelectable, so who knows what would have happened.

    In reality, for better, or quite obviously worse, Thatcher went, we collapsed and we still haven’t properly recovered as we continue to let single issues rip our party apart, but yes, we are all Thatchers children.

  15. Every Conservative after Thatcher was one of her children because she was the Party, it doesn’t matter how much of her policy is supported, being a Conservative makes you a child of Thatcher.

  16. That’s probably the most ridiculous political statement I have ever read.

    Thatcher was one leader of the conservative party over one 15 year period. I consider myself a conservative but disagree with some of her policies, so do many others who consider themselves conservatives.

  17. In my opinion, no PM has affected our country or party as much as she has, we are, perhaps not wholly but certainly to an extent, still a Thatcherite Party, and so we are all Thatchers children.

    I think everyone disagrees with some of her policies, but in my opinion she was the greatest leader we’ve ever had, and we all get things wrong, thats what being human is. I don’t think we can claim that any Leader has ever had every single policy supported, look at us with Europe, Immigration, and today, Civil Liberties.

  18. “No PM has affected our…party as much as she has” – Debatable: Pitt? Peel? Disraeli? Churchill?

    “or our country…” – Also debatable: Lloyd George, Asquith, Atlee, Blair?

    “A Thatcherite party” – Hardly accurate, I for one would disagree with parts of Thatcherism, so would other members. In fact the first survey done on the Conservative membership in 1992 found that there was limited support for key Thatcherite policies.

    “The greatest leader we’ve ever had” – Definitely contestable. She was divisive.

    “I don’t think we can claim that any leader has ever had every single policy supported.” – Correct. This is why it’s foolish to say everyone is somehow the child of one politician. Conservative members share some broad conservative tendencies, though even here there is conflict.

  19. ‘Ultimately we are all of us like it or not, rebel or not, the children of Margaret Thatcher’ Daniel you are a rebel lol

  20. Daniel you are missing the key point… our party has large swathes young and old still willing to call themselves Thatcherite. Now name another PM or conservative leader who has had that effect. Do we call our selves Churchillians? Macmillans? Majorites? Howardites? Hagueites? Cameroons? But we do call ourselves Thatcherites. Bearing in mind she isnt in power and hasnt been for 20 years that kind of legacy is remarkable.

    Who were the key architechts of Thatcherism? Kieth Joseph, Enoch Powell, Friedman and Hayek. Friedman hit the nail on the head when he said that “the thing that people do not recognise is that Margaret Thatcher is not in terms of belief a Tory. She is a nineteenth-century Liberal.” I quite agree with him. Which is why most people in our party today are Thatcherites first and foremost but because ‘Thatcherism’ in its ‘pure’ form isnt on offer they vote for the next best thing… the Conservatives. The conservatives therefore must be careful with the Thatcherites because they make up a sizeable portion of their electorate.

    Thatcher is no ordinary politician so to treat her as such is folly. On a side note I am irritated I have been dragged in to this debate again but I can’t restrain myself when it comes to Thatcher lol she provokes passion.

  21. “Our party has large swathes young and old still willing to call themselves Thatcherite.” – If that is true then fair enough. But I would not call myself a Thatcherite. Other members would also resist the accusation.

    “Now name another PM or Conservative leader who has had that effect.” – Peelites, Pittites, err.. Disraeli’s ‘One Nation Tories’, Macmillanite Conservatism. And that’s just within the tory party.

    “She is a nineteenth century liberal”. – Perhaps, though this is not as clear cut as you pretend.

    ” which is why most people in our party today are Thatcherites.” – In fact Thatcher’s economically ‘liberal’ policies were the ones which the tory membership when surveyed were most hostile to, namely Privatisation.

    “Thatcher is no ordinary politician.” I don’t doubt this, however, I do doubt that we are all Thatcherites now. She certainly changed things, changes which we inherit. But then Atlee left us with the the welfare state and the NHS. These changes are still with us, but i wouldn’t say we are all Atlee’s Children.

  22. It would have been silly to think that a blog like this would result in anything other than heated and divided responses!

    I for one agree with a lot of what’s written here, though not all. I was at work for the documentry but I’m looking forward to watching it on Catch Up TV and letting you all know my opinion!

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