– By James Martin The legacy of Thatcherism As I type this, Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead is Number 1 on the iTunes download chart. From Number 1 back to Number 10, Thatcherism will require a bit more than a Tory martyr dying or an appropriate song seei …

Walton Pantland

– By James Martin

The legacy of Thatcherism

The legacy of Thatcherism

As I type this, Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead is Number 1 on the iTunes download chart. From Number 1 back to Number 10, Thatcherism will require a bit more than a Tory martyr dying or an appropriate song seeing a revival.

“No attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me” – Aneurin Bevan

In 1939, a movie classic was released across the United States – The Wizard of Oz. Throughout Europe however, dark forces needed more than water pouring over them – what we now know as World War II was just erupting. Its fitting that out of the song that (in the UK at least) is the theme of the death of Thatcher for many, that the end of the World War in the UK saw the birth of our welfare system, our NHS, the idea of a compassionate state.

Let me be honest with you, I have been in hospital (NHS) recently, in fact if I’m at hospital or the doctors any longer I’m going to have to pay them rent. I was planning on writing an article on my experiences within the now Tory NHS, in fact I penned some of it whilst waiting for needles to come and attack me.

Well, didn’t the Tories come and upstage me? Monday 8th April 2013, I had something other than the niceties of persistent nose bleeds to consider. Margaret Thatcher had died. For so many of the people that she inflicted her (and Reagan’s) philosophy neoliberalism on, the drinks were flowing, the woman so despised by many of the working class families across our country, justice was finally served.

I was born in the dying days of 1986, had my childhood scarred by her legacy and all the familial issues it brought to me. It was when I was reading my mentor and now self-imposed adopted father, Barry Faulkner’s article of how her passing had affected him, it dawned on me that we have been premature in our celebration. Barry is absolutely right in what he says, her ‘fortunate son’ Blair ploughed ahead with the coup d’état against our movement. We shouldn’t get bitter, but get better. Don’t get me wrong, I will afford the same courtesy to her passing that she gave to the workers and communities that she conspired to leave to rot and die. But I think the cans of Strongbow stockpiled for her passing will be left to collect more dust, I will celebrate when Thatcherism dies a cold death.

I was brought up in a household with a father less than hospitable (you will forgive me my euphemism) and a mum who was chief breadwinner. My grandma was the closest thing to a father figure if ever I had one. My real father had been twice devastated by layoffs directly attributed to Thatcherite policy, something that a young me and Mum bore the brunt of.

If Thatcher’s policies affected my home life during the dying years of her premiership, her use of ‘coercive forces’ has been recounted by my mum on several occasions – police brutality throughout the 1980s and after my birth as an example. I offer you a glimpse in to my upbringing because it is important that we remember our history, as it will otherwise be re-written by those with a version of history dictated by consensus doctrine, the BBC lamenting her as a great politician in her time (Columbus discovered America first? What about Leif Erikson in 1000AD?).

My grandma and mum shaped my outlook on life. When others in my family had the niceties that we didn’t, when others sapped up the Thatcherite model, my grandma used to say, ‘You’re a worker, you will work for what you have, you will appreciate it more’. My grandma had a way of explaining the unfair world I was brought up in, simply in ways that I could understand at the time. My ‘Tea Breaks’ when stopping at Grandma’s weren’t given to me on a plate (well they were on a plate, a Jaffa Cake, Eccles cake and Sardine and Tomato spread sandwich), no I faux polished her bookshelves and washed dishes, smearing polish over the bookshelf and dipping plates into water and thinking they were clean. My point is, despite additional polishing and washing up, Grandma taught me the importance of working, contributing, helping others before thinking of what I got out of it. I miss her.

What does any of this have to do with Thatcherism? Well, when I look back at what we, the public did to contribute and help others, I remember British Rail, I remember an NHS, I just about remember public before profit. If I say the word neoliberalism to my younger brother or sister, the blank look I receive would speak for most. I’m not going to dissect that phrase here, what I will say is what it means to them.

Thatcherism got our priorities all wrong. Yes I know, nobody would exchange their labour before knowing what wage they would receive, but I was always taught to consider that my wage and taxes would contribute to helping others. Thatcherism sought to reduce high wage taxation to the bare minimum, the idea of taxing high earners being seen under her mantra as ‘Taxing success’, welfare became ‘too expensive’, the question now being asked of the NHS and even education is now ‘why not make money?’.

The all out assault on the bodies that gave us the weekend and right to a fair wage, the unions, even have the political and social question mark of ‘always on strike’, ‘Union Barons’, ‘were relevant once’. Yet an organisation, a form of workers compassion and, as my grandma would put it ‘helping others’, is afforded ‘cult’ status by society and the media.

Thatcherism gave those that didn’t want to endure hardship for a common good a quick fix. Buy shares in British Gas, support the privatisation of common industry, have choice. We don’t. Any commuter or energy customer on any train or ‘tariff’ will explain of the basic service provided for the highest price, under the guise of consumer choice. Odd how energy providers act in a juxtaposed way when they communistically increase prices for profit don’t you think?

I cooked tea the other day for me and my sister, she complained of a few of the ingredients I was using in a chicken and bacon salad. I removed some of the offending ingredients and explained that choice in what you eat, makes you an individual. Choice for the making of profit is a form of slavery and explained how a train ticket offers me no choice and this Thatcher person I had referred to meant that my outlet for helping others is limited through my taxes. I would be remiss at this point, if I didn’t ask you to donate to a food bank and support those that are a victim of the neoliberalism I referred to before, just as our class is becoming more and more of, a victim of elected injustice. My sister is nearly 13, I love her to pieces, childhood should be for living and not for my rants I admit.

If you have read this far, I did say I was in hospital before. I suppose, in summary, my hospital visits and operation were a complete failure if I’m honest. I won’t go in to too much other than that. The NHS and its staff have done everything they can to help me, I know that they receive a wage. Let me say this though, at no point was I asked to upgrade to ‘NHS+’ or the ‘AdvaNHS’ packages. They don’t exist yet. They just helped a unique medical condition. If I’m brutally honest, it was the few remaining places that I didn’t feel exploited. Thatcher declared war on workers, she assaulted Coal, Telecommunications, Rail any and all public services. Thatcherism is still attacking welfare and our NHS. I sit here at home, looking at the death of a Tory martyr, being asked not to express my personal history of what her legacy has inflicted. Her death hasn’t changed my hatred for her creations. I just hope that those celebrating the death of the witch, will come and defend welfare and the NHS; I’m not sure without them that my health won’t come without a price tag. Conversely, I need the help of others.

“If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday, I warn you not to be ordinary, I warn you not to be young, I warn you not to fall ill, I want you not to be old.” – Neil Kinnock


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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