It’s a well-worn cliché that dark, cold January is a month filled with gloom and despond after the revels of Christmas and the New Year. Far be it from me to overturn such a glorious and experimentally verified truism, so I won’t even try. I’m dealing in good old fashioned dour northern misery and anti-Thatcherism this time.
I’ve only just seen this Grauniad article from January 4 that talks about the moves to rehabilitate Margaret Thatcher’s political reputation. From a personal point of view this is both futile and unneeded in equal measure. For her political descendants, like Boris Johnson (like a Labrador in human form), and Dave “Otto the Autopilot” Cameron, no rehabilitation is required. In the political classes, the Thatcherite view of the free market has effectively triumphed. This applied to Blair too; even Brown, a man derided by the right, ended up viewing the economy through a prism constructed by Thatcherism. At the same time, amongst those she damaged most, Thatcher will never be forgiven. Ask someone in Glasgow, Teesside, Liverpool or the coalfields of Durham and Yorkshire (amongst many other places) what they think of Margaret Thatcher, and listen to the splenetic torrent that washes back over you in reply. Never in living memory has a political leader been so divisive and corrosive to the country.
In the course of his article, Seamus Milne writes:
But her authorised biographer, the high Tory Charles Moore, has no doubts about the The Iron Lady’s effective political message. The Oscar-bound movie is, he declares, a “most powerful piece of propaganda for conservatism”. And for many people under 40, their view of Thatcher and what she represents will be formed by this film.
This quote made me laugh on so many levels. The first is the laughable suggestion that anyone under the age of 40 would be remotely interested in watching a movie about this fossilised, vicious harridan. The second is the sentiment, echoed by Cameron only this week in a platitudinous, content-free smugfest, that the Thatcher template is not one he intends to disavow. All the Prime Minster’s announcement provided was a yawning sense of déjà vu, as economic instruments that had failed vast swathes of the country in the 1980s were rolled out again by those without any clue of what they were doing.
This yawning sense of disconnection was reinforced on last night’s Question Time, where both Baroness Warsi and the aforementioned Charles Moore helpfully managed to demonstrate the old adage that, “it is better to say nothing and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and confirm it”, just by opening their mouths repeatedly. Moore managed to be splendidly patronising to the audience in his answer about the plans to privately fund a new Royal Yacht. Then the thought occurred to me that, with all the money sloshing around on the government benches, maybe the chaps could have a small whip-round to pay for it themselves? Warsi was no better on the question of an estuary airport for London. I though London needed an new airport like Birmingham needed an high speed rail link, but a very sharp member of the audience pointed out that you could build the airport in Birmingham and actually give HS2 a purpose.
While the previous paragraph might seem like a bit of a ramble off the thrust of this post, it just helps to illustrate that the priorities and the worldview of the government are already so out of kilter with everybody else. I could talk at length about this, as it seems I haven’t even started about Scotland, HS2, disability benefits, or the futility of sending William Hague to South America on a diplomatic mission when he’s as welcome there as Ebola right now. But these are for another time, because the mammoth in the room is still the economy (here’s where I get back on thread, folks).
Current economic policy is still predicated on the austerity drive that has been demonstrated to be ineffective and, in fact, actively harmful. The deficit is actually getting worse because the economy is starting to shrink; Osborne doesn’t really want to talk about that, but the latest wave of retail failures are not helping. Like the scorched earth Pol Pot economics of the 80s, there is no Plan B in the minds of policy makers. The cure for our economic woes is rather like treating someone with a sprained ankle by amputating their leg to the knee, and its just as foolish.
Still, soon it will be spring. And we’ll only have to listen to the build up to the Olympics for another 4 months. Yay.