Boris on Maggie

May 6th, 2009 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Sunday was the 30th anniversary of ’s election as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

London Mayor Boris Johnson pays tribute:

But, even as an apathetic and cynical teenager, I could see that she was doing some tough things, and the moment I came down most vehemently on her side was the Falklands conflict of 1982. So many people I knew seemed to think she was wrong, and bellicose. I remember my grandfather frequently saying that he was going to shoot her. You will still meet left-wing bores who say that she deliberately ignored the “Peruvian Peace Plan”. And yet what she did was so clear and so right.

I was 14 at the time, and remember all the predictions of disaster.

The Argentinian junta had taken by violence a British protectorate, in clear contravention both of international law and the wishes of the islanders. It took fantastic balls to send the antiquated British Navy half-way round the world, and risk disaster on those desolate beaches and moors. It took nerves of steel to sink the Belgrano, and, frankly, I don’t think there were any other Tory politicians who would have done it.

Sadly Boris is probably right.

By the end of the Eighties, she had cut taxes and the economy was roaring away; and it wasn’t just that the country as a whole seemed to have recovered some of its confidence and standing in the world. Individuals were able to take control of their destiny in a new way. They were no longer completely beholden to local authorities for their housing: they could buy their own homes, and to this day, as any Tory canvasser will tell you, there are people across Britain who will always vote Tory in thanks for that freedom alone.

Her vision was a property owning democracy.

She gave people the confidence to buy shares, to start their own businesses, to move on and up in society – and there was more social mobility under Margaret Thatcher than there has been since. She was a liberator, and she gave the Labour party such an intellectual thrashing that they ended up changing their name. In some ways, the most significant political legacy of Margaret Thatcher is New Labour (now being abolished by Gordon Brown).

Blair in many ways carried on her legacy. Brown, indeed, is not.

But she believed she had to shatter the post-war consensus that the solution to every problem was always an expansion of the state. Indeed, she did not think much of the word consensus itself, since it was not only too Latinate for her taste but also because it probably masked a conspiracy by cowardly politicians to dodge the hard questions, and, if you look at the consensus that now exists around, say, academic selection, you can see that she is right.

A consensus can be wrong, and in fact often is.

Margaret Thatcher will always divide the British people, not least since we are ourselves divided. There is a part of us that will always dislike the acquisitive, appetitive instincts she seemed to espouse, and yet we also recognise that they are essential for economic success. More than any leader since Churchill, she said thought-provoking things about the relationship between the state and the individual. Some of them were unpalatable, some of them were exaggerated. But much of what she said was necessary, and it took a woman to say it.

The simple truth is she changed Britain, and the world, for the better.

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36 Responses to “Boris on Maggie”

  1. davidp (3,570 comments) says:

    By shutting down most of the British coal industry, Thatcher was essentially the UK’s first green energy politician. It must amuse her that the lefties that opposed her then are generally the same lefties who are now if favour of a non-carbon based economy.

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  2. bruceh (102 comments) says:

    There was Maggie, then there was Roger but before them both was this unsung man – if Maggie had her handbag what this guy did must have taken a bucket or two of sauerkraut!

    http://www.nzcpr.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=719

    Amazing story, made West Germany out of ashes

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  3. Fairfacts Media (372 comments) says:

    So momentous was Margaret Thatcher and her impact on Britain and its politics, I am having a week of posts over at the Fairfacts Media Show to mark the 30th anniversary.
    I was just 11 when ‘Maggie’ was elected and I remember the Falklands War most vividly.
    It was great coming home from school and wondering how many Argie planes we had shot down that day.

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  4. Short Shriveled and Slightly to the Left (783 comments) says:

    There is a brilliant book that describes the Falklands war succinctly.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tin-Pot_Foreign_General_and_the_Old_Iron_Woman

    It’s a children’s book mind you.

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  5. boomtownprat (281 comments) says:

    People forget how desperate, desolate and ruined the state and it’s socialist emphasis left a great country like Britain in the late 70’s. For most of her term she demonstrated exceptional vision and leadership combined with great oratory, action and politics. She held her nerve unlike her flaky contemporary, Lange. With Churchill, probably the greatest leader of the 20th century

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  6. NX (604 comments) says:

    Great tribute. I’ve always been fascinated with the Falklands War.

    If there was ever a contrast between PMs it’s Thatcher & Clark; crisis management vs. fair weather.

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  7. Christopher (425 comments) says:

    God bless Maggie, she’s my idol.

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  8. peterwn (3,233 comments) says:

    At that time there was a GEC salesman who cleaned up on commissions – he got heaps of repeat orders who became quite a hero. GEC re-jigged its commissions but Maggie and co saw to it he got an honour.

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  9. NX (604 comments) says:

    For people bored with NZ politics at the mo…. because Key is performing as advertised during the election and no one knows who the opposition leader is. Then I suggest following the fall of Gordon Brown. Kinda reminiscent of Helen Clark, but more spectacular.

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  10. chfr (126 comments) says:

    bruceh, amazing man. Makes me wonder where we would be if Sir Roger had a chance to implement his vision.

    And on topic Maggie was the one who awakened an interest in politics in me. Oh how I wish we had some leaders of her calibre now.

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  11. Tuija (220 comments) says:

    Thacher most hated person in Uk ? quite possibly and with good reason
    That whole period in Uk political history was mired by corruption and scandal,
    How many of her ministers went to Prison ?
    From not allowing disabled service man from the Falklands to march in a victory parade
    To destroying the manufacturing base in the UK.
    One of her legacies is the deregulation of the finance markets which has led us to the shit storm which is the finance industry situation today
    An odious person

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  12. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    Ronald Regan was a great fan of the iron lady. It’s a pity the world now seems devoured of these people who were not ashamed to put into practice what they believed. Generally, the world over we seem to live under the rule of sterile, socialist robots who are governed by polls and are afraid that the wrath of the people will befall them should they dare to be different.

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  13. boomtownprat (281 comments) says:

    “Thatcher most hated person in Uk ? quite possibly and with good reason”………..far far from it.

    “That whole period in Uk political history was mired by corruption and scandal,”……………er wrong, comparatively 79_90 is squeaky clean compared to Brown and Blair.

    “How many of her ministers went to Prison ?”…………..er none! ……….compare per population with how many charged with offences under the Clark regime.

    “To destroying the manufacturing base in the UK.”……………….Bullshit

    “One of her legacies is the deregulation of the finance markets which has led us to the shit storm which is the finance industry situation today”…………..er hasn’t been in power for 19 years! a certain Blair and Brown have been running the show

    “An odious person”………………………yes you are

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  14. Haiku Dave (273 comments) says:

    “Blair in many ways carried on her legacy. Brown, indeed, is not.”

    simplistic bullshit,
    the blair/brown guvmint was and
    is one and the same

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  15. Kimble (4,443 comments) says:

    Blair never had to
    deal with a GFC so
    we will never know

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  16. adamsmith1922 (890 comments) says:

    boomtown you are right, in fact Brown until recently was boasting of how he helped the City of London become a great financial powerhouse

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  17. clintheine (1,570 comments) says:

    Tuija – trying to rewrite history again are we?

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  18. GPT1 (2,111 comments) says:

    Great lady – not only did she bring Britain out of the dark ages but drove Reagan to win the Cold War. Brilliant woman.

    Re the Falklands there can be few more pointless yet more righteous wars. Argentinia attacked Britain and her citizens. Just because there weren’t many of them and they lived on the ass end of the world did not make it any less of an affront to Britain’s sovereignty – or the British subjects any less glad to be rid of the oppressive yoke of occupation.

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  19. GPT1 (2,111 comments) says:

    The manufacturing base in Britain was already destroyed by 100s of increasingly militant unions looking for justification, poor work practices and stunted development.

    There is a great quote from (I think) the 50s wondering whether the Germans would be good enough to come and flatten Britain’s factories so (like Germany) they could start again.

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  20. Tuija (220 comments) says:

    The British social attitude’s survey of 1984 found that 85 percent of those questioned opposed reducing spending on health and education while 69 percent wanted a government that combatted unemployment rather than inflation.

    This was the opposite of Thatcher’s priorities. Some 72 percent thought the gap between rich and poor was too great.

    Just how shallow Thatcherism was is demonstrated by how its key figure was finally swept away.

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  21. Tuija (220 comments) says:

    London, Aug 24 (DPA) Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, 82, is suffering from dementia,

    She may have forgotten
    But we can’t
    General Pinochet clearly murdered and tortured thousands of people
    Thatchers mate eh?
    She approaches the problems of our country with all the one-dimensional subtlety of a comic-strip. – Denis Healey

    The 1980 Education Act of Thatchers Government removed the requirement to provide school meals of ANY nutritional standard. School Meals were opened up to Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT) obliging the local authorities to open the service to the private sector. The cheapest and most “competitive” tender was awarded the contract.This meant that school meals were outsourced to companies that could provide the cheapest foods which included beef products containing MRM (highly infectious BSE material mechanically recovered meat). Reformed meat in burgers, pies and sausages which was “bulked” up with MRM became the staple diet of school meals across the country. Many of the companies that provided the “competitively cheap” school dinners were driven by cost cutting, profit and competition, never by concerns about childrens health or well being.

    With Thatchers spending cuts the uptake of school meals dropped and set meals were switched to free choice cafeteria systems. A cook who worked in school kitchens throughout the 1980s and 1990s told me the choice was limited, perhaps one cooked meal such as beef curry, and then a staple of burgers, sausages, pizza or sausage rolls. In March 2008 Professor Bob Will Director of the CJD Surveillance unit told me “Mechanically recovered meat was used in baby food and most likely school meals and this is a major risk factor in developing vCJD

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  22. Tuija (220 comments) says:

    odious woman

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  23. Tuija (220 comments) says:

    Thatcher appointed Tory Party Chairman, J Archer— Prison

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  24. Tuija (220 comments) says:

    Jonathan Aitken Cabinet minister — prison

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  25. David Farrar (1,881 comments) says:

    Five comments in a row is approaching spam – be warned.

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  26. Tuija (220 comments) says:

    Despite more than a decade in power, Mrs Thatcher left office with tax revenues running at around 36.1 per cent of gross domestic product. In the same year, Australia’s social democratic government had tax revenues running at around 28.5 percent of GDP. .

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  27. Paul Williams (879 comments) says:

    Unique comments and all fair opinion but David – it’s unlike you to be concerned that someone strongly disagrees with you … this commenter’s clearly informed.

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  28. GPT1 (2,111 comments) says:

    “Odious woman” is not informed.

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  29. reid (16,174 comments) says:

    The British social attitude’s survey of 1984 found that 85 percent of those questioned opposed reducing spending on health and education while 69 percent wanted a government that combatted unemployment rather than inflation.

    Did they ask about Mom and Apple Pie, Tuija?

    Did they ask of those respondents how many understood the linkage between high employment and low inflation, Tuija?

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  30. emmess (1,416 comments) says:

    >>Australia’s social democratic government had tax revenues running at around 28.5 percent of GDP. .

    Sounds like decent target
    You’ll be happy if we get down to there then Tuija?

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  31. Anthony (789 comments) says:

    Informed people don’t repeatedly spout insults and try to rewrite history.

    Look at the fall of the British car industry in the 70s – they produced shoddy, unreliable, high maintenance vehicles. That’s why they failed!

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  32. ephemera (564 comments) says:

    “The simple truth is she changed Britain, and the world, for the better”

    Although I agree with all Thatcher did modernising the economy, she was dangerously authoritarian.

    The politicisation of the BBC; the ‘video nasties’ moral panic; the anti-gay “section 28″ – and many more aspects of Thatcher’s leadership were deeply unpleasant. It is a sad irony that much of what we have come to loathe about political correctness in Britain stems from the culture she fostered under her premiership.

    Many of us in Britain saw hope in the march of monetarism, yet had to grin and bear a lot. Thatcher’s legacy will never quite be as simple as your analysis. which is why she still remains such a divisive figure.

    I think this is kind of what Boris was getting at without coming across like he was laying into the old lady.

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  33. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,823 comments) says:

    Maggie done good.

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  34. Tuija (220 comments) says:

    Not rewriting history But showing you a different side

    DPF said The simple truth is she changed Britain, and the world, for the better.
    I, and millions of others disagree
    As for odious ?
    Yes
    3.5 million unemployed whole communities devastated, I can quote you lots of examples
    but apparently that would be spamming

    ps Informed people don’t repeatedly spout insults,
    Well that seems to indicate that 60% of the posters here are ill informed

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  35. Kimble (4,443 comments) says:

    It is frustrating how Lefties think that opinion polls are the be all and end all.

    It should be obvious to anyone with the most basic understanding of economics that the 3.5 million unemployment rate was because of the structural changes that were happening in the British economy.

    It is going to happen whenever an economy goes from being stagnant with grossly inefficient allocation of resources and moribund industries to dynamic, flexible, and, quite frankly, better.

    For every “poor working man loses his job-for-life” story you have, there is an earlier one of “industry producing shitty yet expensive products that could never survive without an arbitrary transfer of wealth”.

    Those 3.5 million people will never feel generous towards Thatcher, even though most of their lives, and the lives of their children, were undoubtably improved by her actions.

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  36. Kimble (4,443 comments) says:

    “Many of the companies that provided the “competitively cheap” school dinners were driven by cost cutting, profit and competition, never by concerns about childrens health or well being.”

    So? If the client wants the producer to focus on cost rather than quality, the producer will focus on cost rather than quality. Dont blame the companies, blame the schools. It might be difficult for you, as I know people on the Left have a real problem breaking out of the “business is bad” mindset.

    Thatcher made it so that the schools could decide for themselves whether they wanted low cost or quality. It is called freedom of choice. Google it.

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