The many and various ways I pass the time now has a new addition. Usually it involves drinking coffee whilst sitting at a computer keeping in touch with chums, or sipping wine sitting on our tiny terrace catching the sun, and wondering what else I can do to avoid any cleaning or tidying or putting away of stuff and things that aren't even MINE. And now I am going to type this blog. Provided that doesn't become a chore as well, in which case...

Monday, 8 April 2013

Momentous Day, or a Sad Reminder of How Little Has Changed ?

I guess anyone under the age of about twenty-five won't have any very strong personal recollections of Margaret Thatcher.  Anyone between twenty-five and forty will maybe remember what their parents thought of her, but anyone over forty will have some strong views of their own, one way or another, about the time between 1979 and 1990 when she was the first and - to date ONLY - female prime minister of the United Kingdom.

It feels particularly telling that the Grim Reaper called on Baroness Thatcher to-day, the very day the present Conservative government began dismantling even more of the Welfare State (which Thatcher was famous for embarking on when she got rid of free school milk, even before the time she was party leader.  Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher, was her first nickname, long before she was Maggie or The Iron Lady).

She said later that there was no such thing as society.  A staggering assertion to emanate even from that always very sure of itself and neatly lipsticked mouth.  She was so sure that individual ambition was what drove and motivated the British, and the idea that we look after our own first, ourselves and our families, that was a natural law, almost, to her, and only then do we look outwards to helping our neighbours and the disadvantaged and poor.  So society doesn't exist. To Thatcher it was a myth. 

A nation is instead, in her eyes and ideology, a loose affilliation of self-serving individuals and self-absorbed households taking care of number one and one's own with far more enthusiasm than they want to take care of anyone else, however needy or vulnerable, beyond their own front doors

Altruism was an antiquated notion, with no place in modern life.  It fell a little short of Gordon Gecko's Greed Is Good, but not by much.  It was meant to shock, and it did.

Well, I guess that 2013. as well as being the end-date on a remarkable life, will also be a significant year to test whether she was right.  The present government seems hellbent on demonising the unemployed, the disabled, the sick with catch-all root-and-branch "modernisations" put in place to reduce the nation's welfare bill and drive a wedge between claimants and the "hard-working".  I am not sure that this harsh tactic will not backfire on the likes of Osborne and Ian Duncan-Smith, and the other vote-grabbing sound-bite merchants who feel so very sure that those able to work thoroughly resent paying to help support those who are not.

We still like fairplay in the UK.  We don't allow name-calling in our playgrounds, and we don't like it in our chambers of parliament.  Apart from one or two redtops, we don't support it in our newspapers, either.

The present cabinet is banking too much that "ordinary hard-working people" don't know, like or have any friendly dealings with anyone who is out of work, seriously unwell or disabled, and reliant on benefits to survive.  But they are wrong.  Most people do know and may even be related to a benefit claimant.  Most people know how very few of them try to make fraudulent, inaccurate, or exaggerated claims in the forms they fill out to apply for those benefits when they need them.  

So, I guess if there genuinely is no such thing as society this is the year we will find out.

Or at the next general election, for sure.


  1. Hari Om
    Welcome to Monday! This is a thought-provoking piece and of course I do have strong feelings as you mention - I suspect somewhat in line with your own. I cannot make comment on the welfare part since I have for so long been absent from those green and verdant shores. I do know that the problem of managing welfare GLOBALLY is a huge issue. There is not a cut and dried, right or wrong methodology for there will always be those who fall through the gaps and plenty who are ready to climb over them.

    In the end, only yards of history will be able to truly assess whatever happens - and mostly we won't be here to react to it. We'll simply be a pixel in its picture.

    Thanks for the thinking. ...any daffodils yet? YAM.

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  3. Oops - must proofread my comments better!

    A very thought-provoking post, Baby Sis and one I strongly agree with. I watched the lunchtime news and the coverage about Mrs T and rather liked the phrase used about her on the Welsh news – a ‘Marmite figure’. I can’t stand Marmite and couldn't stand her either, both as a person and for what she did. Such arrogant certainty that everything she was doing was right and such steely determination to push her changes through, however hated they were. She shifted the political spectrum a long way to the right and it still hasn't centred itself properly thirty years later. But she will be remembered, that’s for sure, when today's identikit politicians are long forgotten.

    One of my pet hates was the way she so often tried to reinterpret Christianity to support her conservative beliefs Grrr!

  4. I enjoyed reading your viewpoint. As a citizen of the US, we don't often hear or find views other than ones shown through the media. Two lessons I've noticed in my life: altruism is not as easy as it sounds and compassion is a mirror.

    By the way, I love your blog background and photo. Beautiful!

    1. The photo is The Dog's favourite flat firm sandy beach, at Barmouth in Wales.

      We had altruistic government and altruistic voting in the UK, before 1979, especially after 1945. I remember it well, and what I haven't experienced directly I have studied historically.

      I do hope by "compassion is a mirror" that you don't feel we humans only easily sympathise and connect with people like ourselves, who resemble us. It is a short phrase, axiomatic even, and I am not sure what you are wanting to convey by it. Perhaps I have misinterpreted it.

  5. Very thought provoking. As I left U.K. in 1965 I don't have any first hand knwledge of your benefit system but do agree with your comments in general.

  6. The next elections are the Local ones on 2 May.
    I don't regard myself as political; however,
    I can't state strongly enough the utter contempt I feel towards what "The Conservative Party" have done (especially Thatcher) and are doing (especially Osborne). I urge anyone reading this to vote (otherwise The Right wins by default - Hondts (statistical) Law etc which skews voting).
    I am also in favour of electoral change to a more inclusive system that is modelled around a lot more than the next 5 years of 'office'.

    1. I'd say you are one of the most political people I know, Robin, but you maybe aren't attracted to support or join any of the major parties as they exist and function now.

      Certainly you have come back to live in the UK "in interesting times" as the ancient Chinese curse has it.

      If non-coalition parties do well at the local elections next month it will be dismissed by the government as a mid-term protest vote. You wait and see...

  7. On the other side of the political spectrum, former first minister and Cardiff West MP Rhodri Morgan said [Thatcher] was a "lucky" prime minister.

    "It's an extraordinary coincidence that she has passed away on the very day that the coalition government has started to cut back on the welfare state that she helped to create with this over-generous passageway from unemployment benefit onto sickness benefit," he said.

    "This happened just as I had become an MP in the late 1980s when they had to massage the unemployment benefit figures down.

    "The way of doing it was a one-way valve into sickness benefit, disability benefit and, of course, while North Sea oil was available to pay for that, fine and dandy.

    "She was a lucky prime minister in that regard, but now 30 years later the coalition is having to try and reverse that and get people off sickness, the disability benefit, back onto unemployment benefit because the North Sea oil has run out."

    1. This was reported in the BBC today. I have been saying for weeks how will the world take it when the unemployment figures top 3.5 million, after up to a million IB or ESA claimants are moved to JSA (which should have happened by about summer of 2014, by my calculation).