Tag Archives: Politics

Mrs Thatcher: My thoughts on the passing of the Iron Lady

She was the Prime Minister of my childhood. She was Mrs Thatcher. Or Maggie. It all depended on the context. But was she certainly a ‘Mrs.’ It felt as stern and cold as she was. Or seemed. Because out of nowhere, she would suddenly exude the vulnerability of a woman, the pride of a mother, and the doting of a wife. Her voice on her Radio 4 Desert Island Discs appearance is unmistakable, distinctive, yet strangely alluring. She used her sexuality, and she knew how to charm.

Yet she failed to charm a nation, at least in the sense of the word ‘charming’, anyway. She managed to be incredibly divisive. Of course, even as a young man, I don’t think I really understood why. Why shouldn’t I believe the mantra of ‘the medicine’ that had to be tough to be kind; the industries that could never survive and inevitably had to go; the unions that needed to be defeated; that the freedom of the individual was sacrosanct?

When she became leader of the Conservative Party, Mrs Thatcher entered the shadow cabinet meeting room, took a book out of her handbag and started waving it about. ‘This’, Thatcher said sternly, ‘is what we believe’, and banged a copy of the Austrian-born economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek’s book The Road to Serfdom down on the table. In it, Hayek argues that Western democracies, including the United Kingdom and the United States, have “progressively abandoned that freedom in economic affairs without which personal and political freedom has never existed in the past,” and that the only chance to build a decent world is “to improve the general level of wealth” via the activities of free markets.

Mrs Thatcher admired Hayek greatly, and became friends through correspondence with him. Hayek had, if that is possible, an even more outrageous view of the Pinochet regime. Hayek was not only full of praise for the economic policies of the Pinochet Regime, but also supportive in political terms. He was concerned that Chile, and the Apartheid regime in South Africa too, did not receive a fair coverage from the ‘liberal’ press in Western countries, and suggested in his infamous interview with El Mercurio that a dictator like Pinochet might be a necessary step towards a liberal democracy.

Under the barbed restraints of dictatorship and with the guidance of University of Chicago-trained economists, Pinochet had gouged out nearly every vestige of the public sector, privatizing everything from utilities to the Chilean state pension program. Hayek returned gushing, and wrote Thatcher, urging her to follow Chile’s aggressive model more faithfully.

In her reply, Thatcher explained tersely that “in Britain, with our democratic institutions and the need for a higher degree of consent, some of the measures adopted in Chile are quite unacceptable. Our reform must be in line with our traditions and our Constitution. At times, the process may seem painfully slow.”

http://www.naomiklein.org/shock-doctrine/reviews/new-road-serfdom

In The Downing Street Years, 1995, Mrs Thatcher expands on her philosophy of Individualism. “I was also impressed by the writing of the American theologian and social scientist Michael Novak who put into new and striking language what I had always believed about individuals and communities. Mr Novak stressed the fact that what he called ‘democratic capitalism’ was a moral and social, not just an economic system, that it encouraged a range of virtues … These were important insights which, along with our thinking about the effects of the dependency culture, provided the intellectual basis for my approach to those great questions brought together in political parlance as ‘the quality of life’.”

Hayek also dismissed the idea of ‘Social Justice’ saying that there could be no such thing. Society is made up of individuals, and it is they as agents that have responsibility; Society is not an agent and therefore cannot have responsibility. This belief is ultimately what led Mrs Thatcher to say in her 1987 Interview for “Women’s Own” magazine, “Who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.”

Many believe that the policies of Thatcher’s government and her dogged determination to put down the unions at all cost destroyed the north, by destroying mining, steel, ship building and manufacturing industries. She then proceeded to say that the hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people made unemployed by this were responsible for their own situations.

For Thatcher, Hayek and her economic hero Milton Friedman, society and government had no responsibility. She said, “It is not my job, nor the job of any politician to offer people salvation. It is part of my political faith that people must save themselves.

“The encouragement of variety and individual choice, the provision of fair incentives and rewards for skill and hard work… and a belief in the wide distribution of individual private property … they are certainly what I am trying to defend.”

At heart, Mrs Thatcher was, together with Ronald Reagan, what we now term ‘neo-liberal’. She was responsible for making popular the philosophy of self interest and took no responsibility for her or her government actions. She believed that only the free market could produce wealth and prosperity for the nation, and that by allowing the rich to get richer, we would all benefit as the wealth, in her words echoing the words of Friedman, would literally ‘trickled down’. It is a philosophy in which the existence and operation of a market are valued in themselves, separately from any previous relationship with the production of goods and services, and without any attempt to justify them in terms of their effect on the production of goods and services; and where the operation of a market or market-like structure is seen as an ethic in itself – the profit motive, which is capable of acting as a guide for all human action, and substituting for all previously existing ethical beliefs. [She perhaps had a vested interest: her husband was a multi-millionaire after all.]

She rose to the top despite all that was against her, but she became a product of her own self demons. Former Conservative MP David Mellor said, “She started reforming things that simply didn’t need reforming.” And so continues to this day in the ‘Heir to Thatcher’, PM David Cameron.

I believe that you can be critical without being disrespectful. I dislike everything she stood for philosophically and politically, but yet I find her admirable and alluring. As a person, I respect her death in that way.

But whilst I will not vilify her, I will counter the idea that her actions in government were ‘good’, because I and many feel that they were far from it in many ways. However, I feel the families of the victims of the Hillsborough Disaster will be as restrained about her death as she was about theirs.

Rest in peace, Mrs Thatcher. Maggie. Mother of Mark and Carol.

‎”The root of socialism is democracy, and only a society that is truly democratic could also become truly socialist.”

‘Socialism? Socialism is a democratic idea. The most socialist thing we ever did was the most popular thing we ever did, the NHS.’

“It is a social-ism. It’s about trying to construct a society round production from need and not just for profit! Around meeting people’s needs, that’s what it’s about!”

“I regard democracy as the most radical and revolutionary idea of our time. The powers that rule us talk about it. But they resist it with all the wiles and techniques at their command. ”

(of the current recession) “In this sense the present economic crisis is actually a crisis of democracy as the market has taken from parliament the power to shape the policy of the nation. Elected leaders, such as George Bush and the prime minister, have been left the role of commentators on the crisis and suppliers of endless cash in an attempt to save a system that failed us.”

“It used to be clear that the ruling classes had the wealth, authority and power while those underneath did not. This started to change when the right to appoint our rulers moved from the wallet to the ballot. Now they are doing everything they can to preserve their power. This is why democratic rights and civil liberties are so important and essential. We must now preserve our right to speak, to assemble, to organise, to move around freely and protect our identity, and not become crushed by the state.”

“Democracy is not just voting every 5 years and watching ‘Big Brother’ in between and wondering why nothing happens. Democracy is what we do and say where we live and work”

“It seems to me that the most powerful religion of all, much more powerful than Christianity, Judaism, Islam and so on, is the people who worship ….money! That is really the most powerful religion and the banks are bigger than the cathedrals, the headquarters of the multinaional companies are bigger than the mosques or the synagogues. Every hour on the news we have the business news?! Every hour! It’s a sort of hymn to capitalism….the idea that money is what it is all about!……and with it comes this extra ordinary cult of management consultants.”

Workfare is Not Fair

The tax payer pays £180m to private company - Guardian G2
The tax payer pays £180m to private company - Guardian G2

People on these schemes often get no expenses. They have to work between 2 months and 6 months, and in some cases two years. Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) minister Chris Grayling has indicated that the two-year referrals will ‘loop’, meaning claimants could be on the programme indefinitely.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines “Forced or Compulsory Labour” as follows:

“All work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself/herself voluntarily.”

Section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, and its counterpart in Scots Law, Section 47 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland)Act 2010, both outlaw forced or compulsory labour.

I am fed up of people in work treating all those out of work as if it is THEIR fault they are out of work. Or that they are too lazy to find jobs. The truth is, there aren’t enough jobs. In some areas there are 50 people going after 1 job, yet unemployment is being identified as a personal failing. Some people have been threatened with sanctions for applying for TOO many jobs, and being sent to paint walls or sweeping the streets – as punishment.

Just because someone is unemployed doesn’t put them in to the work shy category. 3million unemployed, 500,000 vacancies. This isn’t even being targeted at those who have never worked or have been out of work so long. People are getting misused and asked to do things that they don’t even ask payed workers to do. Equipment? no. Workfare Workers don’t get any equipment, protection, clothing or training. I’m not a do gooder, but ‘looking for work’ WAS the work once. These placements will do very little for anyones CV.

This costs companies ZERO. Profit: there are quite a few providers making a tidy sum out of the other work placement scheme. THey are being PAID to run it. Atos, Reed, A4e etc. To do a few hours a week would be reasonable, not a FULL job for a quarter of the wage and no protection. And training, not work.

This is what is happening: If you lose your job due to the cuts and have to claim Jobseekers Allowance then you may be sent to do workfare. You could be forced to work unpaid for the likes of Asda and Tesco. You could even find yourself doing your old job – for no wages! Workfare erodes everybody’s pay, working rights and working conditions.

Last year, 800 station staff on London Underground were cut, prompting concerns for passenger safety. Just months later, a new workfare initiative was rolled out by A4E (one of the Work Programme providers) to provide 200 workfare wardens.

We have had a welfare state, and right to welfare as a universal right. That is being eroded. On the whole the ‘work shy’ people so often use as the reason for draconian measures, are very hard to identify except for the few massive blatant cases. They are THE FEW.

People face destitution if they are ‘sanctioned’ for not taking part. Are we really saying that we will accept state sanctioned destitution on anyone?

The companies such as Reed, Atos, a4e etc who are implementing these schemes are getting very healthy payments from the tax payer. Who is arbiter of the relationship between big business, the state and the citizen, and where are the democratic checks and balances? Since claimants are now the responsibility of private companies, there is not even the basic accountability afforded by the Freedom of Information Act.

If there is a job to be done, then that job should be paid with a living wage, pension contributions, holiday pay and proper work place provisions and training. Companies should not be using free labour in this way. The following account was posted in the comments section of the Guardian website:

I personally know a fifty-six year old man who worked at Tesco for 40 hrs a week for 6 weeks for no pay. He said he was given the worst job, constantly filling freezers in the hope he would be taken on. After the 6 weeks were up the manager asked him if he would like to stay on for some extra weeks, my friend asked “with pay”? The manager said why would he pay him when he can pick the phone up and get more unemployed people who have to work for nothing of face sanctions meaning loss of ALL benefits for up to three years.

Having unemployed people ‘work’ for benefits seems a decent things UNTIL you realise that they are just being used as free labour for companies: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?page_id=31

And to quote: “We can confirm that Argos does not have a policy to recruit colleagues through the governments Work Experience Programme, but we do make use of it to offer work experience. Christmas is our busiest time of year and we are pleased to provide the opportunity for work experience during this time.”

Busy time, more paying customers, more profit coz they dont have to pay Christmas staff. THIS IS WRONG.

Clegg says its voluntary here, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17116473 If you think that this scheme is not compulsory, have a look at this freedom of information request: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/mandatory_work_under_the_work_pr which confirms that claimants could be forced to take up an unpaid work placement for six months – far longer than the two month workfare scheme which has hit the headlines. and Chris Grayling was on Radio 4 again saying “it is a voluntary scheme”. BUT if you are ‘referred’ it becomes mandatory!

Only ONE of the governments #workfare schemes is voluntary #chrisgrayling. ‘Mandatory work activity’ is not. http://t.co/TsiUzSbq (Guardian)

While people are on this, they can’t look for work. And while companies are using free labour, they are not creating jobs.

Should the innocent have to hide too?

Last year I saw a film called Taking Liberties and came away feeling that really stuck in my throat that was  a strange mixture of rage, anger and sadness. I’d say the sadness is actually the strongest emotion that I feet overall.
This film was not ‘entertainment’, infact towards the end I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed by it all, but it kept me gripped because, unlike most cinema flicks, this is real, this is happening, this is the country I live inright now! As I watched in disbelief I was transformed through anger to rage, through the whole spectrum of emotions by the actions and words of those who we once considered to the be the Servants of Society: our politicians and our police.

 

One by one many of the liberties that we as UK subjects have taken for granted were shown to be no longer reliable. Right to protest, Free speech, Privacy, Inocent until proven guilty, Extradition and Torture were all highlighted and real cases were examined.

The premise of this film is that we are turning in to a police state, if a rather badly organsied one. That somehow police and politicians had become our masters and we their servants. On it’s own that statement can be easily scoffed at. But the evidence was there on screen to see, and it was unnerving and slightly sinister. Using a mixture of police footage and protestor’s footage, a rather peculiar picture began to emerge: police with unprecedented powers unable to control the itch to use these powers.

It was like watching Teineman Square in minature, or a communist state in operation. The comparison to the Nazzi’s was startling, but there was no denying the similarities of method, even if the motive was slightly different.

The laws that have been passed that allow these things to go on, political will and control enacted by the police, may not be used against the innocent so much at this time. But if there comes a day when there are leaders or governments who like the taste of power too much, now there is no stopping them and we are all under suspicion.

Many refer to the erosion of our liberties, and what a great metaphor. Like a cliff face, once the process of erosion starts, it is very difficult to protect further and the land becomes more vulnerable piece by piece until it is swallowed up. For good.

At two hours this film may be too much for many to take, but I really urge you to try it, see it and witness what our country really is like today. And if you think, “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” – then just tread carefully as it might just be your turn next…

What do you think? Leave your comments here.