Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Lest we forget

Before my weekly game of 5-a-side football it was proposed that the team in white would be the Thatcherites and those in black the Scargillites. How fitting, then, that the blacks never looked like winning, but struggled valiantly while constantly undermining their efforts with poor tactics.

I guess I was never going to be so interested in demonstrating at a funeral, though I understand the motives of those who did. I was in the NUJ in the late 1980s and will never forget the contempt and glee that was palpable behind its de-recognition in the publishing industry.

As I stepped off the plane from China last Tuesday, I picked up a copy of the FT and was soon enough spluttering like a retired colonel over the pathetic tributes it ran from the likes of Niall Ferguson. At least the FT has published my letter in response to those pieces. Here is the original – and while I understand the need for shortening, it was her legacy of arms dealing (remember Jonathan Aitken?) that sticks most in my craw.


Sir, It is astonishing that none of your fawning tributes to Margaret Thatcher is able to connect the current economic crisis to the deregulatory, venal, credit-buoyed Thatcherite 1980s – unless the remark in your leader that their “impact has been lasting” is supposed to be ironic. (Certainly your remark that “deregulation and liberalisation are no longer in fashion” suggests that you might after all have some satirical intent.) You, Niall Ferguson and Janan Ganesh seem under the impression that Thatcher’s economic nous bequeathed a solid and continued legacy of prosperity. Yet whatever improvement in Britain’s standard of living that manages to survive today’s crisis stems from a trend that has been both steady for at least four decades and common throughout Europe.

Your writers betray the same breed of fantastical thinking that led President Obama to praise a “great champion of freedom” who befriended and defended Augusto Pinochet, called Nelson Mandela a terrorist, brokered lucrative arms deals with some of the most repressive regimes in the world, and severely and sometimes brutally curtailed civil liberties at home.

Ganesh suggests that to call Thatcher divisive is feeble and mealy-mouthed. He can rest assured that many of us who lived through her incumbency will not be so coy.

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