Ged Carroll

Margaret Thatcher

Published: (Updated: ) in economics | 經濟學 | 경제학 | 経済, ideas | 想法 | 생각 | 考える by .

7 minutes estimated reading time

This isn’t a post about what I think about Margaret Thatcher, beyond my amazement at the body politic and their inability to make appropriate decisions related to the telecoms, media and technology sectors. It has never been that much of interest to me and viewed it with a lot of my cynicism fueled by legislation like part V of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 or the Digital Economy Act 2010.

I cited those two acts in particular, as they are empirical evidence that stupidity doesn’t run along party lines. I’ve also met some really smart politically active people who I am happy to consider my friends including Nick Osborne and Will Heald.

Instead this post is more about trying to make sense of what happened after Margaret Thatcher died and try and contextualise it for the wider world.

On the pro-Margaret Thatcher side of things the narrative is relatively easy. Mrs Thatcher was responsible for clearly differentiating against the Labour Party. The Conservatives came to power with a raft of ideas that they thought would reinvigorate the UK; socially and economically. Under Mrs Thatcher, the government took on and won conflicts against strong interest groups including the trade union movement – which has never recovered.

The Margaret Thatcher administration was considered to have played a strong game abroad; from the Falklands Islands to negotiating with the European Community. She is also lauded as being a partner to Ronald Reagan on foreign policy.

Mrs Thatcher is not President Reagan

Whilst many American media saw an analogue between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher; I think that a closer comparison would be Lyndon B. Johnson. Johnson became president at a troubled time. The politics of Thatcher and Johnson were very different but some of the factors of their administrations were very similar. America was going through economic and social change. His part in that change, in particular the civil rights movement divided voters – Johnson took decisions that were unpopular and sowed the seeds of the current bipartisanship in the US government.

Margaret Thatcher faced similar troubled times in the UK:

The conflict points

All of this has made the Conservatives almost unelectable in many parts of the UK; Scotland only has one Conservative MP. This is closer to the Lyndon B. Johnson analogy for Margaret Thatcher echoing Lyndon B. Johnson’s comments about losing the South for generations when he legislated on equal rights.

Under-discussed aspects of the Thatcher administration

What I can’t really explain is the amount of energy that has gone into the debate some 20 years after she left office.

I suspect that Margaret Thatcher’s death is a point where the wider political agenda shaped by her administration has taken the UK since the mid-1990s is being debated.  This debate isn’t split along current party lines as Ed Milliband’s Labour Party is still similar to the New Labour of Tony Blair – just a bit jaded and suffering from a creative bankruptcy of new ideas.

Secondly, when one looks at the like of the English Defence League, Casuals United and UKIP there seems to be at least part of the country who don’t feel as if mainstream politics represents them.

Finally, there is an underlying anger in the poorer members of society for which the 2011 were a pressure valve letting off steam. Throw in some industrial action into the mix and it would all start to feel like 1979 again…