The following letter from a Socialist Appeal reader was published in The Times letters page for May 5th as part of a series of responses to an article on Thatcher’s legacy in a previous issue of the newspaper. We are reproducing here for those who missed it.
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
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.