Saturday, 28 November 2015

Thatcher and Blair

Downing street years 1st ed.jpg


Half of Britain loved her the other half loathed her. Which side you sit on depends on largely how she impacted on your life. One thing is for certain though, she is not the worlds greatest author. This was written in a style that typifies the woman's approach  to all she did. It is methodical, precise and jaundiced. The MEMOIR is written in concise chronological order, by route, by route march indeed for it is at times laborious with the reader feeling as though listening to a lecture or a Sunday sermon or being taken by the wrist with finger wagging in your face as you listen to a diatribe.

Reading it feels like necrophilia for it is very dry and with little in the way of any real joy. I did enjoy the passages about the Falklands War and the war waged on Arthur Scargill and by consequence the miners unions and by default the communities who suffered as the two parties tore lumps out of each other. The constant concern remains that in the war of these two ideologues her single vision was Scargill and not the people whose lives the two of them damaged. Why on earth Scargill  didn't call a democratic election, a ballot, is beyond me as was Maggie's use of the police as a para-military force. Disgusting.

It is not a bad book, it just isn't very good. What amazes me long after the event is, apart from her success at getting Britain's finances back on track, is how focused she was. Scratch focused and replace with myopic. Her only concern appears to have been taking care of the money, of the rich, letting the flow of cash act as a cure-all. She was less Conservative, and by her own admission, more Gladstonian Liberal. Her passion is unquestionable. Her austere approach very questionable. Glad to see Clement Attlee beat her into second place in the best British post-war PM.


I admit to being surprised by this book. Not that I thought for a minute it wouldn't be well written as the author is a man of obvious intelligence but it is the content, the often self-declamatory and honest way that he approaches given subjects that took me by surprise.

I had expected a dry tome that recounts his personal history from childhood to his becoming Great Britain’s Prime Minister and, yes, there is a slight nod to that of course but this book is neither dry nor self-aggrandizing. It is, in fact, the reverse. It recounts in some detail all the important events of his career but always with style and steeped in his own voice. And the voice is that of a man who often found himself in areas he felt uncomfortable with but knowing that having assumed the mantle of PM dealt with them in as best a way he could. Not always as I would have wanted but that is the order of things. I had hoped to have had a softer version of Thatcher, a kinder more compassionate government who would have gently led us from the austere policies of that ladies time in power subtly, by at first harnessing New labour to the Tory wheel, then steering it away from the right to a more socialist vision. This never happened. It was, in reality, the same-old-same-old with some brush work to cover up the cracks.

Obviously, mention is made of the Iraqi war and his subsequent fall from grace as far as the British public were concerned. He doesn’t flinch from telling his side of things as he saw them whilst at the same time standing by virtually everything he did but never without serious regret for the horrid effects and lives lost due to the conflict. Here I am diametrically opposed to his almost cavalier approach to that war and his lack of foresight in forming an end plan. Here history is in fear of repeat now in 2015.

The expected vitriolic attack on Gordon Brown never happens. He confesses that he and his former colleague were as close as two men can be but, and over time how they drifted apart. He even praises Brown but says this of him: ''Analytical intelligence, absolutely. Emotional intelligence, zero.'”

As much as I believe the war in Iraq was wrong and as much as I often found Mister Blair to be guilty of ‘varnishing’ certain truths, in this Auto-Biography, he states his case, his life, his career in as honest a way as could be expected with a welcome lack of spin. And yet, on reflection, perhaps this is a double spin?

Not the read I had expected.

At the end of the day, he still comes across as the 'son of Maggie.' His policies being of a similar neo-Liberalism values. Yes, a better prospect than the Iron Lady but only by too small a degree. His school report would read ... 'he tried hard but too fond of traditional capitalism. Could have done much better.'


The shift, almost imperceptible, from traditional Conservatism, the policies of Disraeli and MacMillan, to a party that now consists of Neo-Liberals and full-on right-wing Libertarians with old style one  nation Toryism marginalised, has been so subtle a slide that the voting public now accept the strident foot stamp of what is to all intents and purposes a hideous servile state as though it has always been there.

It hasn't.

Governments have long been puppets of those whose faces are known but whose powers are overlooked. There is nothing new in this. In the sixties, we feared how big business turned the wheel we all are tethered to. Pointing the finger belatedly at Murdoch or Trump or whoever is not only pointless it is vacuous. We already know about them. That is old news. We know who runs the show. We know their fingers are in many pies including oil and arms dealing.

Mrs. Thatcher through John Major through Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and on shows us only how much power abuse and how much damage to society, a thing Mrs. Thatcher did not believe in, has been done and it is now in the hands of 'them' rather than 'us.'

People such as Caroline Lucas, Jeremy Corbyn, Leanne Wood, Natalie Bennett have all shown how politicians can hold integrity as a thing that matters. For those who persist in playing the cool card, of maintaining some faux scepticism that all and everyone who enters public office is a natural liar, need to grow up. We need people like these few who truly represent the common folk.

It has been a long thirty-six years and it will be many more before the tide finally turns but only by pursuing a true democracy, we don't have it yet for the concept's delivery is a constant war being waged, will we ever find a way out of being slaves to someone else's wage.

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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