Thatcher’s Legacy

The British news media have unsurprisingly abandoned the debates on the ‘benefits culture’ and the politicisation of the horrific deaths of six children in Derby in favour of commentary on the death of Margaret Thatcher this week.

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There are lots of personal responses to be read in the press and each newspaper is taking an unsurprising partisan approach with only The Guardian, The Independent and The Mirror offering alternatives to the ‘saviour of Britain’ approach of The Daily Mail, The Express and the Murdoch press. It is clear that Thatcher generated strong feelings but, whether she was liked or not, it is important she is remembered in history for her actions and their outcomes rather than her personality traits or managerial style. Thatcherism was taken forward by New Labour in the 1990s and the current Coalition maintains a Thatcherite approach. She and her acolytes were the architect of modern politics and, therefore, the contemporary social context we find ourselves in. We moved from a manufacturing culture to a consuming service culture and policies instigated in the 1980s have led us to where we are now economically. Thatcher is credited with modernising the UK.  According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies ‘In the UK, the median full time salary in 2010-11 was £26,200 per year, but someone working full time for the minimum wage would only earn around £11,000, while the top 10% earned over £52,600′. So, in the ‘modernised’ UK, 50% of the population earn less than £26,200, 90% of the population earn less than £52,600 and of course it’s just 1% of the population that earn over £140,000 per year.

The gap between rich and poor continues to grow, youth unemployment is also increasing as is poverty generally and, where jobs are created, they tend to be low paying jobs requiring workers to claim benefits to pay their way. Workfare is being used to reduce the wage-bill of large multinational corporations and ensure that unemployment is even harder to escape from. Social mobility is decreasing and there are arguments that we have become an atomised culture that does not value the idea of a social contract any more – and all of this began in the Thatcher years. So, in the spirit of remembering people through their actions… and by the friends they keep…

Thatcher’s Legacy Includes:

  • Selling council houses and encouraging a home-owner culture – leading to rises in personal debt that many could not afford which in turn led to the sub-prime lending crisis of 2008 (culminating in a banking bail out, paid for by the tax-payer)
  • Increasing home ownership leading to a house price bubble – which burst in 2008
  • Stopping the rebuilding of social housing leading to the rise in unsustainable personal debt for many. Profits for private landlords have never been better though (with an ever rising housing benefit bill being paid for by the tax-payer)
  • Privatising state industries leading to huge profits for the few and higher prices for the many
  • Deregulating the banking system leading to unfettered lending, casino banking and a rise in personal debt – all creating huge wealth for wealthy and consolidating (and deepening) the poverty of the poor
  • Closing industries that provided living wages for skilled and semi-skilled workers with no alternative economic plan for regeneration or employment leading to a rise in localised poverty
  • Dismantling the unions to remove worker representation and the notion of solidarity leading to the normalization of working environments where jobs lack security
  • Using unemployment as a strategy to drive down wages creating a culture where most recipients of social security benefits are in work but unable to earn a living wage

She was:

  • A grammar school girl who benefited from a more equal society with high social mobility
  • A recipient of a free university education
  • A millionaire’s wife who was fully financially supported in her role as working mother
  • A woman who used the changes in society to further the cause of individualism rather than solidarity. She made no attempt to support other women (with or without millionaire husbands) attempting to make their way in a patriarchal culture
  • A supporter of Pinochet and Pol Pot but not Nelson Mandela


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