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Who was worse – Thatcher or Cameron?

October 25, 2015


I’m hearing this debate a lot these day.  Cameron is worse than Thatcher.  The stuff that Cameron’s cabinet is doing seems far worse than anything Thatcher accomplished.  Thatcher was unable to really punish the worst off in society the way Cameron is managing to.  Back in the 1980s, there was a deal of sympathy for the mass unemployed.  When Tebbit said that the unemployed should get on their bikes and look for work – this was regarded as a terrible extremist statement – beyond the pale of decent political thinking. Now that Kickdownism is enshrined as the dominant religion of our age, Tebbit’s comment would hardly merit any attention.

Britain is now the most unequal society among developed nations.  It is also the least socially mobile.  It’s a “born poor – stay poor” country.  Cameron can say that he wants an “aspirational Britain” with a straight face because the kickdownism is now powerful enough to see off the challenge of “evidence”.  (Evidence, interestingly tells us that a humane welfare society provides not a trap but the basis for opportunity and that Scandinavian welfare states have the highest rates of social mobility.  When welfare states take care of people’s basic needs, folk have the leisure and energy to “aspire”).  The mission of the current government is reasonably clear – clearer than Thatcher’s agenda was – it’s the reinforcement of hereditary oligarchy.

Any yet, it seems to me that saying that Cameron was worse than Thatcher would be a bit like me claiming that I’m a better Physicist than Isaac Newton.  Because there’s quite a list of scientific concepts that I’m aware of and he wasn’t.  I’m aware of black holes and subatomic particles and a bunch of elements in the Periodic Table whose discovery postdates him (as does the Periodic Table).

But of course, I have done nothing, absolutely nothing, to advance the cause, the scope and the direction of Physics.  Now Cameron’s Britain may well be far crueler and more disgusting than Thatcher’s Britain in important respects.  Thatcher’s cabinets could not have got away with the kind of cuts that will kill thousands this winter – and they certainly could not have been photographed taking such cheerful relish in announcing these murderous measures.  But Cameron’s mob owes everything to crucial innovations that Thatcher developed in the field of just not caring about other people.  It was Thatcher who pioneered the idea that people should divest themselves of any sense of common good and cherish their immediate families at the expense of any other interest.

Britain will not last much longer – though it will last longer than it deserves to.  Cameron’s Tories, by passing EVEL have made it clear that if the price of preserving the union is the slightest deceleration in the rate of kicking poor people in the head, then the union can go take a running jump.  And historians of the twenty second century will spend much time debating whether Thatcher or Cameron did more to destroy Britain.

Modest Cameronians will admit that their own role was secondary.  Or to misquote a famous line mis-attributed to ol’ Isaac himself –

“If we can spit further than others – it is because we squat on the shoulders of monsters.”


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