Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Margaret Thatcher stood up for ordinary Britons - that's why the Left loathe her
By almost every standard, Margaret Thatcher was one of the greatest political leaders in modern history. She led Britain to victory in the Falklands, tamed the power of the unions, kick-started an economic revolution and unleashed the energies of aspiration and initiative.
None of this, of course, came without a cost. And since many industrial communities were badly scarred by the economic transformation of the Eighties, it is hardly surprising that not everybody remembers her fondly.
Yet it was profoundly shocking to read some of yesterday’s comments on the death of an 87-year old mother and grandmother who, as our first woman Prime Minister, earned a high place in the history books.
Only minutes after the announcement of Lady Thatcher’s death, the Respect MP George Galloway took to Twitter, declaring: ‘Tramp the dirt down’ — a sickening reference to Elvis Costello’s 1989 protest song about the Iron Lady, in which he sang: ‘When they finally put you in the ground, I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.’
And late yesterday afternoon, evidently regretting that his earlier abuse had not gone far enough, he tweeted: ‘May she burn in the hellfires.’
Mr Galloway’s contemptible effusions are now depressingly familiar. But he was not alone. The comedian Frankie Boyle tweeted a link to the YouTube video of Kool and the Gang’s song Celebration, while David Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, declared that it was a ‘great day’, even describing it as ‘one of the best birthdays I have ever had’.
On Facebook, a campaign to take Judy Garland’s Wizard Of Oz song Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead to No.1 attracted thousands of supporters — many of them not even born when Mrs Thatcher left office.
It beggars belief that anybody could react in such a boorish way to the death of an elderly woman.
I can understand why people who spent the Eighties in the Welsh coalfields, Scottish shipyards or industrial North are unlikely to remember Lady Thatcher with great affection. But I suspect most of them would be appalled by the crude and tasteless abuse of Mr Galloway and his cronies.
It is a myth, by the way, that everybody in the Labour Party hated Mrs Thatcher. Inside Parliament, many of her political opponents openly admired her.
When the former Grantham grammar-school girl became Tory leader in 1975, Labour’s Barbara Castle wrote in her diary of her pride and excitement that a woman had reached the top.
And only a few weeks ago Denis Healey, one of Lady Thatcher’s most bruising Labour opponents in the Seventies and Eighties, told the New Statesman magazine that he always considered Mrs Thatcher ‘good-looking and brilliant’. Outside Parliament, however, the trendy Left often loathed her.
Much of this was rooted not in ideological disagreement but in the most odious kind of social snobbery.
Margaret Thatcher was, after all, the most famous grocer’s daughter in history. Her values were those of the middle-class shopkeeper and the Methodist chapel — and the highbrow Left hated her for it. To the well-heeled, well-connected boarding-school products of the Labour Left, who were smug in the knowledge of their own righteousness, the prospect of an ordinary middle-class woman leading the nation seemed unthinkable. A classic example was the theatre director Jonathan Miller, a notoriously pretentious Hampstead intellectual who described her as ‘loathsome, repulsive in almost every way’.
The very superior Jonathan Miller
He hated, he said, her ‘odious suburban gentility and sentimental, saccharine patriotism, catering to the worst elements of commuter idiocy’. It is hard to read those words without gagging at the stench of patrician snobbery. What, after all, is so bad about being suburban or patriotic? Or, indeed, a commuter?
Alas, many of Mrs Thatcher’s Left-wing critics simply could not contain their condescension. Born and bred in their gilded little enclaves, they believed they knew what was right for ordinary people — even though they knew nothing at all about what the common man and woman actually wanted.
So it was that in the Seventies, when tenants pressed for the right to buy their council homes, the Labour Left blocked attempts to sell them. They simply could not understand that ordinary people wanted homes of their own, instead of having to take what the State gave them.
Nor could they understand that people were sick of trade-union militancy, sick of the strikes that had made Britain an international laughing stock, sick of the double-digit inflation and sick of the managed national decline. Today the high-minded Left still peddles the canard that Mrs Thatcher appealed only to the rich. But this is nonsense. When she won power in 1979, it was courtesy of a massive 11 per cent swing among skilled manual workers and 9 per cent among unskilled workers — usually so loyal to Labour.
Yet even as Mrs Thatcher continued to win elections, the trendy Left seethed with snobbish contempt. They sneered at her supporters — who were often ordinary working men and women trying to build better lives for themselves and their families — as ‘spivs’ and ‘Essex men’.
And where Mrs Thatcher herself was concerned, their condescension was boundless. One Left-wing commentator called her ‘Mike Yarwood in drag’, after the comedian and impressionist who used to mimic politicians, while the playwright and TV critic Dennis Potter wrote that with her ‘small pawing gestures’ and ‘glossy head tilted at a rather too carefully alert angle’, she reminded him of ‘everyone’s favourite celluloid b****, Lassie’.
It is hard to miss the repellent sexism here. Indeed, I have always thought that the Left would never have treated a man as cruelly as they did the Iron Lady.
Even today, in our supposedly post-feminist age, dozens of commenters on Twitter and the Guardian website see nothing wrong in describing Lady Thatcher as a ‘witch’, ‘hag’ or ‘b****’. Would they talk about a man in the same way? I doubt it.
The extraordinary thing, though, is that even though Lady Thatcher won three elections, transformed our country and spoke for millions of ordinary people, hatred of her is absolutely ingrained in great swathes of our academic and media classes.
What really infuriates, them, of course, is the fact that she appealed to so many ordinary voters.
Indeed, her real skill lay in her instinctive understanding of the ambitions and anxieties of the British people.
She would have known that most decent people would be horrified by the childish jibes of her critics.
And she would have taken comfort from the fact that in the long run, history will hold her in high regard.
She was not, of course, perfect — and, like any politician, she made her share of mistakes. But she helped to bring down the Berlin Wall, ended Britain’s long slide into irrelevance and spoke for millions of people who dreamed of a better life.
Perhaps above all, as Britain’s first woman Prime Minister, she became an icon of aspiration, social mobility and self-improvement. She did not so much break the glass ceiling as smash her way through it.
For my money, she stands alongside Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee as the greatest Prime Ministers of the last century. By comparison, today’s politicians — as well as Lady Thatcher’s childish critics — are pygmies, squabbling in her shadow.
As long as Britain endures, Margaret Thatcher will be remembered. And that, of course, is why the Left hates her.
Now there really is no such thing as society
Back in 1987, Mrs Thatcher was monstered over an interview in which she said: ‘There is no such thing as society.’ The Left seized on this remark as evidence of her heartless indifference to the plight of ordinary people.
What she was actually doing was condemning the use of ‘society’ as a convenient shorthand excuse for individual deficiencies, disappointments and delinquency. A quarter of a century ago, as in some quarters today, there was a knee-jerk readiness to blame ‘society’ for everything from drug addiction to violent crime.
Mrs Thatcher was also criticising the automatic tendency of people to look to the State as a cure for all ills.
She was of the firm conviction that society is the sum of its parts — individuals, families, churches, voluntary organisations, businesses. It was her belief that people expected too much from government, concentrated too much on their ‘rights’ and ‘entitlements’ and not enough on their obligations.
We all have a duty to help ourselves and our neighbours. Hers was a vision of a liberated, bottom-up society, not the bureaucratic top-down version favoured by Socialists.
It is especially relevant to today’s ferocious debate over welfare — safety net versus cradle-to-grave lifestyle option. Labour naturally favours a system in which the State Will Provide, even if it traps people in dependency.
If you make idleness a worthwhile career choice, why should anyone look for a job? It’s not their fault, is it?
After the Left lost the economic argument, following Thatcher’s third general election victory, they realised there was no future in brute force collective industrial action. So they embraced the notion of individual ‘rights’ as a way of furthering their agenda.
Labour decided it could no longer rely on white, working-class trades unionists to secure power. So it set about building what by then had become known as a ‘rainbow coalition’ based on the notion of victimhood.
Rather than ‘society’ the Left fastened on to ‘community’ as their buzzword. This didn’t mean community in its traditional sense, it meant ‘minority’.
It involved carving up society into myriad client groups and stoking their grievances, real or perceived, which could only be assuaged by new laws and lashings of taxpayers’ money.
Another champagne socialist at the heart of the British Labour party
Labour's Comrade Cruddas and the beautifully remote THIRD home on the Irish Coast where he is writing Miliband's manifesto
The Labour Election chief who lambasted Tony Blair for failing to provide enough cheap homes is planning to write the party’s manifesto from his latest new home – one of three he owns worth a total of £1 million.
The latest addition to MP John Cruddas’s portfolio is a self-designed holiday cottage overlooking a beach on a scenic isle off the coast of Ireland.
He has had an office added to the building so he can use it to write Ed Miliband’s General Election manifesto – in between ‘exhilarating’ walks and kite-surfing on the beach.
Regular flights from nearby Knock International Airport mean Mr Cruddas and his wife, Labour peer Baroness Healy, can ‘commute’ the 500 miles to Westminster.
The four-bedroom retreat in County Mayo is in addition to Mr Cruddas’s mansion block flat in West London’s fashionable Notting Hill and a third home in his constituency in Dagenham, East London.
Former union official Mr Cruddas fiercely criticised Tony Blair’s Government for chasing middle-class voters and claimed a ‘lack of affordable social housing’ was its ‘outstanding public policy failure.’
His outspoken views led to Mr Miliband putting Mr Cruddas in charge of a shake up of the Party’s policies and designing and writing its election manifesto.
Mr Cruddas designed his latest home on the beautiful island of Achill and had it built to his specifications, including an open-plan kitchen, dining room and an office.
From there he will be able to work on Labour’s manifesto overlooking a sandy beach instead of hectic Westminster or his tough urban constituency.
‘I am going to bring some of my colleagues here to do a bit of work and get away from it and sort out a few things,’ Mr Cruddas told an Irish journalist. ‘We have quite a big agenda ahead of us over the next couple of years but this will be the perfect place to get things done.’
He said the island setting is ‘one of the most beautiful places you can come across .... a strange type of beauty because it is a wild and ferocious type. There is nothing as exhilarating as walking along the beach, especially on Christmas Day’.
The holiday home, worth about £180,000, is also ideal for two of Mr Cruddas’ other hobbies, golf and fishing. He joined the exclusive, £1,500-a-year Walton Heath golf club in Surrey, once captained by the Duke of Windsor.
His new home is close to the greens of Achill golf club, which promises members ‘beautiful, ever-changing scenery and invigorating Achill air’.
The area, one of Ireland’s most popular holiday destinations, claims to have ‘the best fishing waters in Ireland’ with mullet, mackerel and skate. It also offers scuba-diving.
Ireland’s Atlantic coast is one of the furthest points in the British Isles from Westminster. In Mr Cruddas’s own words: ‘Next stop New York.’
While speaking out for Labour’s traditional supporters, Mr Cruddas, 51, and wife Anna, who both have Irish roots, are part of Labour’s ‘aristocracy.’ Mr Cruddas was Mr Blair’s union fixer in No. 10 and his wife was given a peerage after advising John Prescott and Harriet Harman.
As an MP, he earns a salary of £65,000 a year, while peers can claim a £300-per-day attendance allowance.
It is not the first time the couple have been involved in controversy over property. In 2007, Mr Cruddas was accused of using his MP’s second-homes expenses to fund a London flat which enabled him to obtain better schooling for his son.
The couple bought a home in Notting Hill for £375,000 and claimed more than £80,000 in expenses on the property, which fell within the catchment area of elite Catholic Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in nearby Holland Park. Pupils are required to learn Latin and attend weekly Mass.
The MP was able to make the second-home claims because he nominated his constituency home in Dagenham, worth about £200,000, as his ‘main home’ for expenses purposes.
At around the same time as he bought the Notting Hill flat, now worth up to £650,000, his son began attending Cardinal Vaughan School, known for its excellent results.
The secondary school nearest to Mr Cruddas’s constituency home, Dagenham Park Community School, is one of London’s poorest in terms of results.
Mr Cruddas denied he had moved simply to get his child into the school and said he had ‘always supported Catholic comprehensives’.
He provoked ridicule when he described Labour’s policy review as ‘not policy as such, rather the search for political sentiment, voice and language; of general definition within a national story. Less the Sprit Level, more What is England’.
A spokesman for Mr Cruddas declined to comment.
Did rising Labour star Chuka Umunna use a fake identity to edit his Wikipedia entry?
First he came under fire after it emerged he was a member of an exclusive social networking site for so-called ‘jetrosexuals’.
And now Labour’s Chuka Umunna is facing a new internet row, amid allegations he doctored his own Wikipedia page to include flattering comparisons with Barack Obama.
Mr Umunna, a rising star who is tipped to become party leader one day, is alleged to have created his own profile on the online encyclopedia in 2007, using the pseudonym ‘Socialdemocrat’.
At the time he was searching for a safe Labour seat for the next general election.
Over the years someone has tweaked his profile using the same pseudonym, adding flattering articles including one which described 34-year-old Mr Umunna as ‘the British Obama’.
But in public the MP for Streatham has played down the comparison, claiming ‘it annoys me a bit’.
Shortly after being elected he said: ‘You get lazy journalists and the odd blogger who’ll suggest that I fancy myself as “Britain’s Obama”, and that I seek to encourage the comparison.
‘It’s never been something I’ve encouraged. I want people to look at me as me, not through the prism of someone else’s personality.’
‘Socialdemocrat’ created Mr Umunna’s Wikipedia page on October 27, 2007, and appeared to have a highly detailed knowledge of his career.
That user has only edited two other Wikipedia pages, one of which belongs to Compass, a left-wing pressure group. Mr Umunna was on its management committee.
The other was the entry for columnist Kelvin Mackenzie, who had a robust exchange with Mr Umunna on the BBC’s Question Time.
Mr Umunna has used the term ‘social democrat’ to describe himself several times, and once told the Black Socialist Society that it was time to change its name as ‘the Labour Party today is not socialist but social democratic’.
Mr Umunna, a former lawyer and DJ, was forced to apologise last week after it emerged that he had described patrons of London’s nightclubs as ‘trash’ and ‘C-list wannabes’.
He made the remarks as a member of ASmallWorld, an invitation-only social networking site which has been described as MySpace for millionaires.
Conservative MP Nigel Adams said: ‘Comrade Chuka’s not doing his credibility much good this week. Like most champagne socialists, they talk a good game about standing up for the working man but are as transparent as a Gucci shop window.’
A Tory source said: ‘The only thing Chuka Umunna seems interested in is shameless self-promotion. It’s laughable for him to compare himself to Obama.
‘He says one thing in public and does another behind closed doors. Who is ever going to believe a word he says ever again?’
Mr Umunna told the Telegraph: ‘I don’t have any recollection of that log in or any of the changes. But I can’t say for certain that someone with my campaign did not set up that log in.’
He added that while he does not edit his own Wikipedia page, ‘my staff have had to correct it when it has been vandalised by racists and people of that type’.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.