Barely 10 months after he was fawning at her feet on the doorstep of Downing Street and liking himself to her as a conviction politician, Gordon Brown is now chastising Margaret Thatcher for the current low levels of social mobility in Britain. Currently Brown is under enormous pressure when faced with the credit crunch in its early stages, social mobility as low as if not lower than 1997, child poverty targets far out of reach, opinion polls at record lows, a war seemingly without end and an electorate that does not seem to just dislike but detest New Labour. Due to this reversal of fortune Brown has resorted to the last refuge of a desperate leftie: blame Maggie.
The notion that Thatcher is responsible for the breakdown in social mobility is laughable for a number of reasons. Even at a very basic analysis one would think that after 11 years in power Brown and Labour could have increased social mobility and repaired the ‘damage’inflicted by the Thatcher years. In addition to this a logical mind would surely acknowledge that the time for recriminations and criticism of Thatchers record on social mobility would have bee 11 years ago when they took power, not after a premeiership as long as that of Thatcher herself! This therefore strikes me as desparation and blatant political opportunism.
The fact is that Gordon Brown doesn’t have a clue what he is saying and, as is typical of the left of center, he prefers to focus on the fiction rather than the fact. The fiction is this image of Maggie Thatcher as some sort of bogeyman, someone determined to put the working class down and do a ‘reverse Robin Hood’ by stealing from the poor and giving it to the rich. This is utter nonsense and if you detach the emotion, as is currently the consensus in British politics, you understand Thatcher helped the British to aspire. Margaret Thatcher, the working class girl from Grantham, was more aware than any of her predecessors of the problems faced by the working and middle calsses and she was more determined to fight for them.
I readily acknowledge that the 80’s weren’t all plain sailing and some more than others felt the pinch of the Thatcher revolution, after all no revolution occurs without is casualties. However her economic legacy has facilitated the rise of ‘the middle class’, increased the chances of social mobility and created more wealth than most if not all of her predecessors. The seeling of council houses at knock down prices, the crushing of over powerful union executives, the opening up of the economy to the private sector creating jobs and welath, the launching of a war based on principle and liberty not oil and oppourtunism are all testament to her desire to give people not politicians control of their own lives. Individual liberty is the pre-requesite of social mobility.
She was the first Tory to champion the notion of a ‘classless society’, her policies were bitter and unpopular in some quaters but produced a stronger, richer and revitalised country which was to provide remarkable economic stability and produce a society more receptive to mobility given the right conditions. Even looking solely in terms of women it is clear to see how Thatcher broke barriers. She came in to Parliament one of only 25 women MP’s (12 Con, 13 Lab), she demonstrated how a woman could successfully combine the role of MP and mother, she faced off with hostile party grandees to take the leadership of her party, she dispelled all speculation that a woman would not hold the great office of state, and she proved that women can do the top jobs just as well as men. In short she proved politics wasn’t the ‘mans game’it was made out to be.
Gordon Brown has failed to understand a principle of social mobility which Thatcher radiated and a principle close to the heart of every true conservative: individualism. Social mobility, aspiration for your children, all are only possible when people, not the state are responsible for their own lives. If you give people more responsibility sone will use it wisely some will not, such is human nature. However infantilizing the population as New Labour has done by making people more dependant on the state, will not encourage them to work for themselves or their children, instead it produces a culture of dependency, whereby it is more convenient to settle for being ‘subsidised’ than to get out there and compete and aspire. That is why Gordon Brown and Labour can never understand social mobility let alone improve it.
We conservatives are and always have been the champions of social mobility. We are the natural party of goverment and people are beginning to remember this. New Labour was an experiment: a party seemingly with the economic backbone of the Conservative party and the compassionate social face of the left wing, yet it has proven to be a failed project. Social mobility is at record lows, the economic legacy Blair and Brown inherited in 1997 has been all but squandered and plunged in to unsustainable projects, and Brown now finds himself with a rainy day and no pot to plunder. This November will mark the date when all the first children born after the fall of Thatcher will be able to vote at the next election. Brown will watch as those with any sense emphatically reject these scare mongering opportunistic claims that Thatcher is responsible for all the nations ills.
They will recognise that whether they agree entirely with her policies or not, there has been more than adequate time to ‘repair the damage’. They will also recognise one simple thing that Labour is a ficticious opportunistic political entity that is perfectl;y content to emulate conservative party policy when times are good and slam it when times are bad. Labour for the first time in a long time will be forced to stand on their own record, a record which in the cold light of day isn’t all that remarkable.