Thursday, 11 April 2013

Thatcher is dead: now we must bury Thatcherism!

Where to start? One place could be the excellent article by Ken Livingstone in the Guardian today. Ken summarises the failures of Thatcherism very well, but there is much more that could be added to what is a very long list. I've chosen one telling quote which shows that Thatcherite policies, continued under the governments' of John Major and Tony Blair's New Labour, have lead directly to the crisis we are now in:
"Thatcher's destruction of industry, combined with financial deregulation and the "big bang", began the decline of saving and accumulation of private and public-sector debt that led directly to the banking crisis of 2008. The idea that bankers would rationally allocate resources for all our benefit was always a huge lie. Now the overwhelming majority are directly paying the price for this failed experiment through the bailout of bank shareholders."
I recommend you read Ken's piece and I would like to add a few things he clearly knows about but didn't have space for; the Thatcherite policy of council house sales depleted the stock of social housing and has played a considerable role both in the unsustainable house price boom and the housing crisis we now face; Thatcher trumpeted the 'virtues' of "the great car economy", running down public transport and leading to increased noise and air pollution, which we still haven't dealt with, and increased congestion; the privatisation of the utilities has lead to not only the ridiculous rip off prices we now pay for fuel, and increased fuel poverty, but the proceeds from the debacle are largely transferred abroad and lost to our economy; and during the period of the Thatcher and Major governments there was a chronic lack of investment in schools and hospitals, classroom roofs leaked and hospital patients were left in corridors on trolleys.

Margaret Thatcher: a legacy of social, environmental and economic failure

The reality is that only a small minority really benefited from the Thatcher 'economic miracle', and in the process the revenue from North Sea oil was squandered on tax cuts and paying for unemployment. For the majority of people the 'economic miracle' was built on a house price bubble, and the accumulation of debt. It was a castle built on sand.  Nor was the reality of the 1970s nearly as bad as been claimed by the propagandists of the right. Sure there was industrial strife and rampant inflation but who caused the inflation? - not the workers that's for sure. The horrors of the  three day week? - that was down to Ted Heath's Tory Government. If we continue with Thatcherism, and for this read neoliberalism, inequality will increase, our economy will continue to stagnate, and we will fail to deal with the issues of climate change and build a green economy. We need a real alternative, an economy for all our people, such as the one I have suggested in this post, and we need it very soon.

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