There has been a great deal of discussion in the media recently about the rights and wrongs of Margaret Thatcher being given a state funeral. Quite how anyone sees such an honour as appropriate is beyond me, and I’m not saying that from a partisan perspective. It seems to me that Thatcher’s policies were an archetypal example of throwing the baby out with the bath water: She may have ‘freed’ us from the unions, but not all unions were Marxist or trouble-making organisations. Surely there was an alternative to the hardship that she caused? If not then it is a sad indictment of ‘liberating’ political methodology.
We are now at the mercy of ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’, multinational businesses who avoid paying anything like a fair contribution for operating in our market. Now the neo-cons – I will call them ‘righties’ for the purpose of this article because they have always sought to denigrate and ridicule left of centre thinking as flawed by calling neo-liberals ‘lefties’ (see the footnote) – are attempting a resurgence because these businesses are at their zenith. These righties forget the fact that global businesses will not benefit them or the country generally in any sense. They are set to concentrate wealth and power into the hands of the few – Greens, Murdoch, Abramovich and suchlike. They will continue to move their financial bases to tax havens (as Cadbury have just done), thereby centralising wealth in places inaccessible to us.
That is the most memorable part of Thatcher and Reagan’s legacy: Free market forces that drain our exchequer of income; that render our governments virtually impotent in the face of rampant, greedy capitalism. Think back now to my earlier quote “the unacceptable face of capitalism” and the days of Edward Heath when he spoke out about the ‘dark side’ of free enterprise. Do you really think it was the electorate that dumped Heath? It is possible and, indeed, history shows the electorate rejecting him. However, that this should happen in the nascent, new world of global business is not a coincidence, I fear. Thatcher rode on a wave of support from big business to gain power in rather the same way that Abramovich exploited Yeltsin to seize wealth in the shape of energy reserves from the Russian people.
We have seen recently the extent to which the Murdoch empire was prepared to go to increase its profits. Now we see companies like Google, Kraft and Walmart organising their financial structures so that they give us but the crumbs from their table. Arcadia, now the owners of BHS, Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Outfit, Topshop, Topman and Wallis – yes, almost half of the multiple retailers in the UK – but when Sir Philip Green grouped his empire under the Arcadia banner he gave it all to his wife, who promptly left the UK to live in Monaco saving £500,000 that would otherwise have been paid to the exchequer each year in dividend tax.
Thatcher is often lauded as a great thinker. It’s a pity then, is it not, that she evidently devoted so little time to thinking about how her free market freedoms might pan out?
Footnote: Type ‘lefty or lefties’ into a spellcheck and it standardises the spelling, i.e. this pejorative term is included in the dictionary. Type in ‘righty or righties’ – nothing! The Right-wing have by their actions legitimised this abusive name-calling for what is when all is said and done, a political belief.