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For Mierin: It's 25 years since Margaret Thatcher became PM Sir Excalibur - 30/04/2004 10:41:04 PM

At least it will be on Monday. This opinion piece is in the Daily Telegraph. As part of my quest to turn Mierin into the next Margaret Thatcher I'm posting this article:

Will we remember Blair in 2022?
By Charles Moore

When Margaret Thatcher stood on the step of Number 10 for the first time as prime minister 25 years ago, she famously quoted St Francis of Assisi. Heard only by the microphones because of the noisy cheering, she breathed: "Where there is discord, may we bring harmony."

In her memoirs, Lady Thatcher writes: "Afterwards a good deal of sarcasm was expended on this choice, but the rest of the quotation is often forgotten. St Francis prayed for more than peace; the prayer goes on: 'Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.' The forces of error, doubt and despair were so firmly entrenched in British society … that overcoming them would not be possible without some measure of discord."

One detects a whiff of irritation with St Francis for not being quite "one of us", as if he were one of those gradualist Tory Wets not pushing the pace of reform hard enough. If St Francis had made it to her first Cabinet (Environment Secretary?), she would soon have got sick of having to explain to Parliament what the minister had "really meant" and would have kicked him upstairs at the next election as Baron Francis of Assisi.

But she is right about all that error, doubt and despair. On January 3, 1979, lorry drivers went on strike for a 25 per cent pay rise. Before the end of the month, one and half million public sector workers struck, closing schools and even mortuaries. Because of the actions of ancillary workers and ambulancemen, 1,000 NHS hospitals admitted emergency patients only, and it was the unions, not the medical staff, who decided what constituted an emergency.

Later in the year, ITV was completely shut down for 12 weeks because of a technicians' dispute, which meant that the BBC provided the only two television channels in the country. The Times was shut down for 11 months. In 1979, 29,116,000 working days were lost to strikes. The figure in 1997, the year in which Tony Blair took his first step into Number 10, was 235,000 working days. So you were almost 120 times more likely to suffer from industrial disruption in 1979 than you were 18 years later (1.3 million working days were lost in 2002: it's creeping back up).

In 1979, inflation reached 17.2 per cent: today, it is 2.6. Interest rates hit 17 per cent: today, they are four per cent. The British economy grew by half of one per cent in 1979, while the German grew by 4.5 per cent. In 2003, the projection for British growth is 2.7 per cent; for Germany, it is minus 0.1 per cent. The top rate of income tax then was 98 per cent (on "unearned" income); today it is 40 per cent. The standard rate was 33 per cent; today it is 22 per cent.

It took a lot of discord to get this far. No one knew for certain that the Thatcher economic experiment would work until she defeated the miners' strike of 1984-85, and the short-term cost in unemployment (now at a 30-year low) was punitive. But the fact is that, in the economic and industrial field, we now have the harmony that the "divisive" Mrs Thatcher sought.

Which is why we have Tony Blair. Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson and, despite his more Old Labour costume, Gordon Brown, studied Margaret Thatcher religiously. They saw she had identified with people's sense, in 1979, that "fairness" did not involve being run by the trade union bosses. They realised that she had brought about great economic gains, and that they must bank them. Hence Gordon Brown's promise in 1997 to stick to Tory spending plans and his immediate introduction of independence for the Bank of England in order to prevent a return to inflation. Hence the determination, even now, not to increase top or standard tax rates.

They copied her stylistically too. They emulated the drama she brought to politics. They climbed into smart suits and stood against smart backdrops. They reached beyond their party to the rising class - Tony Blair's "Mondeo man" being for New Labour what the Luton carworker had been for Mrs Thatcher. Mr Blair learnt from her the need for enemies you can beat - in his case, the Labour Left - and for friends who might be unexpected: he is excited by getting on well with George W Bush, almost as she was by befriending Mikhail Gorbachev. She was Not For Turning: he has No Reverse Gear [*Smirk* - Ex.].

The discordant Mrs Thatcher made Britain harmonious enough to risk voting Labour. Mr Blair still reinforces this. I bet he knows that, in January 1978, Mrs Thatcher jumped in the opinion polls after she said that people feared being "swamped" by immigrants; and I bet that's why he said a more goody-goody version of the same thing last week, at much the same time in the electoral cycle.

So what's the difference? For Blairites, Margaret Thatcher stood for "the Politics of Or" while Mr Blair stands for "the Politics of And" - you can have enterprise and the minimum wage, British patriotism and being at the heart of Europe, you can have your cake and eat it. But the truth is that you can afford the Politics of And only because of the benefits inherited from the Politics of Or. And the inheritance can be dissipated.

Even when she was still prime minister and Mr Blair no more than an up-and-coming frontbencher, Lady Thatcher identified him to friends as a threat to the Conservative Party: she is a good judge of political gifts, especially those of opponents. After he became Labour leader 10 years ago, the two met now and again, and she liked him. She is always partial to a tall, smartly dressed and courteous young man, and she wished him well in modernising his party. Since John Major was making a mess of things, his success gave her less displeasure than perhaps it should have done. Even then, however, she used to wonder whether "there's really anything there". She wonders it more now.

It may still be too early to know the answer. It is seven years to the day since Tony and Cherie and Euan and Nicholas and Kathryn (not yet Leo) waved to us from that famous door. When it's a quarter of a century, will there be all the articles about him that there are about Margaret Thatcher? There's another anniversary, by the way. It's 40 years since Harold Wilson won his first election for a new and glamorous Labour Party: you won't be reading much about that.

(The link is too long: )

Sir Excalibur

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For Mierin: It's 25 years since Margaret Thatcher became PM - 30/04/2004 10:41:04 PM 131 Views
How depressing - 30/04/2004 10:54:05 PM 27 Views
To be fair ... - 30/04/2004 11:09:10 PM 24 Views
I wasn't argueing the case for war - 01/05/2004 08:43:51 AM 10 Views
Well after your post ... - 01/05/2004 09:59:43 AM 12 Views
I just remember the TV moment when she was asked about it by a member - 02/05/2004 08:20:12 PM 6 Views
Yeah I know what you are referring too - 02/05/2004 09:50:13 PM 5 Views
You know she was recently berating her to me in an IM - 30/04/2004 10:54:58 PM 31 Views
- 30/04/2004 11:19:15 PM 24 Views
- 01/05/2004 10:15:59 AM 11 Views
*NM* - 01/05/2004 10:23:10 AM 3 Views
*drowns you in fish oil* - 01/05/2004 10:15:04 AM 11 Views
Ignore Me *NM* - 30/04/2004 11:15:55 PM 9 Views
Never *NM* - 01/05/2004 04:52:44 AM 3 Views
I notice how the article "forgets" - 01/05/2004 10:17:18 AM 17 Views
Ruined the Universities? - 01/05/2004 10:32:49 AM 12 Views
cutting costs - 05/05/2004 03:42:11 AM 7 Views
I don't think it is fair to balme that uniquely on her - 05/05/2004 08:31:15 AM 7 Views
Sadly - 05/05/2004 08:35:06 AM 7 Views
Yup, it is sad. They are and will be our most important institutions. - 05/05/2004 08:44:07 AM 7 Views
Re: Yup, it is sad. They are and will be our most important institutions. - 05/05/2004 08:51:15 AM 6 Views
I'm not saying we don't need Polytechnics (or equivalent) - 05/05/2004 09:40:23 AM 4 Views
she started it, though - 05/05/2004 08:45:46 AM 7 Views
Well I think you can go back before Thatcher for that - 05/05/2004 08:52:30 AM 6 Views
hah! - 05/05/2004 09:02:53 AM 11 Views
Re: hah! - 05/05/2004 09:06:36 AM 5 Views
nonono - 05/05/2004 09:32:10 AM 13 Views
But, we did it when it was the done thing - 05/05/2004 09:42:00 AM 7 Views
Exactly. - 05/05/2004 09:50:08 AM 6 Views
It does raise an interesting point though - 05/05/2004 09:54:16 AM 6 Views
That is a good question - 05/05/2004 10:04:11 AM 6 Views
I'm sure mierin will naswer us - 05/05/2004 10:08:47 AM 7 Views
According to my research ... - 05/05/2004 10:21:55 AM 7 Views
Damn Sweden indeed, though who can blame them? - 05/05/2004 10:31:01 AM 8 Views
I agree with you on one point. - 05/05/2004 09:37:48 AM 6 Views
Yeah she nailed us scots as well. - 02/05/2004 11:39:04 AM 7 Views
Scotland (and Wales) did very poorly under Thatcher - 05/05/2004 08:37:25 AM 9 Views
Re: Scotland (and Wales) did very poorly under Thatcher - 05/05/2004 11:04:35 AM 4 Views
ridiculous comparisons - 01/05/2004 11:06:29 AM 11 Views
In some cases - 01/05/2004 11:30:11 AM 8 Views