I HOPE that after her funeral the billows of fulsome praise for Baroness Thatcher’s legacy will be followed by a more balanced assessment. She may or may not have been one of the UK’s most able prime ministers, but she was certainly the luckiest.
She came to power just as North Sea oil was coming on stream. Unlike the Norwegians, who controlled development at a rate they could cope with in their own economy, she sold off concessions to all and sundry. We are still paying the price.
Her two greatest triumphs resulted unexpectedly from her two biggest mistakes. She cut tax, and undertook to cut government waste by £2 billion to pay for it. She could not find the savings and had to increase VAT from 8 to 15 per cent, causing a slump, three million unemployed, and deep unpopularity. But this disaster enabled her to break the power of the industrial trade unions.
As part of her cost-cutting, she sent Lord Carrington to discuss the future of the Falklands with Argentina, and she withdrew the survey ship Endeavour. We have been treated to re-runs of the heroics of the Falklands campaign, and the release of the relevant Cabinet papers, but no sign of release of the papers of the dealings that led the Argentine military to assume they could take the Falklands unopposed. That cost-cutting exercise, and the lack of clarity it created, was the trigger for the unnecessary war which led to Mrs Thatcher’s greatest triumph.
Mrs Thatcher “sold the family silver”. Not only did she gift oil to the Americans etc, and sell council houses at a 60 per cent discount, but the “commanding heights of the economy” were privatised. Oil, gas, electricity, water, airports, the steel industry, car making, etc, are all foreign owned. What national investments have we got for all that was sold off?
Most of those rejoicing at the death of Margaret Thatcher never met a miner or realise that far more pits closed under Labour’s Harold Wilson than under the longest-serving Tory leader.
Before the 1984 strike, miners at pits scheduled for closure were offered the choice of a job at another pit or a voluntary redundancy package, retraining and placement. This was rejected by union leader Arthur Scargill who, in spite of losing three calls for strike action, led a suicidal walk-out, which appalled many on the Left
Far from being part of a campaign to decimate UK manufacturing, closing costly deep-mines was essential because heavy industry needed low energy prices to compete. The bulk of our coal was much more expensive than that which could be imported and we were simply switching to another form of native extraction industry: oil and gas.
I am the son of a miner and was brought up in a mining village. Most of my old pals became oil-rig roustabouts with far better wages and conditions.
Dr John Cameron
St Andrews, Fife
If EVER there was a time to be thoroughly ashamed of being Scottish, Wednesday morning will be it. A time has been deliberately set aside by MSPs to coincide with Baroness Thatcher’s funeral in order to debate the motion “There is still such a thing as society”.
The intention is to vilify the memory of a former prime minister who has been out of office for 22 years. Being officially and publicly contemptuous of a family’s grief in this way is not only highly distasteful, but it also convinces the rest of world that we really are barbarians.
The government has gone to great lengths to mark the occasion by arranging a huge funeral event, at considerable cost – funded by contributions from the likes of me and you. Is this not surprising, given that Mrs Thatcher was, in fact, displaced from her post by her own Conservative government? We all have seen the pictures of the distressed lady leaving Downing Street for the last time and John Major replaced her.
The lady did several good things for our country but, clearly, she ran out of support from her party, the people best placed to adjudge her value. So, why has this immense expenditure of public funds been authorised to mark the passing of a person who was discarded by her own friends?
The decision by the BBC to effectively censor the results of the Radio 1 charts is shameful (your report, 13 February). The fact that some people may see the record itself as “bad taste” gives no valid reason for the controller of R1, backed by Tony Hall, the director-general of the BBC, to bow down to pressure from political elites.
This in not an issue of taste – nor of “compromise or fudge” (the BBC’s words). It is one of political choice by the BBC, which, unfortunately, once again is ignoring the views of a significant sector of the British people.
It would be inconceivable to refuse to run the top news item on TV or radio because it was felt by some to be distasteful. The music charts are a record of historical fact, and need to be reflected on the chart show as such. A bad day indeed for the BBC and for licence fee payers.
Dr Douglas Chalmers
Member, BBC Audience Council Scotland 2005-10, and lecturer in media ethics,
Glasgow Caledonian University