BBC political editor Nick Robinson writes to argue that prime minister David Cameron’s statement on Radio 4 “in a sense we are all Thatcherites now” is not the offensively partisan political point many take it to be. Oh yes it is.
Margaret Thatcher did not forge a new political consensus. The crisis of European social democracy was acknowledged before Thatcher won her first election victory, and by then the seeds of the social market economy had already been planted. In Britain the problem was that the water supply had been cut off owing to nonpayment of utility bills. Political inertia is what did for 1970s Old Labour, and the ideologically resurgent Tories capitalised on the crisis.
These post-modern, post-industrial conservatives proceeded to fritter away billions in North Sea oil revenues, and increased the power of the state over civil society. All this with Enlightenment hero Adam Smith spinning noisily in his Edinburgh grave.
Consensus politics was anathema to Thatcher, and Robinson’s comparison with Labour’s Clement Attlee and his postwar welfare democracy is entirely fatuous. Margaret Thatcher was an intellectual and political pygmy in comparison with Clement Attlee, whose estate was valued at a mere £7,295, and whose funeral in 1967 was a humble affair, quite unlike the £10m notastatefuneral which took place earlier today in London, and was planned by the dead ’un herself.
Margaret Thatcher’s son Mark has made an estimated £60m from arms dealing and other business activities, and he even managed to secure a criminal conviction for coup plotting. Heir of Thatcher made full use of his mother’s political position, and yet, quipped sister Carol, he has never done a day’s work in his life. Welcome to UK plc 2013; we are all in it together.
This is Margaret Thatcher’s true legacy, and the woman herself is now no more than a box of ashes. The legacy of Clement Attlee will surely live longer.