Robert Henderson on Margaret Thatcher


Sean Gabb

          With  his  mixture  of  vaulting  intellectual  ambition  and
          howling  mediocrity  of  mind,  Lenin  is  the  MaGonagal  of
          philosophers.  (Connoisseurs  of   intellectual  incompetence
          should  browse through ‘Materialism  and  Empririo-Criticism’
          for an especial treat).   Nonetheless,  like Hitler,  the man
          possessed a certain low animal cunning and a complete absence
          of moral sense,  which qualities  permitted him to make a few
          acute  psychological and sociological  observations.  Perhaps
          the  most interesting of these is the concept of  the  useful
          idiot.

          For  Lenin  this  was the role to be  played  unwittingly  by
          simpleminded,  tenderhearted,  bourgeois dupes in preparation
          for  the   proletarian  revolution,   a  revolution   utterly
          antipathetic to simpleminded, tenderhearted bourgeois  dupes.
          But  the concept is of general political utility,  for it  is
          essentially  that of the political naif who believes  against
          all the evidence in the good intentions of those in authority
          or aspiring to authority and the rightness of their ideology.
          The useful idiot should be distinguished from the Uncle  Tom,
          the latter being a mixture of shrewd self-promoting  civility
          and  psychological  subordination.  The  useful  idiot  is  a
          self-deluding,  self-committed political adherent.

          In practice, all political movements seek their useful idiots
          and none more so than those operating within an mass elective
          system, for   no party standing for election  is ever willing
          to  tell the whole truth about its desired ends  or  intended
          means.  The best of all useful idiots are, of course,   those
          in positions of the greatest political power.

          Margaret Thatcher might seem an unlikely candidate for such a
          role of useful idiot.  Was she not the Iron Lady,  the Hammer
          of the Left, the slayer of the socialist dragon?  Did she not
          speak  of turning back the tide of coloured  immigrants?  Was
          she   not  the  rock  from   which  the  European   Leviathan
          rebounded?  Did she not ensure that Britain was respected  in
          the world as she had not been since Suez? Was she not a mover
          and shaker in the nationalist cause?

          In  her own rhetorical world  she was all of these things,  a
          veritable  Gloriana who enchanted some and banally  persuaded
          many  more,   but in practical achievement she  was  none  of
          them.  This  discrepancy between fact and fancy made  her  an
          extraordinarily   useful  idiot  for  the  soldiers  of   the
          ascendent ideology of the post-war period, the sordid bigotry
          that is latterday liberal internationalism.

          In  her the  Liberal Ascendency  found a massive shield  for,
          by constantly promising what she could or would not  deliver,
          she allowed the primary  corruptions of the  post war  period
          –  immigration,  multiculturalism,  “progressive”  education,
          welfarism,  the  social work  circus,  internationalism,  the
          attachment  to  Europe  –  to not merely  continue  but  grow
          vastly whilst she

          .  whilst all the time the general public was fed a rich diet
          of lies by the agents of the Liberal Ascendency,  the  Public
          Class – that  unwholesome melange of politicians, media folk,
          educationalists,  social workers and  senior public  servants
          who  have  come  to dominate our lives  –  about  the  savage
          deprivation of funds for  education,  health  and the welfare
          state and the damage done by rampant Thatcherite  ideological
          hooliganism in all important parts of life.

          A  harsh judgement?  Well,  at the end of her reign what  did
          Britain have to show for her vaunted patriotism,  her wish to
          maintain Britain’s independence, her desire to drive back the
          state,  her  promise to end coloured  immigration?   Precious
          little is the answer.

          Her enthusiastic promotion of the Single European Act  (“It’s
          a market and markets are good”),  which she ruthlessly  drove
          through Parliament,  allowed the  eurofederalists to  greatly
          advance  their cause under the guise of acting to  produce  a
          single  market;  her “triumph”  in reducing  our  subsidy  to
          Europe  left us paying several billion a year  whilst  France
          paid next to nothing; our fishermen were sold down the river;
          farmers placed in the absurd position of not being allowed to
          produce even enough milk for British requirements; actual (as
          opposed  to  official) coloured immigration  increased;  that
          monument  to  liberal bigotry,  the  Race Relations  Act  was
          untouched,  welfare  and  health spending  rose  vastly;  the
          educational  vandals were not only allowed to sabotage  every
          serious  attempt  to overturn the progressive  disaster,  but
          were granted  a great triumph in the ending of ‘O’ levels,  a
          liberal bigot success amplified by the contemptible  bleating
          of successive education secretaries that “rising  examination
          success means rising standards”;  foreign aid continued to be
          paid  as  an  unforced  Dangeld;   major  and   strategically
          important industries either ceased to be serious  competitors
          or  ended  in  foreign  hands;  the  armed  forces  were  cut
          suicidally; local government spending rose massively

          But what of her supposed triumphs,  what of privatisation and
          the sale of council houses,  the subjection of the unions and
          the winning of the Falklands war?  Perhaps this will have the
          most  lasting effect.  However,  that is a  different  matter
          altogether from saying it was an unreservedly good thing.  We
          may  celebrate the liberation of British Telecom and BA,  but
          is it such a wonderful thing to have no major car producer or
          shipbuilder?  The  trouble with the  privatisation  of  major
          industries,   which may either be greatly reduced,  go out of
          business  or  be  taken over by foreign buyers,  is  that  it
          ignores  strategic and social welfare questions.  Ditto  free
          trade generally. Both assume that the world,  or at least the
          parts which contain our major trading partners ,  will remain
          peaceful,  stable and well disposed towards Britain for ever,
          an  absurd  assumption.  What,  for example,   would  be  the
          response  of  a  future British government  to  BMW  if  they
          decided  to  move production of all Rover models  abroad?  An
          absurd  scenario?  I don’t see why it is for BMW  might  make
          such a move for financial reasons or be directed to do so  by
          a future  aggressively nationalist  German government.

          There  is  also a moral question connected  to  privatisation
          which was never properly answered by Tories:  what right does
          the  state have to dispose by sale  of assets which are  held
          supposedly  on  behalf  of  the general  public?  This  is  a
          question  which should be as readily asked by a  conservative
          as  by  a socialist for it touches upon a  central  point  of
          democratic  political morality,  the custodianship of  public
          property. The same ends – the diminution of the state and the
          freeing of the public from seemingly perpetual losses – could
          have  been achieved by  an equitable distribution  of  shares
          free  of charge to the general public.  This would have  had,
          from  a  Thatcherite  standpoint, the additional  benefit  of
          greatly increasing share ownership.

          As for the sale of council houses,  I have never been able to
          persuade   myself  that  this  is  anything  other   than   a
          socialistic measure,  a redistribution of wealth to the poor.
          It  is  also  inequitable because it excludes  the  poor  not
          living in council property and discriminates amongst  council
          tenants  according  to  the quality and  situation  of  their
          properties  – there is a vast difference between  having  the
          right  to  purchase a detached house which is not part  of  a
          vast estate and having the right to purchase a small flat  on
          the  twentieth  floor  of  a  tower  block.   Nor  will  many
          purchasers  of leasehold right-to-buy properties be  thankful
          that they made the decision to buy, for after five years they
          are  left  at the mercy of vengeful councils which  may  levy
          what  service and repair charges they like.  Nor can many  of
          such  leaseholders  view  moving with any  equity  for  their
          chances of finding a buyer at any price, let alone that which
          they paid, are minuscule.

          As  someone who is old enough to remember the  Wilson,  Heath
          and  Callaghan years I have no illusion of exactly how  awful
          the  unions  were when they had real power.  What  I  am  not
          convinced  of  is the prime position granted  in  Thatcherite
          hagiography  to  her union reforms. In 1979 two  things  were
          already apparent: full employment was likely to be a thing of
          the  past and many union members had a  sufficient   material
          stake  in  the country to not welcome frequent  strikes.  Had
          full employment returned in the Thatcher years it is dubious

          But what of her clients, the Liberal Ascendency?  Would  they
          not be dismayed by much of what she did?  Well,  by the  time
          Margaret  Thatcher  came to power liberals had  really   lost
          whatever interest they had ever had in state ownership or the
          genuine   improvement of the worker’s lot.  What they  really
          cared about was destroying  They had  new clients,  the  vast
          numbers  of  coloured immigrants and their  children,  women,
          homosexuals,  the  disabled,  In short,  all those  who  were
          dysfunctional,  or could be made to feel  dysfunctional,   in
          terms  of British society.  They had new areas of  power  and
          distinction,  social work,  education, the civil service ,the
          mass   media  to  which  they  added,   after  securing   the
          ideological high ground,  the ancient delights of politics.

          I can hear the cry,  but was not Margaret Thatcher undone  by
          circumstances?  In  some  degree  that  is  of  course  true,
          particularly in her early years as prime minister.   Had  she
          been  a single term prime minister it would have been a  fair
          excuse.   But the thing to remember about the woman  is  that
          she  was prime minister for eleven years.  Where she  can  be
          utterly condemned is in her failure to ensure that she had  a
          cast iron  majority of like minded ministers in cabinet.  Not
          to  have  done that by the beginning of her second  term  was
          stupid;  to fail to do it at any time in her premiership  was
          both scarcely credible and unforgivable.  To leave Europe  in
          1979  can reasonably be seen to be a pipe  dream  considering
          the  state  of the Tory hierarchy  and  indeed  parliamentary
          party  at  that time.  But to arrive in 1990 at  a  situation
          where  not only was Britain still being  taken for a mug  but
          to be forced into the absurdity of the ERM. Dear God! She was
          so  weak  that  she  was  unable  to  prevent  the  effective
          sacking  of  a  favourite  cabinet  minister  by  the  German
          Chancellor.

          Think of her major cabinet appointments. She ensured that the
          Foreign  Office remained in the hands of men (Howe and  Hurd)
          who  were both ardent Europhiles and willing tools of the  FO
          culture,  the Chancellorship was entrusted to first Howe  and
          then Lawson who was also firmly committed to Europe. The Home
          Office sat in the laps of the social liberals Whitelaw,  Hurd
          and  Baker,  Education was given to Baker and  Clarke.  Those
          appointments  alone  ensured  that little would  be  done  to
          attack the things which liberals held sacred.

          What would be a fair summation? She is that most dangerous of
          incompetents, a proactive incompetent.

          She is one of those strange creatures who appear  charismatic
          when  placed in the supreme position but vaguely  absurd  and
          curiously  insubstantial  in any other state.  I  remember  a
          Radio  4   interview  between Michael Chalton   and  Margaret
          Thatcher  in  which  Chalton  was  speaking  in   his   usual
          coherent  but intellectually sophisticated  manner.  Thatcher
          failed  to answer many of his questions but this was not  for
          the usual reason of political evasiveness:  rather she failed
          because  she  patently did not understand what he was  saying
          and  produced  some  extraordinary non sequiturs  by  way  of
          reply. There is also her performance at Oxford where she took
          a  Second in a subject (chemistry) which lends itself to  the
          achievement  of  a  first  by  any  undergraduate  of  normal
          intelligence. ?

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13 responses to “Robert Henderson on Margaret Thatcher

  1. Tired old nazi.

  2. Isn’t it WONDERFUL to have a President who can talk like this?

    [ FX: "YES!!!" ]

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    WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Obama drew big laughs at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner Saturday, taking jabs at his administration, his Republican rivals and even himself.
    President Obama delivers some one-liners at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday.

    President Obama delivers some one-liners at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday.

    “I would like to talk about what my administration plans to achieve in the next 100 days,” Obama said. “During the second 100 days, we will design, build and open a library dedicated to my first 100 days.”

    He added later, “I believe that my next 100 days will be so successful, I will be able to complete them in 72 days — and on the 73rd day I will rest.”

    The Democratic president poked fun at the Republican Party, saying it “does not qualify for a bailout” and conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh “doesn’t count as a troubled asset.” Video Watch Obama deliver laughs at dinner »

    Obama touched on a few gaffes during his short time in office, from Vice President Joe Biden’s verbose tendencies to an unfortunate Air Force One photo op that frightened New Yorkers — playfully pointing his finger at his young daughters.

    “Sasha and Malia aren’t here tonight because they’re grounded,” he said. “You can’t just take Air Force One on a joyride to Manhattan — I don’t care whose kids you are.” Video Watch celebrities mingle before dinner »

    As the world shakes off swine flu fears that started in Mexico, Obama noted his old rivalry with former Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, who now serves as secretary of state.
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    * Photos of WH correspondents’ dinner

    “We had been rivals during the campaign, but these days we could not be closer,” the president said. “In fact, the second she got back from Mexico, she pulled me into a hug and gave me a big kiss — told me to get down there myself.”

    Obama even took on former Vice President Dick Cheney, who wasn’t in attendance: “He is very busy working on his memoirs, tentatively titled, “How to Shoot Friends and Interrogate People.”

    Obama took a somber tone, though, when specifically addressing the reporters in the room — noting the financial struggles that have afflicted the newspaper industry. Video Watch reporters arrive for dinner »
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    “Across the country, there are extraordinary, hardworking journalists who have lost their jobs in recent days, recent weeks, recent months,” he said. “I know each newspaper and media outlet is wrestling with how to respond with these changes. … Not every ending will be a happy one.

    “It is also true that your ultimate success as an industry is essential to the success of our democracy — it’s what makes this thing work,” Obama said.
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    All About Barack Obama • Republican Party • Hillary Clinton

    Tony Hollick

  3. Bodwyn Wook

    At least Lady Thatcher’s is a more differentiated sort of failure than that of Old Reagen. His budget director, David Stockman, tells the tale — they cut the budget all to Hell in the New Year of 1981 and then the Republican (!) Senators all came pussyfooting in the backdoor, going “not ME!” And so Old Reagen said “sure, sure,” and let them have their pork after all. That was all a strictly one-term failure and the complete collapse of lies and good intentions was over by early 1984. And even so, at least if you don’t believe the poll was rigged, these dumb so-and-sos voted the old fool back in, in 1984. Sorry, but people en masse do seem to get what they deserve in terms of their general state and condition….

  4. Dave:

    Absolutely, YES, Dave!!!

    Tony Hollick

    Who’s to blame for creating a Police State? Sean tells you… Whose puppet was she? USDoJ’s…

    We shall see…

  5. Johnathan Pearce

    Sean writes:

    “We may celebrate the liberation of British Telecom and BA, but is it such a wonderful thing to have no major car producer or shipbuilder?”

    It is neither wonderful nor depressing. If you believe in free trade, Sean, and have no time for economic nationalism, why should this matter? If it is cheaper to build ships in Denmark, China or wherever, then that is where they should be built.

    Manufacturing output per head in the UK is now higher than it was 20 years ago. Productivity has risen enormously.

    I find it a bit alarming to see mercantilist-like sentiments on a libertarian blog. I understand the desire to focus on Mrs T’s faults, but don’t over-egg the pudding, as they say.

  6. John Blainey

    She also failed to recognise non-apartheid Rhodesia.
    My thinking has been that she was caught in a system where she could achieve only so much. Politics being the art of the possible and all those sort of cop-out comments. She was in many ways a disappointment and, yes, one must look at what people do actually achieve to get a better idea of their true intentions.
    However I would say that Britain was going fast down the tubes in early/mid 1970s and that particular slide into totalitarianism was stopped and a degree of freedom was achieved. Perhaps those libertarian minded people who occurred at the same time, such as yourself, can be credited with that happy trend.
    Whatever. We are now back at a situation which seems to be as bad if not far, far worse than the mid 1970s after 12 years of Labour and the previous five years of slop Toryism.
    But, yes, it’s probably all a con in which various brave individuals hold their fingers in the dyke from time to time.

  7. Dave:

    I love the IDEA of America. I’ve fought for it since I was five years old… I loathe thise who make NY America into a Police State; and I liathe even more when a few “Leaders” rry to export these memes, especially when they try to impose this model in us, here…

    I want an America which represents a force for FEEDOM in the world.

    I DO NOT dislike Americans per se.

    Just thr social control stuff of Giuliani & Co.

    It can keep the Hell out of my country. We don’t want it here. Especially when he flies to London and witnesses rhe faked-up “Islamic Terrorist”murder if people in our country’s capital city on cold blood…

    Regards,

    Tony Hollick

  8. Dave:

    I love the IDEA of America. I’ve fought for it since I was five years old… I loathe thise who make NY America into a Police State; and I liathe even more when a few “Leaders” rry to export these memes, especially when they try to impose this model in us, here…

    I want an America which represents a force for FREEDOM in the world.

    I DO NOT dislike Americans per se.

    Just thr social control stuff of Giuliani & Co.

    It can keep the Hell out of my country. We don’t want it here. Especially when he flies to London and witnesses rhe faked-up “Islamic Terrorist”murder if people in our country’s capital city on cold blood…

    Regards,

    Tony Hollick

  9. Yeah, “Across the country, there are extraordinary, hardworking journalists who have lost their jobs in recent days, recent weeks, recent months,” I also agrees with this.