Sir Lord Powell of Bayswater (“The Iron Lady’s Legacy Will Not Rust Easily” – Times Sat 2nd May)argues that Britain benefited from policies that she initiated. On the contrary, the neo-liberal policies she espoused were significant contributors to the dire economic and social problems facing the UK today. Her vision of a successful deregulated British economy lies shattered. Britain has become a rentier economy where much of the manufacturing base has been destroyed and little real wealth is actually produced. The foolishness of deregulating the financial institutions is evident for all to see. There is a very heavy price to pay for the personal greed that she thought so virtuous.
Her encouragement of individualism and acquisitiveness created aspirations that cannot be fulfilled. What happened to the “ordinary people” who were encouraged to become mini- capitalists by buying shares in denationalised industries? What about all those people who got themselves ensnared by the financial institutions when they were persuaded to take on mortgages that they simply could not afford? What about those who were told that they could become rich by running their own small businesses and whose hopes have now been shattered by incompetent banks?
The deliberate running-down of manufacturing has left part of Britain with little real function, riddled with unemployment, crime, drugs, antisocial behaviour, misery and despair. Thatcher’s attacks on trade unions created an insecure and low-waged, low-skilled, low-motivated workforce. Managerial practices are more reminiscent of the Industrial Revolution. Her policies, continued by new Labour, established a temporary paradise for spivs and speculators. For much of the time she was in office, she was deeply unpopular. Her immediate political future was saved by entering into the Falklands war.
Lord Powell claims that the country remains better and stronger for her policies. Not so. She and her lineal descendants in New Labour have created an infinitely more divided, disillusioned and insecure society. Her “cures” for the problems of the British economy were even worse than the disease.
This article first appeared on Socialist Appeal.
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This post was written by David Brandon