I am a child of the Cold War. Nostalgia for me involves talk of the Fulda Gap, the Three Day Week and rats in London streets due to uncollected garbage, Genesis (the group not the Biblical one), Deep Purple, terrifying flairs and garish wide ties, Nationalisation, Arthur Scargill, Bloody Sunday … followed by Adam Ant, Ultravox and New Romantic shirts, Frankie says RELAX, Privatisation and… Margaret Thatcher.
I would not have described myself as a libertarian back then even though I more or less was (and indeed I was only vaguely aware of the term, preferring ‘Classical Liberal’ in the non-debased non-US sense). And I still do not call myself one really, even though I more or less am. But for more than a decade I did indeed take delight in calling myself a Thatcherite (even though I only ‘kinda’ was), primarily because it was a wonderful shortcut for discovering all I needed to know about whoever I was speaking to at that time, just by watching their reactions.
I fully expected the Cold War to end in either a global Götterdämmerung or at least with ‘us’ and ‘them’ killing each other in the streets of Britain as our utterly worthless political class (plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose) finally imploded and the decades of animosities boiled over. No one was going to change the fundamental direction things were headed and I did not just expect to have Molotovs thrown in my direction, I was expecting to be throwing them myself because I hated ‘them’ as much as they hated ‘us’. And I still do.
And then… Thatcher happened.
She was the leader of the
Stupid Party Conservative Party and yet she was saying a great many of the things I was thinking, even if I was not always saying them. Years before LOLcats and the internet, there was a caption above my head that read “WTF?”
The more I listened, the more I could hardly believe my ears. We needed a whole lost less state domestically and rather more state pointed Eastwards, because if you did not like the state we had now, you really would not like the one those guys (and assorted domestic traitors) wanted for us. This was only… sort of, kind of… what happened but there was no disguising that this was very clearly not the future the
Evil Party Labour Party had in mind for us… and she was making it actually happen.
All this and all Thatcher did needs to be understood within the context of the Cold War (and winning thereof, against both the Soviets directly and their domestic UK stooges).
Even back then I knew she was not even nearly radical enough but the important thing was she actually talked openly and eloquently about the limits of state power. And she did perhaps the most masterful and subversive single act of any modern politician I can think of: right to buy… turning recipients of state largess into private property owners, permanently removing a valuable asset from state ownership.
Maggie Thatcher pissed off all the right people and I swung her name around like a handbag with a brick in it.
And of course ever since the day she was brought low by her own party, I have been looking for the next Thatcher, someone who can pick up the pieces and tie off the contradictions and replace that succession of worthless dissembling jackanapes from Major (the Grey Man) to Cameron (Heath-lite). Portillo had promise but proved to have feet of clay… David Davies had (and indeed still has) real promise and actually believes in civil society and the notion that Conservatives should be (gasp) conservative. But as a result the Stupid Party hate him and instead of Nigel Lawson, we have a moron like Osborn who five years after what happened in 2008, wants it all to happen again.
There is no new Thatcher on the horizon that I can see, unless by some improbable miracle Nigel Farage manages a 1922 style permanent reordering of the current dire political order of things. But then I could scarcely believe the likes of Margaret Hilda Thatcher could have happened either.