Jonathan Dodd: Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right

Jonathan returns with his Sunday column and shares his view on the impact the late Margaret Thatcher had on the country.

Maggie Thatcher Masks:

Jonathan Dodd‘s latest column. Guest opinion articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the publication. Ed


It seems extraordinary to me that there has been such an outpouring of passionate feeling since Margaret Thatcher died. She hasn’t been Prime Minister for 23 years, and as far as I know nobody has expressed those particular emotions for all that time. Now, suddenly, they’ve resurfaced.

I fear to mention the subject, because it seems the lady caused such controversy that the first thing you have to say, de rigeur, when mentioning her name, is whether you idolise her or revile her, but I’m not going to do that.

Inefficient and run-down
I do remember the Seventies though. The lovely Sixties were over, and things turned bad and dark. The economy was in a state, mainly because industries in other countries were leaner and fitter and more efficient and the quality of their output was better. I know, because I drove several British cars during that period. Japanese cars were decidedly better, and cheaper.

Morris Marina:

Successive governments had failed to invest in the state-run industries so they were inefficient and run-down too. The railways, the mines, shipbuilding, telephones and water to name but a few. Trouble was stacking up. A political struggle was also brewing between the politicians and the unions.

Flexing their new muscles
Britain was becoming known as the ‘sick man of Europe’. The Unions toppled a Conservative government early in the Seventies, and then flexed their new muscles so hard that they toppled a Labour government too. Maggie Thatcher won the resulting general election, mainly because voters wanted a strong government that would restore the political balance.

Plastic weightlifter:

She seemed to have a plan, and I don’t remember anyone else standing up with any ideas, apart from carrying on as usual. None of the people who opposed her had any practical answers to the problems that faced the country. Much as now, with our financial woes, the opposition has no policies apart from borrowing more money.

Here we are, a different nation
Thatcher did, without a doubt, set out to change the country. She was very effective. Some of her changes were inspired and some caused great anger and disappointment. She understood that industries and businesses must compete and make profits. At the bare minimum they need to be run properly.

Man in bowler hat:

There was a stark choice. Either shake up all the state-run industries, pour money in and turn them into businesses that could survive, or let them go. With the best will in the world nobody could imagine a bunch of politicians and civil servants being able to make the mines profitable again. So she took the other path, and here we are, a different nation.

The person who’s in charge usually takes the flak
With hindsight, it was inevitable that a lot of people were going to lose their jobs. The world was moving on, things were changing, we either had to catch up or get left behind. There’s never much appetite for that, and the person who’s in charge usually takes the flak.

Margaret Thatcher waxwork:

Whether you think the Falklands campaign was right or wrong, it succeeded against most of the odds. Her partnership with Reagan and then Gorbachev was a prime mover in the orderly removal of the Iron Curtain and the freeing of hundreds of million people from tyranny.

She also made a lot of bad judgements, like her support for Pinochet and her inability to support liberalising moves towards equality and diversity. And the Poll Tax.

It’s actually about character
But I wonder why we don’t have anything like as much hatred for Blair, who was responsible for our involvement in the Iraq War, and all that red tape and CCTV and speed cameras and the mad rush to get credit quick that resulted in the Crash of 2008.

Tony Blair Trial:

I think it’s actually about character. Blair blurred his edges where Thatcher sharpened up. He ignored problems and refused to have policies. What did he stand for? I’m still not sure. He wanted to be popular and he smiled a lot.

An easy monster
Thatcher knew where she was going and went for it, and she wasn’t good at people skills. She stuck out, too strident, hardly any sense of humour, a bit haughty, too combative. It was too easy to turn her into a monster. She never considered whether people liked her or not when she was making up her mind about what to do. She was perceived as arrogant.

Thatcher porttrait:

When I look back I wonder how much of the hatred was for the image people had of her rather than the decisions she made and the changes she put in place.

Perhaps the best test of whether someone was a major figure in the life of a nation can be measured by the way people still feel about them many years later.

If you have been, thank you for reading this.


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Opinion Piece

Sunday, 14th April, 2013 10:06am

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4 Comments

  1. tryme's comment is rated +3 Vote +1 Vote -1

    14.Apr.2013 10:57am

    When Blair dies there may be a resurgence of the question of whether he is a war criminal. As time goes by there is little by little more widespread recognition of the disastrous circumstances in which we invaded Iraq, even (to a tiny degree) from Blair. Mostly, UK people won’t feel terribly and agonisingly deeply about the death of Iraqi families, and it is only the loved ones of military personnel who experience the blindsiding that is losing somone to a worse-than-pointless conflict. MT’s actions, on the other hand, hit home very directly to thousands, millions? of UK people.

    Reply
  2. Robert Jones's comment is rated +16 Vote +1 Vote -1

    14.Apr.2013 1:52pm

    Well, you’re entitled to your view, Jonathan – as everyone says when they’re about to disagree with you – but your reading of history and mine are really not the same. I presume we’re both old and crumbling now, since I too lived through the Thatcher years: but I struggle, hard, to think of a single good thing that Margaret Thatcher achieved – unless you count bitterness, division, and long-lasting hatred as achievements.

    Yes, I remember the sheer stupidity and bone-headedness of some of the Trade Union leaders, but the operative word there is “some”. It’s what happens when you turn union general secretaries into major executives with, at the time, millions to spend and excessively generous pay packets – unions were never intended to create a new class of minor royalty. However, I also remember – and if you know about the quality of British cars in the 70s, so should you – the absolutely lamentable quality of British management at the time.

    You say the unions brought Ted Heath down – but they didn’t; Heath chose a fight he was not prepared to win, on the ludicrous slogan “who governs Britain?”; well if you have to ask that, it’s not you, is it? And very soon – he didn’t. When Thatcher fought the same union – the NUM – many things had changed: she had amassed coal stocks, so was able to ride out the storm without power cuts; and she was faced not by a sympathetic, likeable and,incidentally, strategically intelligent leader like Joe Gormley (and Laurence Daley) but by a vain, arrogant Arthur Scargill. Whether it was personalities or coal stocks that mattered more in the end, it should be remembered that Ted Heath wasn’t actually trying at the time to destroy an entire industry: Thatcher – for reasons we could argue over – was.

    What has repelled people and provoked the anger you describe is the lavish funeral and its military accompaniments: they’re simply excessive, and inappropriate. A quiet family funeral, such as those accorded to the great majority of post-war prime ministers, would have offended no one. There would still have been a certain amount of anger, but it would have been nothing like this. Cameron has exploited her death and funeral for his own grubby purposes – it seems to me the Tory party is using her as they used, and discarded, her when she was in office.

    Finally, if you think there isn’t an equivalent degree of disdain for Tony Blair, well you could do worse than speak to me about the man: I have sufficient invective in me to keep you going round the clock … considerably more visceral hatred than I ever felt for Margaret Thatcher: and I don’t hate people easily. I don’t believe I’m alone in this, either.

    Reply
  3. peaceful_life's comment is rated +3 Vote +1 Vote -1

    14.Apr.2013 7:00pm

    Another placatory peice with feigned impartiality.

    This isn’t even about Margaret, it’s about the zeitgeist of the day, how it was implimented, and the ramifications of it’s legacy.

    This world of monetaised individualism is the very antithesis of the tools we need for what we face, and those tools cannot be bought.

    It was a bad idea that was cruely brought about, perhaps you should do some research on the devastating blows that ripped entire communities apart Jonathan. It is, a failed experiment that left us material rich, morally bankrupt, and ecologically homeless.

    Was it worth it for a perception of class?…….we’ll find out soon enough.

    Reply
  4. YJC's comment is rated +1 Vote +1 Vote -1

    16.Apr.2013 9:44pm

    Whatever anyone thought about Margaret Thatcher she is now no longer able to defend herself and if you did not agree with her policies it is no reason to be disrectful to someone who has died. People should remember that she has children around and be aware that they have lost their mother. They are not allowed any privacy in their time of grief.

    Reply

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