Thursday, 11 March 2010

It Is the Spirit of Iron not the Lady's Leanings that Impress

It must be Liberal Democrat Spring Conference, Nick Clegg has been talking about Thatcher. Last year ahead of Harrogate he said:

"When the right won out, the reality was brutal. I remember very distinctly this sense that we were being told we should all place money above morality; put profit ahead of people; that we shouldn't worry about selling out. Because, at the end of the day, there was no such thing as society. But I looked around me and thought: no, there has to be more to life than this. There is more to us than this. Justice, fairness, community. We weren't ready to give in to that soulless, unforgiving Britain. That dog-eat-dog, get-rich-quick, look-after-number-one Britain. We didn't want to live in Thatcher's Britain.

"The false idols of trickle-down economics worshipped by Tories and New Labour alike have turned to dust."

So turn to this year and what is this in the Spectator?

Age, he claims, has taught him the point of Lady Thatcher. And, indeed, he now seems to see her as something of an inspiration. ‘I’m 43 now. I was at university at the height of the Thatcher revolution and I recognise now something I did not at the time: that her victory over a vested interest, the trade unions, was immensely significant. I don’t want to be churlish: that was an immensely important visceral battle for how Britain is governed.

But hang on, some including the right leaning press have claimed this is in praise of all things Thatcherism but read on, Nick tells you that while in the 80s the vested interest was the Unions in the noughties it is something else.

"And what has now happened to the British economy? It has gone belly-up because, once again, we have allowed a vested interest to run riot." He is talking, of course, about the banks. "They represent a vested interest. This is what I sometimes don’t understand about the Cameron-Osborne act. A real liberal believes in genuine competition, a genuine level playing field and he is unremittingly hostile to vested interests." As Thatcher was to Scargill, so Mr Clegg intends to be to the banks. "What I find so striking is that the spirit — dare I say it — of the battle against the dominance of one vested interest, the trade unions, is exactly the same spirit we need now."

So it is not a return to Thatcherism, what it is is an admiration of the spirit that fought the vested interests to look out for the majority of the people and so it is again. I could not see Thatcher, or any of her successors taking on the banks, indeed we've seen how timid some of them have been in recent years.

And before Labour misinterpret and start to spin, let us not forget who was one of the first visitors to a Brown Number 10.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting attempt however it does not explain this element of the interview as expressed by the Telegraph

    "Many of Britain’s current economic problems, Mr Clegg said, could be explained by a failure to enact the pro-competition policies put forward by Lady Thatcher.
    He also said his party’s tax policies were similar to those of Lord Lawson, the Conservative chancellor during the 1980s. The Lib Dem plan to raise the starting threshold for income tax to £10,000 is a “Lawson policy”, Mr Clegg said."

    Those pro competition policies included the dismantling of public services.

    I know the Lib Dem spin is to show Thatcher with Brown but of course he was inviting her as an ex-Prime Minister, personally I was unhappy with it but he was not endorsing Thaterite economics as Clegg appears to be.

    The Lib Dems have been hijacked by the candidate with the prettiest face, I bet in the bars at your spring conference you will be saying "why didn't we get Cable to be leader?"