Russell Taylor: In Praise of Margaret Thatcher

A short while ago, a minor scandal erupted over comments made in a 1988 book by John O’Farrell, who was standing as the Labour candidate for the Eastleigh by-election. In his book, O’Farrell lamented the failure of the IRA to assassinate Margaret Thatcher in the 1984 Brighton bombing (and also expressed the wish that Britain had lost the Falklands conflict).

Most leftists always had a special place reserved in hell for the former PM, so there was nothing particularly startling about the revelation that one of their number wished her dead. It was, however, a repulsive opinion for a wannabe politician to hold, and it prompted a number of right-wing commentators to write pieces speculating why the Left loathed Margaret Thatcher with such passion. In the wake of her death, the question is being asked again. Why did they hate her quite so much?

I am an admirer of Baroness Thatcher, but not a starry-eyed fan-boy. As Prime Minister, I don’t think she always got it right and, like Churchill, she was more suited to times of adversity than the days of wine and honey. The ideological crucible of the 1980s was her natural habitat, not the frivolous decades that followed. She led us through a difficult period in our history and her policies attracted a great deal of vitriol, as well as praise. The resentment felt by the Left towards her is now part of its legacy, passed down to those too young to remember her time in office, so that they might keep the hatred burning. With historiography replacing history, and our knowledge of the past increasingly informed by documentary-makers and satirists, the Left’s view of Thatcher as a devil with a handbag has become conventional wisdom.

The version of events ceaselessly peddled by the Left is that the Thatcher government destroyed our traditional industries and the communities that relied on them, with the result that millions of people were robbed of the ability to earn a living, look after their families or retain the slightest shred of self-respect. If only the Tories had stayed true to the values of the Labour Party, we would still be a manufacturing giant, like Germany. Instead, they wrecked our industrial base and ruthlessly undermined the altruism that had hitherto characterised the nation, replacing it with a dog-eat-dog, greed-is-good ethos that poisoned our politics, culture and national character for years to come.

The truth is somewhat different. By the late 1970s, our coal, steel, car, railway, aviation and telecommunications industries were in the hands of the state. Needless to say, this Sovietisation of British life proved harmful to our corporate health. Our industries had become infected by culture of indolence, ineptitude and waste. The Labour government was propping up dying businesses with public money, preventing the stripping away of dead wood. Much of the country’s labour force was in the grip of trade unions, whose strikes and pay demands were bringing the country to its knees. Sky-high tax rates had shrivelled consumer demand and made entrepreneurship all but pointless. Britain was rightly being described as the sick man of Europe.

This is the country the Conservatives inherited in 1979. It was not, as the Left would have us believe, an innocent victim of a global recession and the energy crisis. It was a country whose leaders pursued bad policies in bad faith. Our traditional industries were not needlessly killed off by pitiless Tories; they had been in decline for years, and Thatcher merely performed the coup de grâce. Under the circumstances, this was the only sensible option. To call these policies reckless would be like criticising the captain of the Titanic for being too hasty in giving the order to abandon ship. Anything less would have pushed Britain off the cliff, and the suffering experienced by a relative minority would have been delivered upon millions more.

The Left seems unwilling to accept this version of events, presumably because it would mean admitting that high taxes, stifling bureaucracy, and the general collectivisation of society by bolshie class warriors do not make for a happy country. Since these are the kinds of things that socialists like, irrespective of their efficacy, they are loath to admit they are the cause of anything bad. Or maybe they just like pretending that there were alternatives to Thatcherism beyond the Marx-inspired madness that had taken the country to the brink.

Margaret Thatcher’s most outspoken critics have always been educated middle-class lefties. This is a group who have long tried to persuade us that the maintenance of society is a complex business that requires highbrow analysis and astute micromanagement by an intellectual and technocratic class, comprised of people like them. Members of this group traditionally enjoyed a comfortable life in government or one of its proxies, exerting influence over the direction and character of the nation. They were skilled at maintaining the illusion that there were no such things as moral certainties or simple solutions, and that people were incapable of negotiating life without their expert guidance. By empowering the working and lower-middle classes, Thatcher undermined these self-styled philosopher-kings, whose snooty contempt for petit-bourgeois strivers came to the fore.

Another of Thatcher’s crimes was to be both female and a radical conservative. According to the Left’s narrative, women should either be helpless victims of male oppression or shrill harpies committed to socialist causes. By confounding this paradigm, she threw further doubt on the legitimacy of leftist ideas. The Left felt that, since women are supposedly more compassionate than men, Thatcher’s support of conservatism was proof of a special kind of evil. Thus, Thatcher provoked misogynistic feelings in people with ostensibly progressive beliefs. And they hated her for it.

Margaret Thatcher was the living refutation of the Left’s beliefs. She took on and overturned many of its shibboleths; she found success with policies it denied could succeed; she converted millions of erstwhile Labour voters to the Tory cause, and won three consecutive elections in the process. She undid much of the crafty, back-scenes work that Labour governments busy themselves with. Worst of all, she did it with a ruthlessness the Left admires when done in its own name, but consider inexcusable when shown by the enemy. And in doing all this, she put today’s craven, unprincipled politicians to shame.

5 comments on “Russell Taylor: In Praise of Margaret Thatcher

  1. jazz606
    April 10, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    Very well put.
    I don’t think the Left will ever live down the humiliation which she heaped upon them.

  2. Carl Wilson
    April 11, 2013 at 7:36 am #

    She’ll be sorely missed. As you say, if only today’s politicians had a fraction of her integrity perhaps the country wouldn’t be in such a state.

  3. Paul Shiels
    April 11, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    Lets be honest, she was neither the devil or an angel. As a 16yo in 1981 the opportunities for young people where stifled. However at least she had conviction which is considerably more than can be said for the current and recent crop of professional politicians. Someone died, move on. Lets debate the real issues and policies which are damning this nation today rather than harping back to Thatcherism. I have applaud Ken Loach’s comment on her funeral “How should we honour her? Let’s privatise her funeral. Put it out to competitive tender and accept the cheapest bid. It’s what she would have wanted.”

  4. Michael Evans
    April 11, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

    Some good points here but I think we can safely call it horseshit in the majority. To suggest that the the energy crises and global recessions of the 1970’s are a figment of the lefts imagination is mind boggling and to say the state could not have turned around the fortunes of our industries is ludicrous.

    We’ll never know of course but 1 thing we do know for certain is that it is certainly possible it could have, because by the 1980’s, both the global recessions of the 1970’s had ended and adjustments in local economies to become more efficient in petroleum usage had controlled demand sufficiently enough that petroleum prices worldwide began to return to more sustainable levels, hence ending the energy crisis. This would have presented a more friendly environment in which to try and reform our industries and unions, no one denies that this had to be done, without the psychopathic cull which Thatcher deemed necessary.

    The consequences of a managed reform would have been immensely beneficial to everyone outside of today’s boardrooms. The revenues from North Sea oil (which are absolutely huge) and other reformed industries would have flowed into the public purse funding infrastructure and increasing the quality of life of all citizens, employment would have been close to 100% and average wages would have been unimaginable by today’s standards. Instead we have the greed-is-good, dog eat dog culture instilled by Thatcher which presents as a good thing that the efforts of hundreds of thousands of hard working people go into lining the pockets of a tiny few.

    She was, however, successful. We now have 3 right of centre parties fighting for every election and the plebs have been well and truly brainwashed. I can only hope that the unions will soon demand that Labour start representing them again or withdraw their support.

  5. Noa
    April 14, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    An excellent obituary Mr Taylor, though you omit to mention the back-stabbing cowardly bastards in her own party who were directly responsible for the coup which ousted her.

    You’ll know who I mean. They’re the ones running it now who are responsible for the irresistable rise of UKIP.

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