Farewell, Maggie

RIP former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013). Anyone whose death prompts dancing in the street among ‘adult education tutors’ and the Socialist Workers Party in London and Glasgow must have been truly magnificent. People hated her almost pathologically to the very last because she disproved the existence of the gods they worshipped. To take just one example: she took the noble, brave and hard-working coal miners who selflessly provided Britain with its fuel, and revealed them to be a collective parasite dependent on state subsidies borne by productive economic activities and the less well-off who struggled to pay electricity bills. Among her other crimes: not groveling to hostile foreign powers, hostility towards communism, skepticism towards trendy urban intellectuals, an unabashed attachment to small-town values, and a lot more, some of it downright embarrassing. The reactionaries of the left never forgave her for refusing to even acknowledge their illusions, which they had to watch being shattered by three consecutive election victories.

For the right-thinking among us, the fact that she provoked such hilarious degrees of loathing from these particular types of people was reason enough to adore her. Still, there are two slight problems. One is the question of how much she was a symptom rather than a cause of radical reform. The statist, Fabian, planned economic model had been visibly failing for a good 20 years; if she hadn’t come along at that time with a new awareness of the coercive nature of taxation, nationalized industry and labour unions, someone else probably would have (though without the amazing hairdo). The second is that she had a tragic sense-of-humour deficit.

Thatcher’s role in the Big Lychee’s fate was to extract surprisingly detailed promises from Beijing about the city’s autonomy post-1997. She also (not being totally incapable of wit) once referred to our local legislative body as ‘Hong Kong County Council’. If – by some cosmic twist – she were running Hong Kong today, she would approve of our low taxes and public spending, but she would probably be concerned that ad-hoc hand-outs like subsidized computers for poorer kids would become silly money-wasters like the taxpayer-funded school milk rations she had the originality and sense to scrap in the UK.

She would find plenty of targets here for her famous handbag. She would be outraged by the huge gap in compensation levels between the civil service and the private sector. Aside from wasting taxpayers’ money, high public-sector pay and benefits distort the labour market, luring otherwise commercially productive talent into pen-pushing bureaucratic comfort. She would also take an axe to public-sector entities that compete unfairly with private industry, such as the Mortgage Corporation and the Trade Development Council. She wouldn’t know where to start when it came to choosing which vested interest to eat for breakfast every morning. Small stock brokers who presume the right to nap at lunchtime and live off bloated bid-offer spreads wouldn’t last long. The cops and traffic wardens who mysteriously allow unfettered illegal parking might find themselves replaced by hungry private operators armed with wheel clamps.

She would question the need to for the government to nurture an entire caste of serfs dependent on the state for their housing. She would free them to live where they wanted, rather than where the bureaucrats decided they should, by making them owners of their homes. In so doing, she would hugely increase the proportion of the population who possess assets – helping one way or another to reduce the city’s existing inequality of wealth.

This list could go on and on. Of course, the media, politicians and her own officials would scramble to talk her out of such drastic, indeed unthinkable, changes. “But, but, but,” they would splutter (as they do with everything from road pricing to gay marriage), “there is no consensus!”

To which she would reply with the phrase (with which she is widely credited): “Consensus is an absence of leadership.” As we have surely noticed…

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57 Responses to Farewell, Maggie

  1. Attila The Hen has clucked her last.

    If only death made saints of us.

    Let’s all tramp the dirt down and try to build a new society based on compassion, equality, solidarity, tolerance and no wars.

  2. aghast says:

    Ding Dong!

  3. maugrim says:

    Add to the above the cognitive dissonance of the usual suspects who protest about the lack of women in positions of authority, the glass ceiling and an overall lack of respect for women generally, who, at the same time celebrate the death of the one example that typifies all of that via a ‘bitch is dead’ celebratory banner.

    Does anyone notice also that Thatcher is considered a demon because she closed the coalmines, yet today, the left laud those as saviours who propose exactly the same thing. The dissonance is deafening. Vale Maggie.

  4. Old Timer says:

    Good piece today…in the bag for a while, I presume.

    Love the SCMP front page..she really does look like a ‘giant’ compared to wee Deng.

  5. Revolution says:

    Shame that so little money and effort was put into retraining and regeneration in former coal mining areas, but I suppose that’s no more than a bunch of parasites deserve, eh?

  6. Property Developer says:

    She was a conviction politician, which is undoubtedly more important than entertaining the masses with a witty style while remaining safely off-stage. Her biggest mistake was the poll tax, deeply flawed in both its fundamental principles and its bungled execution.

    What worries me a little is the disconnect between comments on eg the BBC website and present company. I’m not sure if even BL (the real one) knows whether he’s being ironic or not.

  7. Joe Blow says:

    Before any of you misty-eyed reactionaries start the beatification process, please remember that she was pushed aside by her fellow Tories.

    Btw, remember when Mark got lost ?

  8. Dream Bear says:

    Maggie hated the communists so much she handled 6 million hard working, freedom-loving Hong Kongers to them. Of course, its largely forgotten that besides actually tripping up and falling in Beijing, she did the same figuratively. Full of vim after her Falklands victory, she marched in to her meeting with wee Deng to demand some form of British control remain over Hong Kong. Deng shot her down in flames and she was left in retreat mode. History will judge her as having mixed results. And has already been pointed out, she lost the plot towards the end leading to her own party turning on her.

  9. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    What has happened to other female icons of early 1980s Britain, like that lady who was always outrage at filth and depravity (Mary Whitebottom or something like that?) and the BBC TV lady who trained dogs and was renowned for her melodic cry of “walkies!”?

  10. 3rdClassBrit says:

    Didn’t the people of UK make it clear where they stood wrt to us here, when their elected representatives passed the British Nationality Act (1981)?

    Maggie & Co were just following through with the will of the people, washing the UK’s hands of us in HK.

  11. I can’t help speculating what some of you lot would have said had you been alive when Hitler snuffed it…

    ” Fine leader of men”

    ” Visionary”

    ” Forceful personality”

    ” Misunderstood”

  12. Henry says:

    Not sure how many of you were there, I lived in the north of England and then close to Brixton when the riots hit. She won three elections because of an unelectable opposition, the Falklands war, and handouts in the form of privatisation shares and tax cuts. Contrary to what most think, she strengthened the State. She invented the Loadsamoney culture, fostering greed and selfishness. She built nothing sustainable but destroyed communities. She never won more than a third of the popular vote. She divided the country.
    RIP

  13. Big Al says:

    @ TTF – Mary Whitehouse (or Shitehouse, as she was known) and Barbara Woodhouse. They don’t build them like that any more. Thank god.

    As a student in Manchester back in the 1980s, I participated in a number of anti-government rallies in London – bussed there for the day free of charge by the students’ union – gleefully shouting “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, out, out, out!” for 10 minutes before buggering off to enjoy the sights of London for the day (like the rest of the freeloaders).

    Reading her biography (have been for a while) and it does remind me of how powerful a leader she was – love her or loath her – but at the end of the day, I remember her only as her spitting image caricature: http://vimeo.com/40086531

  14. Dream Bear says:

    Maggie also brought the Police and security services together to defeat the miners, and in the process undermined the traditional role of the police as public servants. With central control from London, the police across England became tools of the state. Its rumored she even had soldiers in police uniforms to disguise their role when police in Wales refused to cooperate with her.

    @Tiu Fu Fong. Mary Whitehouse died in 2001, whilst watching an episode of Confessions of a Window-cleaner.

  15. Probably says:

    She sent a massive military task force to recover the Falkland Islands but gave Hong Kong away without so much as a whimper.

    Couldn’t be anything to do with the skin colour of the majority of inhabitants could it?

  16. Real Tax Payer says:

    I share Dream Bear’s analysis. According to the account in one of Stephen Vines’s books, her initial position was something like: let’s keep HK Island and Kowloon. But, shown a photo of Boundary Street, she quickly retreated.

    Similarly, Deng is reported (rumoured?) to have threatened to “bomb” the HK compatriots: anyone with the slightest knowledge of Chinese negotiating tactics would have been prepared for this empty bluff, and had an appropriate riposte.

    Perhaps HK was doomed in any case — not least by the silent acquiesence of nearly everyone around 1997, including the Democratic Party. But a doubt lingers whether Mrs T could have tried harder.

  17. 3rdClassBrit says:

    Probably – no, make that definitely… xenophobic!

    |^(

  18. Henry says:

    Probably, 3rd class

    Argentina she could beat, China, never.

  19. Local Tax Payer says:

    An unfortunate slip of the mouse led me to impersonate RTP. If I’d wanted to do it properly I would have omitted the full stops, put spaces in most, but not all, of the brackets, and gone on for at least twice the length.

  20. pcatbar says:

    For all her faults, (and many were apparent towards the end of her term in office) MT was a great leader and as well as being the first female to be elected to the post was the only UK PM with balls since Winston Churchill.
    With regard to HK a slightly better deal may have been struck but she had a very weak hand. There is no comparison to the Falklands worth making at all. Despite being largely refugees Hong Kongers were/are nevertheless Chinese living in a part of China that had been ceded/leased in the spoils of war. It was impossible that it could either continue as a colony or become independent. Had a vote been taken a large minority, (at least) would have voted for what we got as a SAR. It should also be remembered that she had gone long before Patten was here striving to give HK better protection for its freedoms and wider democracy while getting precious little support from his then Govt. in London under John Major.

  21. Sojourner says:

    Thatcher was loathsome; everything she stood for was loathsome. She destroyed communities and a sense of community as being fundamental to human society and high civilisation.

    If you really think a world based on capitalist “self-actualisation” and economic growth at all costs is an answer to the worlf’s problems, you’re deluded.

  22. Sojourner says:

    “… the taxpayer-funded school milk rations she had the originality and sense to scrap in the UK.”

    … the fact that Hemmers liniks to a Daily Torygraph article here says it all.

  23. pcatbar says:

    What is truly ‘loathsome’ is Sojourner’s world view that ‘community’ (by which he really means collectivism) is preferable to the pursuit of economic self interest without which the majority would still be scratching a life of subsistence while only a small elite could enjoy the fruits of modern technology and material comforts. The true delusion is to hold to a belief that there is any real alternative to the markets/capitalism that can deliver decent living standards to the majority.

  24. Dream Bear says:

    I was working at Kai Tak when Maggie arrived from her ill-fated trip to Beijing in 1982. Wee Deng had snubbed her the night before by hosting a banquet for Kim ll-sung, she was full of cold and clearly crestfallen. She looked nothing like the Iron-Lady.

  25. Sojourner says:

    pcatbar, don’t jump to the silly conclusion that I am opposed to capitalism. By so doing you just reveal yourself to be a rather unreflective fanatic.

    Supporting Keynesianism, the mixed economy, and social democratic values is only “anti-capitalist collectivism” if you are a peabrain acolyte of Ayn Rand and the fruitier fringes of the U.S. Republican Party.

  26. Henry says:

    @pcatbar
    Without necessarily wishing to leap to Sojourners defence, the words “at all costs” in his post are probably relevant. It also a very big leap for you to assert that he means collectivism when he says community. I’d check the dictionary if I were you, especially the entry for “assumption”

  27. Sojourner says:

    Thank you, Henry. And please feel free to leap to my defence any time you like. 🙂

  28. maugrim says:

    As Thatcher said “They [socialists] always run out of other people’s money”. All too true today.

    I can’t get out of my head the Rev Ian Paisley intoning ‘Mosses Thotcher’.

  29. Old Timer says:

    Goodness me, it’s like a tinderbox in here today.

  30. pcatbar says:

    http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/e0c032dc-a066-11e2-88b6-00144feabdc0.html#slide0
    As recognized here MT was no Ayn Rand. But she did alter the balance of the mixed economy so that productive resources would be able to sustain growth again after excessive ‘social democracy’ and ‘Keynesianism’ had brought the UK to its knees in the 70s.

  31. Sojourner says:

    “As Thatcher said “They [socialists] always run out of other people’s money”. All too true today.”

    Well, maugrim, that’s … so … profound.

    It’s rather on par with your beliefs that climate change is a lie generated by the Illuminati and that Elvis is alive and well and working in a Basildon chippie.

  32. Sojourner says:

    STOP PRESS!!!!!

    Martin Wolf (a renowned genuflector at the shrine of Hayek) thinks Margaret Thatcher was a Good Thing!

    Germany, Scandanavia and many other places did very well thanks to Keynesianism and social democray, thank you very much.

  33. sacarsmo says:

    Maggie yawn. Obit prepared months ago. She’s been in the diapers-and-dementia stage for a while now.

    In HK news, the dumbfuck of the day award goes to former copper JS Lam of the subStandard’s “Policing the Times” column, which today helpfully informs crims that the HKP now sport holsters which make it “just about impossible” for bad guys to snatch a copper’s holstered revolver unless they know “the secret”.

    It took no time on the interwebs to find that HKP cops carry (astonishingly primitive) S+W Model 10s in Gould & Goodrich Double Retention holsters, and to learn what one has to do to get the revolver rapidly out of same. (“Trigger guard hood helps resist attempted gun grabs – yet allows rapid draw with XXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXX motion” – I’ll let crims do their own research).

  34. Sojourner says:

    And if you think I’m being flippant, pcatbar, because I don’t give a substantive response to Martin Wolf’s FT article, it’s because it’s behind a paywall, old chap.

  35. Real Tax Payer says:

    Well I at least admired Maggie

    She had bigger balls than almost any recent UK politician since Churchill

  36. A9 says:

    Maggie had ideology and vision, but had no compassion.
    She ruined the livelihood of millions, and destroyed her party electorally in many parts of the country.
    Her policies set the ball rolling for the Scottish parliament and devolution, and her final legacy sooner or later will be the break up of the UK when Scotland leaves.
    All because she put ideology before human decency.

  37. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Local Tax Payer : imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

    (anyway, thanks for the apology, which is grudgingly accepted)

  38. Incredulous says:

    Maybe you haven’t all seen this, which has been doing the rounds, but I think it sums up the Witch fairly well:

    Margaret Thatcher was the most divisive and polarising politic leader of the last century. This is an incomplete list of why many of us fall on the side that does not regard her with anything other than odium…

    1. She supported the retention of capital punishment
    2. She destroyed the country’s manufacturing industry
    3. She voted against the relaxation of divorce laws
    4. She abolished free milk for schoolchildren (“Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher”)
    5. She supported more freedom for business (and look how that turned out)
    6. She gained support from the National Front in the 1979 election by pandering to the fears of immigration
    7. She gerrymandered local authorities by forcing through council house sales, at the same time preventing councils from spending the money they got for selling houses on building new houses (spending on social housing dropped by 67% in her premiership)
    8. She was responsible for 3.6 million unemployed – the highest figure and the highest proportion of the workforce in history and three times the previous government. Massaging of the figures means that the figure was closer to 5 million
    9. She ignored intelligence about Argentinian preparations for the invasion of the Falkland Islands and scrapped the only Royal Navy presence in the islands
    10. The poll tax
    11. She presided over the closure of 150 coal mines; we are now crippled by the cost of energy, having to import expensive coal from abroad
    12. She compared her “fight” against the miners to the Falklands War
    13. She privatised state monopolies and created the corporate greed culture that we’ve been railing against for the last 5 years
    14. She introduced the gradual privatisation of the NHS
    15. She introduced financial deregulation in a way that turned city institutions into avaricious money pits
    16. She pioneered the unfailing adoration and unquestioning support of the USA
    17. She allowed the US to place nuclear missiles on UK soil, under US control
    18. Section 28
    19. She opposed anti-apartheid sanctions against South Africa and described Nelson Mandela as “that grubby little terrorist”
    20. She support the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and sent the SAS to train their soldiers
    21. She allowed the US to bomb Libya in 1986, against the wishes of more than 2/3 of the population
    22. She opposed the reunification of Germany
    23. She invented Quangos
    24. She increased VAT from 8% to 17.5%
    25. She had the lowest approval rating of any post-war Prime Minister
    26. Her post-PM job? Consultant to Philip Morris tobacco at $250,000 a year, plus $50,000 per speech
    27. The Al Yamamah contract
    28. She opposed the indictment of Chile’s General Pinochet
    29. Social unrest under her leadership was higher than at any time since the General Strike
    30. She presided over interest rates increasing to 15%
    31. BSE
    32. She presided over 2 million manufacturing job losses in the 79-81 recession
    33. She opposed the inclusion of Eire in the Northern Ireland peace process
    34. She supported sanctions-busting arms deals with South Africa
    35. Cecil Parkinson, Alan Clark, David Mellor, Jeffrey Archer, Jonathan Aitkin
    36. Crime rates doubled under Thatcher
    37. Black Wednesday – Britain withdraws from the ERM and the pound is devalued. Cost to Britain – £3.5 billion; profit for George Soros – £1 billion
    38. Poverty doubled while she opposed a minimum wage
    39. She privatised public services, claiming at the time it would increase public ownership. Most are now owned either by foreign governments (EDF) or major investment houses. The profits don’t now accrue to the taxpayer, but to foreign or institutional shareholders.
    40. She cut 75% of funding to museums, galleries and other sources of education
    41. In the Thatcher years the top 10% of earners received almost 50% of the tax remissions
    42. 21.9% inflation

    Most people recognise the massive changes that evolved during the 1980s. However, to ascribe the positive changes to one person, as though they never would have happened in her absence, is laughable.

  39. pcatbar says:

    http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/e0c032dc-a066-11e2-88b6-00144feabdc0.html#slide0
    Sojourner can try this, obtained in 5 seconds from google or better still, buy a subscription to the FT which he may find to be of good educational value.

  40. pcatbar says:

    What is truly risible are Incredulous’ purported belief that his meaningless trumped up list is worth writing!

    About 20 of the items are judgmental ravings dressed as ‘fact’ while the rest are not even bad on their face!

  41. Regislea says:

    The one thing i would quarrel with in the article is the statement that “if she hadn’t come along at that time with a new awareness of the coercive nature of taxation, nationalized industry and labour unions, someone else probably would have”.

    I doubt it – unless my memory is faulty, both sides of Parliament at that time were distinctly mediocre and/or psychopathic.

    Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose – as they say in the Wanchai wet market.

  42. Walter De Havilland says:

    Final comment, if I may. Maggie was a mixed blessing. She did some stuff that needed doing and had the conviction to do it. But she had her flaws, after all she was just human. Good night.

  43. Henry says:

    Been out tonight, didn’t see the recent ranting and raving from the pro Mags faction

    Mewgrim, been swotting up your “o” level psychology…. cognitive dissonance?? ?Best stick with climate change denial.

    pcatbarf…. don’t like people writing “meaningless trumped up” stuff? Best to start with your own work then.

    All in all, the posts here and general commentary go some way in proving that Mags was the most divisive leader the country has had, at least since some unmentionable Stuarts or Puritans. Leadership generally isn’t about dividing and conquering, at least not leadership that has any worth.

  44. Sojourner says:

    pcatbar, why don’t you just admit you’ve lost the argument, and go off and take a shower, and whilst scrubbing your scrawny limbs sing at the top of your lusty lungs:

    Money makes the world go round
    The world go round, the world go round
    Money makes the world go round
    It makes the world go round

    A mark, a yen, a buck or a pound
    A buck or a pound, a buck or a pound
    Is all that makes the world go round
    That clinking, clanking sound
    Can make the world go round

    Money, money, money, money
    Money, money, money, money
    Money, money, money, money, money

    If you happen to be rich and you feel like a night’s
    entertainment
    You can pay for a gay escapade
    If you happen to be rich, and alone, and you need
    A companion, you can ring tingaling for the maid

  45. Jason90 says:

    I’m amazed at the general desire to argue over half-remembered events in UK from 30 years ago and ignore the truth in Hemlocks channeling of Maggie as CE HKSAR!
    Any of the anti-Maggie group care to comment on Hemlock as Maggie’s prescription for Hong Kong?
    I’ll try:
    Public housing – sell it off cheap to current tenants as per council houses. (Instantly converts ‘grassroots’ to ‘middle class’ and, in the UK, from Labour to Tory… No wonder it was unpopular with the left.)
    Completely privatise nationalised industries at favorable rates for citizen small investors (so sell off the rest of the MTRC, airport etc to Permanent Residents.) Oh – a few more in the middle class…
    Civil servants – agree with Hemlock.
    Green initiatives: More bike lanes for people looking for work…

  46. Sojourner says:

    “Public housing – sell it off cheap to current tenants as per council houses. (Instantly converts ‘grassroots’ to ‘middle class’ and, in the UK, from Labour to Tory… No wonder it was unpopular with the left.)”

    And so how can the poor afford housing? That is impenetrably stupid.

  47. Sojourner says:

    Oh, one of the most damning indictments of Maggie so far neglected in this discussion: the sacrifice of the UK’s manufacturing base to the shibbeloth of “non-government intervention in the free market”.

  48. Chopped Onions says:

    And who said she was divisive and polarizing?

  49. Jason90 says:

    Sojourner – you give the poor mortgages without the current HK 30-plus percent down payment and raise the minimum wage so they are not so poor anymore – or is that impenetrably stupid?

  50. Chimp says:

    Incredulous’ list is quite interesting.

    A little research on the “unemployment” figure (point 8) makes the claim there a little dodgy. Unemployment during the early Thatcher years was similar to or less than 1930-1936 as a proportion of the workforce. The rising trend in unemployment began in 1975, peaked in 1982, then dropped by over half before the end of Thatcher’s last term of office (1990). Unemployment began rising again immediately after Thatcher and reached high levels (10 percent or so) over the next few years.

    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lms/labour-market-trends–discontinued-/january-1996/unemployment-since-1881.pdf

    The situation is obviously a little more nuanced than the list makes out.

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