Margaret Thatcher 336


By chance I knew Margaret Thatcher rather better than a junior civil servant might have been expected to, not least from giving her some maritime briefings during the First Gulf War. On another occasion Denis and I once got absolutely blind drunk in Lagos – I had been given him to look after for the day, and the itinerary started with the Guinness brewery and went on to the United Distillers bottling plant, before lunch at the golf club. I had to reunite him with his spouse for the State Banquet and quite literally fell out of the car. Happy days.

I can say I was on first name terms with her – she always called me by my first name. Except unfortunately she thought that was Peter. I recall she came out to Poland when I was in the Embassy there and I was embarrassed because she knew me, and thus greeted me more warmly than my Embassy superiors. The problem was lessened by her continuing to call me Peter very loudly, even after I corrected her twice.

In person she was frightfully sharp, she really was. If you gave her a briefing, she had an uncanny ability to seize on the one point where you did not have sufficient information. She also had that indescribable charisma – you really could feel when she entered a room in a way I have never experienced with anybody else, not Mandela or Walesa, for example. You may be surprised to hear that in person I found her quite likeable.

Yet she was a terrible, terrible disaster to this country. The utter devastation of heavy industry, the writing off of countless billions worth of tooling and equipment, the near total loss of the world’s greatest concentrated manufacturing skills base, the horrible political division of society and tearing of the bonds within our community. She was a complete, utter disaster.

Let me give one anecdote to which I can personally attest. In leaving office she became a “consultant” to US tobacco giant Phillip Morris. She immediately used her influence on behalf of Phillip Morris to persuade the FCO to lobby the Polish government to reduce the size of health warnings on Polish cigarette packets. Poland was applying to join the EU, and the Polish health warnings were larger than the EU stipulated size.

I was the official on whose desk the instruction landed to lobby for lower health warnings. I refused to do it. My then Ambassador, Michael Llewellyn Smith (for whom I had and have great respect) came up with the brilliant diplomatic solution of throwing the instruction in the bin, but telling London we had done it.

So as you drown in a sea of praise for Thatcher, remember this. She was prepared to promote lung cancer, for cash.


336 thoughts on “Margaret Thatcher

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  • Jemand

    Trowbridge H. Ford – “Google is just engaging in censorship.”

    I agree. Tried to look up “Lizard people behind assassination of JFK” – no results. Tried “Asian sluts pissing” – 187,623 results. You do the math. People can laugh but that just probably means they’re enjoying themselves. I don’t think it’s a laughing matter, sorry! Unless people find it funny, in which case I pity them for not taking these funny things seriously. But I will have the last laugh, because I take it seriously enough to realise that there is absolutely nothing funny in any of this. There, I’ve said it.

  • technicolour

    “When extremist organisations form, like neo-Nazi groups, ordinary uncommitted people naturally find their aggression and hostility repulsive”.

    Well, hostility and aggression is repulsive. Especially when you’re the one getting beaten up.

    “But when ordinary people are falsely and maliciously accused of racism for naively discussing social problems in open, they are pushed towards sympathising with these organisations and supporting the likes of the British National Party”

    How does this make sense? People don’t like me being racist so I’m going to support a racist neo-Nazi party? People are pushed towards the neo-Nazi party by media scaremongering, lies, fear and bully-boys. Some of them are, of course, the bully boys (and women).

    “which appears to be enjoying increasing popularity”.

    Not true, at least by these local election figures from last year:

    “At the time of writing, the BNP has lost 10 of the 12 seats that it was defending.

    Long gone are the days when the party could claim dozens of local councillors. Furthermore, gone are the days when the party could point to local bastions of support. Perhaps most significant of all, for the first time in 10 years there is not a single BNP councillor on Burnley borough council. The home of the party’s initial breakthroughs over 2002-03 is now officially BNP free.

    In other former strongholds, its vote has similarly collapsed. Two seats have been lost in Amber Valley, where the BNP vote slumped by almost 50% in Heanor East and Heanor West. Two seats have been lost in Rotherham, where, although support for the BNP remains, the reality is that it has fallen dramatically from four years ago. Support has crumbled in South Tyneside to between 4% and 13%, where not long ago Griffin could count on figures around 30%.”

    guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/04/bnp-local-elections-electoral-force-finished

    “My prediction is that the BNP will evolve, with the help of Doug Scorgie and his kind, to shed its most publicly disturbing attributes to find a sufficiently popular far right, anti-ethnic platform that will ensure its political success.”

    The idea that you can have a non-disturbing ‘anti-ethnic’ party speaks for itself, I think.

  • Jemand

    @Komodo 

    Arj Barker is my favourite. He refuses to go home, spending so much time in Sydney that he can switch on the Oz accent so well he could fool a native. Stephen K Amos, 2nd favourite, similarly spends so much time in Oz that I swear he is actually acquiring an Oz accent – subtle, but it’s there. My apologies for the crappy quality of the Arj Barker video (amateur recording) – his shows are also on DVD.
    . . . .

    @Technicolour

    I was under the impression that the BNP obtained seats in the European Parliament which they celebrated as some kind of validation of their policies. 

    The BNP is an organism that wants power and will evolve to get it. It’s platform is definitely anti-ethnic and, technically speaking, there are enough uncommitted people to be swayed in support of ‘suitably’ defined policies if they can be nudged by life experiences. They don’t need to win government outright to be a political force.

    I recently had an idea that might interest you. I happened across an online telegraph.uk story about an influx of Romanian and Albanian migrants into some German city where they ended up in housing estates and there were subsequent social problems. The story claimed that these people were waiting some 10 months to qualify for welfare benefits and, given their lack of education etc, were unlikely to ever find work. German residents complained, moved out etc. it didn’t make sense to me why the government would allow/facilitate such anti-social developments.

    Now, you might not like it when people complain about migrants receiving welfare benefits but I can tell you that these kinds of life experiences will influence their voting patterns. For a right leaning government who wants to cut down on welfare payments to everyone, what better way to obtain a mandate than to allow a situation to foment in which voters see foreigners entering the country with a plan to dump themselves on a (temporarily) generous welfare system? Conspiracy theory? Maybe. But this is how things are done. 

  • doug scorgie

    Jemand:

    “Doug Scorgie is white too, so by his logic he is obviously a white supremacist racist.”

    I reply:

    I’m black actually.

    Jemand then posts:

    “But that doesn’t free you from the burden of being a racist arsehole. Might explain some of your hostility to me tho’.”

    So Jemand your “logic” is: if I’m white I’m a racist; if I’m black I’m a racist. Typical right-wing thinking, well done.

  • Jemand

    Doggy,

    You’re just a racist with a different point of view. Black or white is just a perspective.

    You’ve ignored the facts, have deliberately misconstructed statements all to justify your irrational hatred. Good luck with that.

  • doug scorgie

    Jemand
    12 Apr, 2013 – 2:34 pm

    Trowbridge H. Ford – “Google is just engaging in censorship.”

    “I agree. [I] Tried to look up “Lizard people behind assassination of JFK” – no results. [I] Tried “Asian sluts pissing” – 187,623 results. You do the math. People can laugh but that just probably means they’re enjoying themselves.”

    Jemand, why did you choose that particular search term: “Asian sluts pissing”?

    Is it because you are a racist and a misogynist?

  • doug scorgie

    Jemand
    12 Apr, 2013 – 9:49 pm

    Doggy,

    “You’ve ignored the facts, have deliberately misconstructed statements all to justify your irrational hatred.”

    Hatred of what Jemand?

  • technicolour

    Yep, four years ago the BNP won two European seats. With 6.2 percent of the vote, apparently (fewer than they’d previously had). I think if we need to be worried about an extreme minority pushing an agenda through, we could be worried about what is currently happening to the unemployed, the disabled, and the people perceived as immigrants, which is quite appalling enough. The BNP, much as I sympathise with the people scared into supporting them – and with the bootboys whose drug use has obviously scored over their intelligence – and with the frustrated women pushing them – are politically a useful irrelevance.

  • technicolour

    “Now, you might not like it when people complain about migrants receiving welfare benefits but I can tell you that these kinds of life experiences will influence their voting patterns.”

    Well, only until they are appraised of the reality. Thank goodness.

  • technicolour

    and Jemand: have met people in the situation you describe, and the few who were going to vote for an extremist vicious party as a result were either being bullied into it, or were seizing on it as a way to bolster their own (ill-informed) prejudice in order to gain power (unsuccessfully).

  • Jemand

    @Technicolour, thanks for giving your thoughts but I believe you are hopelessly optimistic.

    The BNP are already successful because they exist – like H1N1. I’m waiting for that flu strain to evolve, as well as the next political movement that wreak new havoc on Europe. Look back on history, Technicolour – part of the future lies there.

  • Richard

    I hear on the news that Thatcher is a person you either revere or hate and since I do neither, it seems that another snippet of broadcast “information” can be added to the long list of tripe that flows from our array of media outlets.

    When Thatcher came to power, Britain was in trouble and many important strategic industries were tottering. But at least we had industries to have problems with. Her solution to those difficulties seems analogous to someone who, having had half his roof blown off, chooses to move into a card-board box on the embankment – “Well, that’s solved that problem, then”. But the status quo ante was totally unsustainable and surely no sane person can speak in favour of it. It is just that ‘Thatcherism’ wasn’t the solution. Nor is it clear that there was a solution to be had.

    Her treatment of the mining industry was quite spiteful, though it should be remembered that the N.U.M. had another equally implacable foe – themselves. A decade or less earlier, they had been instrumental in toppling the rather more conciliatory and consensual Heath government and that fact had not been forgotten. It clearly cost the miners friends at a time when they needed all they could get. But I know from my cousin who worked at the time for the audit company which carried out a viability study of the mines, that many economically viable pits were closed down, people put out of work and communities ruined. The destruction of an important strategic industry in a personal vendetta certainly constitutes a crime. A truly great leader would be above that.

    And I haven’t even started on my own personal pet hate, the privatisation of water …!!!

    Having said that, Thatcher was a parliamentarian, she exposed herself to interview and challenge in a way in which Blair and Cameron dare not do, habeas corpus wasn’t under threat, jury trial wasn’t under threat, “double jeopardy” hadn’t been done away with (and, I am guessing, she probably couldn’t even contemplate such a thing) and though lot’s of people lost their jobs (including me!) you couldn’t lose your job for saying what you thought.

    For these and other reasons then, a mixed bag, and though I am sufficiently conservative to be offended by unseemly displays of hate at a funeral, the near-as-dammit State Funeral which they have planned for her is over the top and unnecessary and invites such a reaction. I am respectful of the contributors who suggest that a private, family funeral should and would be left alone.

    I can’t help finishing with the observation that for all her many faults, Thatcher compares favourably with that pretentiously posturing, homicidal little twerp David Milliband and his ilk. Milliband, who is leaving the country anyway, served both the Blair and Brown governments and as such is complicit in mass murder. How many people has his chosen foil, that football coach killed, maimed or de-housed – whatever ideology he subscribes to. He would have to get cracking to make so much as a pimple on Milliband’s backside.

    By the way, Craig, it’s good to see you back blogging. I know that you’ve had trouble with your ticker and I was worried about you for a couple of weeks. Best wishes.

    Ps. Good link from Mary to the article by Dr. Sharma. Independent, dispassionate science is enormously important – especially in the field of plant research – and for anybody to flog it off is a national disgrace. Thatcher was actually a scientist too – shame on her.

  • technicolour

    Jemand, it’s looking back on history which makes me, not optimistic, but realistic. Only 10 percent of Germans actively supported Hitler (see Fromm for more detail). An even smaller percentage have been suckered into supporting Golden Dawn. The spin that there is a majority of violently inclined racists in societies is just that – spin (or lies, if you prefer). With the internet et al we now have the ability to remove the fear these lies create, and which, in tandem with threats and violence, have sometimes, in the past, proved able to silence the vast and peaceful majority. Even then, as history dutifully records, not for long. And the humiliating, violent ends of the proponents of lies and hatred are also there, in black and white, for all to see.

  • Jemand

    Doug’s Corgie, Hilarious.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbn__Tta_0E

    Yes, Dougie, the words “Asian” and “girls” are intrinsically racist and misogynist. I guess a lot of young fellows like the combination of these two concepts, hence the number of results. I also searched for “Person of non-specific ethnicity and non-specific gender doing something”, but all I got was links to “Asian girls pissing” and videos of cats sneezing. Either it was google censorship at work or one of those new google things where they anticipate what you are really looking for.

    I see you’re trawling through my previous comments looking for forensic evidence of me being a villain. There is plenty of ambiguous and badly phrased commentary for you to find and mischievously characterise as something evil. Good luck.

  • Jemand

    @Technicolour

    Re 10% Germans actively supporting Hitler et al. The structure of this political dynamic is more or less the same in similary developments of evil regimes. Do you remember my formula for despotic conquest? One mad man, 100 henchmen etc? That’s still a valid formula, given the right circumstances which come in cycles.

    I think we’re just debating numbers here – how many people, how much probability. Compared to me, you ARE an optimist – people call cynical. Probably true, but I call my delusion realism.

  • Jemand

    Edit – “.. call [me] cynical.”

    PS – The looming Iran invasion might be a crude test of my belief that people can be swayed into supporting violent regimes. Doesn’t need to be a majority, just a sufficiently large minority.

  • technicolour

    Jemand, I think the problem with cynicism is that it becomes part of the problem – a cynic is already playing with defeatism. The problem with optimism is much the same – tra la, everything’s fine, and then someone smashes your rose-tinted glasses. Realistically, there’s already a fight on – factual, practical, human and spiritual.

  • English Knight

    The exit hole in the inside perimeter of the Pentagon on 911 was caused by yet another “magic bullet type projectile” akin to the mossad Kennedy assassination bullet of 1963. It (composed of 757 aluminium?)had to have traversed 100 YARDS diagonally through 6 ft of concrete walls and columns, from initial entry, and yet have enough momentum left to create the 10ft wide round symmetrical now famous “exit hole”.

    http://www.911omissionreport.com/pentagon2.jpg

    http://www.bcrevolution.ca/images/pent_spools.jpg

    The greatest tragedy of 911 is yet to come, all the accessories after the fact covering up for their ilk, are not going to find refuge in Manchester like Gerald Kaufman this time round,as the cause n effect catches up with them. Even a Chomsky cannot bring himself about to admit it 911 was a false flag.

    On a lighter note it means there will be no methodist hubba “cohen” from Yorkshire on a blog 50 years down the line, informing fellow bloggers about Michael Winner and Bernard Kouchner !!

  • Komodo

    Jemand – the accent is uniquely infectious. I was for a while accused of being an Aussie myself, though I have never been there. That was after three months working alongside ships on the Australian run. And since “Baywatch”, everyone under 40 here ends their sentences with a question mark? You know??

  • Jemand

    Komodo, you mean the rising inflexion as if asking a question? Yes. I hate it. It’s as if a simple statement must always carry the humble acknowledgement of uncertainty. It has been suggested that the rising infexion is an appeal for approval, a side-effect of the cultural cringe. Thankfully, I don’t have it.

    Benny Hill did a great Clive James impersonation, the style of accent which was, of course, a 1950s Sydney accent. It’s a good one, but maybe not sufficiently stereotypical.

    Please practice your Oz accent, pick up a few phrases and use it as much as you can get away with, especially at the shops and dealing with strangers. Learn to bullshit on-the-fly, like the time you once wrestled a buffalo named ‘Steve’ at a pub in Woolaramoo or the time you landed a white pointer shark on a 5lb line and strangled it when it got too ‘bitey’. Or the time you cut off your own leg (have to be wearing trousers) when you were trapped under a giant wombat but later realised it was the wrong leg – but that you have no regrets cutting it off because that leg always gave you an annoying itch.

    Enjoy.

  • Greenmachine

    I take no great pleasure in someone’s passing. However, as many have intimated in this thread, Margaret Thatcher was a flawed individual and poor leader led by a flawed ideology ( Chicago -school Friedmanism) which led to the destruction of industry, community, families, hope in vast areas of this land especially outside the SE and London. She rode the tide of neo-liberalism which produced monsters such as Pinochet and helped implement the de-regulated mess we now know as our debt-based, corrupt financial system.

    Some have argued all this would happened anyway without her – probably – but does it not make it so much more obscene that the MSM are lauding her, so-called, achievements and iconic status without any questioning of her role in leading the western world into the more recent extensions of her cosy coalition with Reagan via neo-liberal economics, pre-emptive ‘defence’ policies, exporting democracy, banking collapse, covert wars and foreign policy hypocrisy.

    The argument is she helped to defeat dictatorial communism – did she? Was not the USSR just too slow and ineffective in changing with the times? Look at the success of the next major super-power, China – no neo-liberal democracy she! She was undoubtedly a disaster for this country, it’s people and the global family – best forgotten along with Bush I, Clinton, BushII, Bliar, Straw etc. and,of course, hopefully sooner rather than later our latest crop of incompetents in the Coalition (Cable excepted!)

  • Komodo

    Jemand – My mentor in matters of correct elocution is Edna Everage’s husband, the late Norman Stoddard Everage. Whom I forgive you in advance for hating. I shall of course follow your suggestions, one of which actually happened to me. But the buffalo’s name was ‘Mitch’ and the pub was in Guildford.

  • Jemand

    Komodo, he was a good man, Mr E. Taken by the cruel scourge of prostate cancer, I believe. Mrs E always spoke so highly of him, in an oddly scathing sort of way. I suppose, when a woman loves a man so much and for so many decades, loathing contempt and deep love become indistinguishable.

  • Tim V

    Richard
    13 Apr, 2013 – 8:37 am. Unconsciously perhaps, with your “Margaret Thatcher was a mixed bag” might have coined a phrase. She was indeed! I couldn’t stand her when she came to power and she is not a figure I would idolise now but out of power and in her dotage, not to mention my own, my view of her has mellowed. She evolved from “Iron Lady” to a rather tragic figure “Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything”. The Times photograph of the old lady sitting on a Battersea Park bench with carer and police woman, still with the steely gaze, illustrated the lesson that power and importance are illusionary and passing. It is a lesson for all ego-centric human beings.

  • Tim V

    As is true with all of us, Margaret Thatcher was a product of her past and the random events that impacted on her. We should not detract from the formidable determination she applied to every stage of her development, against considerable odds. Nor should we be surprised that when ultimately she controlled the reins of power, she applied the same approach and techniques, whether the policy was right or wrong. She was brought up as a Methodist, effectively mainstream religion outsiders, non-conformists and crusaders. Her father was a grocer and mayor, which in small town politics was both status and within the Conservative Party, confirmation of lack of it. (We remember the famous 1966 Frost Report sketch) Heath who she displaced was the first lower class boy to lead the Conservative party and she was the second. In many ways this encapsulates the paradox of Thatcher in Party and country – never truly accepted, never “clubable”, yet independent, aspirational and connected to the average family and their concerns, an absence of which is a criticism frequently thrown at the present leaders. Her personal sympathy was never allowed to frustrate a policy to which she had become committed, as the miners, IRA hunger strikers and Argentinian crew of the Belgrano discovered to their cost. This was her strength and her weakness but those of us not faced with the weight of office or the obligation to take such decisions, are hardly qualified to make judgements. In a different world what if rabid Scargil, brutal IRA or fascist Argentina had been triumphant or if for that matter inflation had remained at 20%?

  • Komodo

    Inflation maxed out at 18%, not 20%.

    And ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premiership_of_Margaret_Thatcher ) “By 1983, manufacturing output had dropped by 30% from 1978. The productivity turnaround from labour-shedding proved to be a one-off, and was not matched by growth in output.[11] The industrial base was so reduced that thereafter the balance of payments in manufactured goods was in deficit.[3] In 1983 Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson told the House of Lords Select Committee on Overseas Trade:

    There is no adamantine law that says we have to produce as much in the way of manufactures as we consume. If it does turn out that we are relatively more efficient in world terms at providing services than at producing goods, then our national interest lies in a surplus on services and a deficit on goods.[12]”

    With the result we see today. 2.6M unemployed (under much-more massaged criteria), and millions in part-time work who need full employment. And much of that famed inflation figure was transferred into the property market:

    Before the financial crisis of 2007/8, the contrast was even greater: typical house prices rose by 31% in the previous five years (vs. 18% – pensioner income) and by 107% in the previous ten years (vs. 40% – pensioner income). Source: http://www.mortgageintroducer.com/mortgages/246216/250/Equity_release/House_prices_rise_twice_as_fast_as_retirees_income.htm

    That’s ~10% p.a. for the 15 years prior to the crash, and house price increases are still applauded by the media, when they should be deplored. Thatcher’s legacy. Great if you bought your council house in the 80’s – not so bloody great if you want to buy any kind of house now.

    Our vulnerability to the crash was enormously enhanced by our dependence on the financial ‘industry’; we are now unable to produce enough to get out of the mess thanks to Thatcher’s touching trust in the lobbyists who induced her to throw away manufacturing.

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