Have the Conservatives changed enough?

One of the triumphs of Labour spin over the last twenty years has been to caricature Thatcherism. Because they so feared its success, economically and electorally, they set out to associate it with a set of unpleasant characteristics so we would “never go back to it”. Their presentation of Thatcherism was a tissue of lies, but quite successful with some people.

Labour sought to endow Thatcherism with five disagreeable features:

1. The economics of boom and bust
2. Belief in or acceptance of great inequalities
3.Run down of manufacturing
4.Intolerance of minorities
5. Cuts in “front line public services”

They also attempted to tarnish popular Euroscepticism with these alleged failures, branding the “old” Conservatives as too Eurosceptic, and seeking to associate this mindset with the rest.

The truth is, of course, the opposite of most of this. Thatcherism was based on

1. Honest money – economic policy was grounded on targets for the amount of money that could safely be allowed in circulation to fuel non inflationary growth. Boom and bust was introduced by shadowing the DM and by John Major’s policy of joining the Exchange Rate Mechanism against Margaret’s better instincts, a policy urged on him by Labour and the Lib Dems in a consensual act of folly. The one Conservative economic error was to become too Euro friendly and to join a European scheme of economic management which was bound to fail.

2. Encouraging a land of opportunity for all, where anyone could get on in life whatever their background, whoever their father was, wherever they went to school. High Thatcherism was based on shares for all, more small business activity,sharing wealth and income through hard work and access to opportunity.

3. Manufacturing was seen as an important part of our economy. It was in the Tory years that the motor industry was rebuilt in the UK by attracting foreign captial and management following the collapse of the nationalised UK industry. The pharmaceutical, aerospace and other leading industries flourished with appropriate government help.

4. I never heard Margeret Thatcher express any hostility to people on the basis of creed, colour, religion or lifestyle. We sought a Britain that used all its talents, whatever their background. We did not wish to make windows into men’s souls or to send in the thought police.

5. In the 1980s the government pursued a radical policy towards nationalised industry, but a very traditional cross party policy rowards Health, education and the police. Each year saw real increases in funding, and the PM regularly made speeches explaining how much extra the government was spending. She did not seek cuts to front line services and valued new schools, hospitals and the additional teachers, nurses, doctors and police which she recruited.

If we compare this with Labour’s recpord, the irony is that they have come closer to their caricature of Thatcherism than the Thatcher government ever did.

1. They followed a policy which created a far bigger boom and bust than the ERM
2. Inequalities rose under Labour
3. Manufacturing output fell under Labour , compared to growth under the Conservatives
4. Labour promoted some minorities, but attacked other groups in society which it did not like. Do not be a Nimby or a motorist under this government.
5. Labour continued with the policy of real increases in spending on most public services, yet it failed to fund the army properly for the wars it wished to fight, and allowed so much of the extra cash to be absorbed in administration and pay increases that some cuts did take place despite the record funding.

The changes Conservatives are calling for today are changes to the way the UK is run. We have been run by a government of spinners for too long. Their cariacture of Thatcherism is one of their successes. It is time we swept it away, pointing out it is a tissue of lies. If only we had had the same success with growth, industrial growth and rising living standards in the last decade that we enjoyed in the 80s we would be a lot better off. The Conservatives have “changed” from the caricature of Thatcherism – mainly because most of it is myth not reality.

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55 Comments

  1. OurSally
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    I love that word "spinner". In German it means lunatic, in the sense of living in a fantasy world, did you know that?

  2. Norman
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    What a breath of fresh air to read this. Why isn't every Conservative PPC saying this?

    I was speaking to a colleague just yesterday and he was telling me how well Mr Cameron came across in a program called 'Dispatches' and how he sensibly said that he wasn't against raising taxes if it came to it. I was almost bashing my head on the table. I explained to him why this wasn't anything a conservative would say and the effect high taxes have. I also told him things like statements like that are a kick in the teeth to those of us who have traipsed out to vote Conservative and deliver leaflets during the boom times in the last two elections when we had little chance.

    After 10 minutes he agreed with everything I said.

    Why on earth are we afraid of explaining to people the runaway success this country enjoyed in the 1980's and 90's compared to the economic apocalypse we face today?

    • Robert
      Posted March 10, 2010 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      Of course raising taxes is something a pragmatic Conservative leader has to be willing to do if absolutely necessary. The question is whether Mr. Cameron and others in the party understand the importance of a lower tax burden and will strive to reduce taxes wherever possible so that any tax rises needed to reduce our deficit are temporary. Everything I have heard so far from the party is that the leadership fully comprehends the need for lower taxes in order to help Britain compete.

    • Liz
      Posted March 10, 2010 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      My feelings exactly – the Conservative PCC seems frightened to say anything that might be popular with their supporters or the public in general or criticise Labour with the same vigour that Labour is attacking them. They seem to be on the back foot all the time and will not win if they carry on like this.

  3. Stuart Fairney
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    That's a good an interesting analysis, I would only take issue with two points.

    First "economic policy was grounded on targets for the amount of money that could safely be allowed in circulation" amounts to the declaration that we will run fiat money responsibly which is slightly empty as the inflation figures towards the end of the 1980's showed. This is a critique of all parties and perhaps the conservatives least, but by it's very nature fiat money is inflationary, sometimes very inflationary as Mr Brown seems intent on demonstrating.

    Second "the government pursued a radical policy towards nationalised industry, but a very traditional cross party policy rowards Health, education and the police" And in the statement we have the implication. The privatisations were by and large a roaring success, but the belief that all nationalised schools and hospitals need is better management is woefully inadequate. The need for these privatsations is manifest.

    (A general SF rule is that if something enjoys cross-party support, it's probably a nonsense; consider ERM membership, Afghan war, Iraq war, deficit spending, fiat currency, high taxes, intrusive government, nationalised schools, nationalised hospitals, no votes on EU constitutional treaties, man-made global warming, devolved powers to Scotland and Wales etc)

    Reply: Inflation started at the end of the 1980s because they were shadowing the DM, and in the process printing too many extra pounds to try to keep its value down. The Medium Term Financial Strategy worked well and did control inflation. You are right that most damage has been done by parties working together in consensus policies.

    • Kenneth
      Posted March 10, 2010 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

      What an extraordinary position to hold, Stuart Fairney!

      You write that it's "nonsense" that there wasn't a vote on EU Constitutional Treaties.

      And then, in the very same sentence, you write that it was "nonsense" for votes on Devolution to have been granted to Scotland and Wales about their Constitutional Futures with respect to the UK.

      That's total hypocrisy.

      • Stuart Fairney
        Posted March 11, 2010 at 5:27 am | Permalink

        Is it indeed? Setting aside the fact the Welsh assembly came into being as a Tony Blair vanity project on the basis of 25% yes, 25% No and a 50% non-vote (hardly the settled will of the people), and we now have a plethora of utterly third-rate politicos who couldn't even make it to Westminster and civil servants doing pointless, replicative work for an ersatz Westminster; setting aside the fact that the Welsh assembly building was one of the most disastrous and wasteful in public procurement history; setting aside the fact it consigns my fellow country men to grinding poverty and socialist failure forever; setting aside the fact they merrily and without shame spend more money than they raise as a nation (a neat metaphor for socialism if ever I heard it, spending someone else's money!), my concern is the Welsh version of the West Lothian question.

        If my fellow countrymen decide they want to raise their own cash and are happy to leave English education, health etc to the English MP's, then that's up to them. But at the moment the democratic imbalance is a tragedy that everyone pretends not to notice.

        It's not the assembly per se, nor the EU per se it's the shocking democratic deficit.

  4. Richard
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    A good summary. One point though – is it fair to blame ERM membership on John Major & say it was against Margaret Thatcher's better judgement? If it was against her better judgement she should have stopped it – or resigned. You can't be Prime Minister and deny responsibility for policies carried out on your watch. People should be reminded that Labour & Liberals, inc Blair and Brown, were pro-ERM.

    • Mike Fowle
      Posted March 11, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      It seems to me there are two points about the ERM, political and economic. You rightly say Richard that Brown and others were pro ERM, Brown fervently so. It was an extraordinary piece of spinning and media gullibility that he could carry out a complete reversal of his position and be taken seriously. But membership of the ERM although it would have been disastrous in the long term did squeeze a lot of inflation out of the system providing a great launch pad for the eventual bounce back after we left. I particularly remember the German response to our predicament. Possibly correct but don't rely on them to come to our rescue in the future when the full results of Brown's incompetence take hold.

  5. Slightly Green Conse
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    What an excellent post this morning. I shall keep it to show to all the people who still blame everything that goes wrong in the country on Mrs. Thatcher, even though she hasn't been in power for almost 20yrs.
    In the forthcoming election in my constituency we have an independent candidate who is saying more or less the same thing and has a proven record as a successful businessman. As for the Conservative candidate, he doesn't even have a website, and I don't know what he stands for, except for the usual vague soundbites. I'm tempted to give the former my vote, breaking a habit of over 20 yrs.

  6. Oranjepan
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately for this article, it overlooks one blazing problem with the argument: 'thatcherism' (whatever it was) was not a popular cult based on the personality of just one person, nor were the ideals described here brought perfectly to fruition.

    Consequently, however it has been characterised by friends or enemies of the creed does not reflect the changes in the country which are ascribed to it by either side.

    I think it is hopeless for anyone to describe something which has been descibed in such contradictory tones as either all good or all bad and is therefore brings ridicule on anyone who upholds it as such.

    Frankly, it just shows how wedded you are to outdated means of understanding the past that you even bother to raise it.

    Thatcherism died a generation ago and thinking people should really have begun to understand it in its proper historical context to be able to interpret the lessons it provides for today.

    It is just a shame that so many public representatives of long-standing typically allow themselves to get left behind and surpassed by contemporary developments.

    • waramess
      Posted March 10, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      Thatcherism did not die a generation ago, it epitomised right wing economics which have been laid to rest by our left wing politicians whilst they practice a bit of Keynesian economics.

      What a complete horlicks they have made of the economy as a result.

      Even its supporters are beginning to think they have lost the end-game whilst others are up for printing even more money to support the governments spending habits.

      No, I suspect it is not Thatcherism that is dead but Keynesian credibility that is dying a slow and painful death

      • Stuart Fairney
        Posted March 10, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

        Keynesianism was debunked in the stagflation of the 1970's and in any event, Keynes argued that in times of economic prosperity, governments should run a surplus and pay down debt. Mr Brown did not do this of course, quite the reverse in fact.

      • ManicBeancounter
        Posted March 10, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

        Whilst our current politicians may have left aside "right wing economics", they have not embraced Keynesian economics. Keynes would not have recommended a fiscal stimulus during periods of full employment. He would have warned about the need to keep something in reserve for the inevitable downturn, and also to reduce the credit-based boom.
        Rather the current government has been a populist one, eschewing economics in favour of spin. Any rationale in economic theory is secondary to that.

        • waramess
          Posted March 11, 2010 at 9:43 am | Permalink

          You are both right of course and I simply needed to put a label on it. Keynes for all his nonsense would also not have recommended incurring such huge debts to fight a recession so perhaps the label should have been bastardised Keynesian economics.

  7. Alfred T Mahan
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    "Successful with some people"? I'll say! The whole idea of decontaminating the brand of the Nasty Party arose because people weren't prepared in their bones to make these arguments. In effect, the New Labour world view took hold in the Conservative leadership, just as some Conservative ideas took shallow root in New Labour. I'm not talking about PR exercises like Hugging Hoodies and Eskimos – social concern and care for the environment have always been Conservative values, although the leadership's gullibility on Green issues has been unhelpful. I mean the "sharing the proceeds of growth" disaster and the belief that the State can solve any problem.

    The difference is that while true Conservative ideas were and are based on empirical evidence, the Labour world view was based purely on wishful thinking and spin and did not accord with the facts, as you have so clearly set out. Consequently the decontamination strategy was doomed to fail because it ditched effective policies for ineffective statist ones.

    We're now seeing the fatal consequences in the polls of that loss of nerve and intellectual rigour. Until the Conservative Party – and its leadership in particular – recovers its innate intellectual confidence it will always be looked on with suspicion.

    • APL
      Posted March 10, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      Alfred T Mahan: "The whole idea of decontaminating the brand of the Nasty Party arose because people weren’t prepared in their bones to make these arguments."

      Yes, that is absolutely what happened.

      Alfred T Mahan: "Consequently the decontamination strategy was doomed to fail because it ditched effective policies for ineffective statist ones."

      Very well said.

      The Tory party is no use at all, unless it is prepared to articulate and argue for policies that distinguish it from the Labour party. It hasn't done that over the last ten years and I think if it tried now, six weeks before an election, no one would believe them.

      What a tradegy.

  8. Sally C.
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    It isn't so much Conservative policies that are problem (although I agree with Norman and Stuart above) – but individual Conservative politicians do have a habit of shooting the party in the foot, eg. Shaun Woodward and Quentin Davies joining the Labour Party ( there is only one word to describe them and I can't use it here!). Then there are anachronisms like Sir Nicholas (I only do first class travel) Winterton, and to some extent Michael Gove, our Shadow Education Secretary, who apparently thinks that all school children need to learn poetry by heart. People need to feel that Conservative MPs are living in the real world and I do think that David Cameron, despite his Eton background, has gone a long way in achieving this.

  9. Ken Adams
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Yes it is a Labour success unfortunately one that is actually making the leaders of the conservative party think the only way forward is to turn it into an imitation of the Labour party.

    If only we had a real choice at the next election.

    It is a shame and evedence of the real change of direction from the top in the party, that you and others like you are not on the front bench.

  10. FaustiesBlog
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    This post is a breath of fresh air.

    Well said, John.

    The left (or should that be the Fabians?) have led a successful campaign. They have redrawn the political landscape by hacking away at truth.

    Surely, the way to tackle them is to use their own devices? Boil the frog slowly, put placemen into critical positions in critical institutions, and get rid of Labour placemen, when in a position to do so.

  11. Javelin
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    It looks like the Conservatives are going to have to overhaul the public sector and the public's perception of the public sector like they did in the private sector.

    For example, I sit next to an Indian guy who lives in the East End of London and is here on the highly skilled migrant program. He tells me a large number of people his wife has met from school are illegal immigrants and have their kids in the local school.

    He is completely puzzled how the UK Government is prepared to pay for children to go to school when their parents are here illegally. Why aren't they simply forced to show their passport? He asks quite reasonably.

    He is completely amazed how many immigrants come here and simply live off benefits. He is amazed at signs in the local library encourage people to claim benefits rather than get jobs.

    He says a lot of people near where he lives who he has met are students who have signed up to ropey colleges then simple go to work.

    He is completely amazed how high crime is amongst illegal immigrants and says they are scared to report it because they will get deported.

    He is amazed, every day, at how flabby the Government is.

    Every day he shakes his head and says what has happened to the country that used to be so Great.

    This not about being prudent it's about attitude and the non-acceptance of waste.

    • THE ESSEX BOYS
      Posted March 10, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      Let's face it Jav – it's about PLAIN COMMON SENSE!

      Essex Boy No 4

  12. Norm
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    That is the left's way – always accuse your opponents of your own failings.

    The problem is they get away with it.

    People are too willing to listen to advertising spin and Conservatives are the type that assume people are smarter and just won't believe outright lies.
    ie. they would sell an iPhone like "This phone's OK, but we've got another coming out soon with the features you expected this one to have"

  13. niconoclast
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    I am struggling to understand why in the worst recession for decades the conservatives are pledging billions of UK taxpayers money to foreign countries in aid.This is mind blowingly wicked global Socialism.

    • Michael Lewis
      Posted March 10, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      Because it may be money well spent in -some- cases and in our national interest.

      • Eotvos
        Posted March 11, 2010 at 4:31 am | Permalink

        Michael, does that included the money given to our friends in the Carribean who want us to hand the Falkland Isles to Argentina? What about India, the largest benefactor of our largesse? A country with more billionaires than the UK. I suppose it helps them sustain the (divisive caste system -ed)they practice and allows them to build bigger and better nuclear weapons.

        What about the £312M that the DfID 'lost' in Malawi? What benefit did the UK accrue from that?

  14. THE ESSEX BOYS
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    We're sure this will be a recurring theme in the next 2 months and we are convinced that a clear, strong and unequivocal manisfesto on Day 1 of the GE campaign is essential but still far from settled at Tory HQ.
    We look forward to contributing to the debate but, meanwhile, recommend reading The Slogger who is becoming, quite rightly, increasingly agitated and never far from the long-term thinking of our host. Please see below…

    Tuesday, 9 March 2010
    FOUR SIMPLE & OBVIOUS REASONS WHY THE RECOVERY IS A MIRAGE

    When Labour's spin machine has finally exhausted the Ashcroft non-event, we must hope that voters will come round to thinking about important things.

    There is no recovery. It is a myth, and everyone in Government knows it.

    These are four things a first-year Economics student would expect to accompany an economic recovery:

    1. Rising exports….especially with a cheap Pound. Today's trade gap has widened to £8 billion, or half an Iraq if you believe Gordon. Exports are not rising because we have very little to sell, and almost nothing people want at the right price.

    2. Rising property prices….with more people feeling confident enough to trade up, and more retail entrepreneurs opening. The housing sector is static and nervous, the retail sector is very close to a frightening level of collapse…and the high streets are full of charity shops.

    3. Falling unemployment…with more confident businesses staffing up. There was a minute rise in all employment last month…and a 95,900 rise in people working only part-time. Out of 36 countries polled by the employment group Manpower last week, 27 were taking on new hires. Britain wasn't one of them.

    4.An end to Government stimulation of economic and lending activity…the new buzz-abbreviation QE. Last week BoE head Mervyn King hinted strongly that the Bank would restart QE. This vindicated The Slog's claim of two weeks ago that 'the private sector is nowhere near strong enough to support a recovery on its own'…because our manufacturing base is knackered. (Now go back to Point 1 and start again).

    Any nation allowing thick, greedy bankers with tunnel vision to 'guide' the economy is asking for trouble.

    Any electorate believing the economic fantasy predictions of a Chancellor (who has not so far got a single forecast right) in an election year is naive bordering on mad.

    And finally, any country allowing the State too big a say in how economies develop is doomed to fail.

  15. David B
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    I think you have missed one of the biggest and most unfair criticisms of Margaret Thatcher and that was the claim she created a selfish society.

    I believe this to be untrue, what she created was a society that allowed people to better themselves by hard work. She gave them the means and she removed the road blocks that previous governments had placed in the way achievement. She achieved this by lowering tax rates and having people judged by their abilities, reducing red tape and encouraging start up business. The state became less important and most less self-important!

    This government, like the governments of the 1960’s and 1970’s have made people more dependent on the state. Making it more difficult for people to escape the poverty trap. This has lead to a culture which is truly selfish as people what to know what is in it for them, what can they get for nothing. It has also lead to a lack of ambition and a lack of hope and the government once again believe it can control outcomes by making statements and passing legislation.

    Looking after yourself and your family is not selfish, expecting ours to look after you is.

  16. APL
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    JR: "Their presentation of Thatcherism was a tissue of lies, but quite successful with some people .."

    I once in my teens voted Liberal. But ever since have preferred Tory, you might say being a Tory – definately 'right of the conventional political spectrum – is in my blood.

    Imagine the accomplishment of the Tory party post Thatcher, to have persuaded me of the futility of voting Tory ever again?

    JR: "Margaret’s better instincts, a policy urged on him by Labour and the Lib Dems in a consensual act of folly."

    John, don't whitewash, there were plenty of highly placed 'wets' in the Tory party prepared to support the Euro. We know their names and they won't be forgiven.

    Norman: "Why isn’t every Conservative PPC saying this?"

    Hand picked from the list approved by Conservative Central office which is a silo opperated by Cameronites. As such they are ashamed of Thatcher, her success persuing right of centre free market policies is anathema to the left of the Tory party*.

    *In effect these people are not Tories, they are renagades from the Liberal party who can't stomach the alternatives; 1. being in the Labour party, 2. not being in power at all.

  17. THE ESSEX BOYS
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Many will agree that this commentary on the merits of 'Thatsherism' are overdue and timely. 2 of our band of 5 moved overseas in 1979 to return for visits in the late 80s. The changes in roads, railways, new car and house ownership and general optimism and pride in Britain's standing were clear and, after the Labour drudgery of the 70's, frankly amazing!

    Since returning we have seen the process reversed and regularly wrote to the Tory leadership to ask them to shout about the great state of the UK economy in 1997 having recovered from 2 world-wide recessions. They failed to do so.

    What's needed is a simple chart of the facts – 1997 v 2010.
    Debt, running deficit, balance of payments, exchange rates, equity prices, employment, immigrant numbers.

    Would it be possible to devise such a simple chart here that we concerned Britons can reproduce and circulate?

    • THE ESSEX BOYS
      Posted March 10, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      THATCHERISM and IS overdue!

      Must learn to sub edit properly!

    • alan jutson
      Posted March 10, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

      Essex Boys

      Agree absolutely with this concept, which I also suggested last year on this site.

      A full and factual comparison of the Country's financial situation in 1997 and now, with all figures from approved independent sources.

      And please use figures not words.

      Ie: £1,000,000 not £1 million. etc.

      Also List all of the announced tax rises in all of the Budgets since 1997 to date.

      The listings may shock some people when they realise exactly how much this lot have wasted, and how much more they have mortgaged us for in the future.

      • THE ESSEX BOYS
        Posted March 10, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

        Thanks Alan.

        Any help you can give, John, will clearly be appreciated by your some of regular contributors.

    • Citizen Responsible
      Posted March 11, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      “What’s needed is a simple chart of the facts – 1997 v 2010.”

      If this were available, I would email it on to all my contacts.

  18. Stronghold Barricade
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Much of what you say is backed up by historical fact, but when has that stopped politicians

    On the Today programme this morning I heard that Ed Balls had to apologise to Michael Gove for his education statistics tirade

    …and yet even with these clear advantages the tories appear unable to take the fight to Labour and challenge their policies

    Remember that Mrs T got in by denouncing the Heath/Callaghan type of politics and saying that "it wasn't working"

    With the biggest open goal in history, and a Labour Party teetering on the brink of financial insolvency the Tories are not attacking the record

    Therefore, the tories must want to continue Labour policies

    …and still the Labour administration pours money into SCR's which could be done away with if we accepted French practice.

    Where are the teeth that tear apart the lies, where are the challengers to the lobby fodder who meekly accept their hand outs from the government machine and never check facts?

  19. Bob
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I agree with you John, but I'm not sure that your front bench would, apart from Mr. Hague.

  20. no one
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    if mrs T were younger and healthier she would win a massive election defeat against all comers at the moment

    the thing I reflect on most about her time was the message she gave on the stairs after one of the election wins, when she said something like "lets not forget the inner cities, lets work harder for them too" which i thought was a brilliant insight whoever nudged her to say that, sadly many of the worst sink estates and inner cities have been left to ruin through all governments – terrible schools – the worst GPs – and so on, that statement was never followed through on

    other than that I agree with what you have said john

    • JT
      Posted March 10, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      What party would Mrs T stand for

  21. Alan Wheatley
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    I agree wholeheartedly with all that you say, John.

    I would like to add one point on an issue you raised but did not expand upon – eurosceptism.

    With regard to the EU, the Conservatives are trying to repeat the efforts of Margaret Thatcher to negotiate the UK's relationship into a much more favourable and appealing arrangement. What the current Conservative Party leadership have failed to do is to learn from her experience that such effort is futile. And if you want an authority for my assertion I refer you to Margaret Thatcher herself: Statecraft, strategies for a changing World. The whole book is worth a read, but chapters 9 & 10 are most relevant in this context.

  22. THE ESSEX BOYS
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Essex Boy No 4….

    There's so much common sense on this site that it would invigorate all we contributors if we knew that Tory HQ were plugged in and regularly reading the constructive comments of their thinking supporters – many of us with more real life and business experience than most at HQ we hazard a guess.

    How about a sign of some acknowledgement chaps!

    All I can add to comments of my colleagues is that we regularly get no response at all from constructive ideas sent to Conservative MPs, including the Leader's office, and this is not only complacent and unprofesssional but downright bloody rude!
    Fit and ready for government? PROVE IT!

    Reply: Rest assured that the Leader and the Shadow Chancellor get to hear the distilled wisdom from this site, as I send them ideas and comments.

    • THE ESSEX BOYS
      Posted March 10, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

      That's reassuring thanks John.

      No 4

  23. Kevin Peat
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    "If we compare this with Labour’s record, the irony is that they have come closer to their caricature of Thatcherism than the Thatcher government ever did."

    So what does David Cameron do ? Declares himself heir to Blair.

  24. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    JR "We have been run by a government of spinners for too long"

    Correct; yet, after all this time, your party doesn't seem able to deal with their lies and deceit. Too many in your party were also happy to ditch any connection with the Thatcher years as they mindlessly embarked on their "modernisation" or "re-branding" or some such tosh. Consequently, probably the most unpopular government, which has wreaked havoc on our economy, is within a whisker of re-election for a record fourth consecutive term.

  25. Martin
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    "Do not be a Nimby or a motorist under this government."

    I must confess I thought NIMBYs have flourished under this government. We now have a planning system in this country that is NIMBYist and nothing much else. The planning system is neither socialist or free-market. Want a free boost to the economy? Dump the present stupid do nothing planning nonsense.

    Regarding motorists we have to face it that with a weak Pound and a global oil shortage life is not going to be easy. I recall a previous Conservative government wanted to widen the M4 from Heathrow to Swindon and it was not popular with Conservative areas along the M4.

    P.S. Has the anti-domestic aviation stuff by your Transport lady been dumped yet?

  26. Johnny Williams
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    John

    Another excellent and well polished piece. However, I have noticed that you are posting earlier and earlier, the closer we get to the General Election. ( 6 AM today!)

    Can we expect 24 hour postings during the last seven days before this upcoming Election? I doubt that I shall be able to sleep, much closer to the final day I have to wake up to Gordon Brown being our Prime Minister. This man is so detested by the Public across the Country as a whole.

    He remains at the core of any Conservative Manifesto, "Do you really want five more years with this man in charge of your Country?"

    Kind Regards

  27. Oranjepan
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Nobody has a unique claim on truth, least of all politicians and political parties.

    Politics presents alternatives each of which have their own consequences.

    This article notes the negative consequences of his opponent, but it fails to identify those of which he advocates for, such how the confusion caused by the regulatory reforms under Labour matched the chaos caused by aggressive deregulation under Thatcher.

    Then to overlook how European relations remain at the forefront of integrating markets to provide increased trade opportunities – however sceptical anyone may be about the institutions – simply ignores the reality that a workable system is required.

    And to conclude your side is the better of two evils is really to refuse to admit defeat in a losing cause.

    "We can't be bad because there's someone else worse" is a laughable argument!

    So I would welcome a more humble exposition of the economic failings he accepts responsibility for on behalf of Thatcherism. His failure to do so is precisely the grating aggressiveness laced with malintent which gives off the scent of nastiness – I don't want to find out exactly how poisonous Thatcherism can be again.

    I want new choices.

  28. ManicBeancounter
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Another aspect of "Thatcherism" was that it had a vision. Mrs T knew where she wanted to take the country. She was reviled because that vision differed from the statist consensus and the left-wing extremism that nearly buried the Labour Party.
    Much of the anger still felt towards the notion of Thatcherism in the modern Labour Party is due to their lack of any vision whatsoever. It is their very emptiness that gets them to gush forward ideas to fill the headlines, and attack any bogeyman they can dream up.

  29. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted March 11, 2010 at 3:32 am | Permalink

    It's not a question of whether the Conservatives have changed enough. Our current problem is that Gordon Brown is getting away with murder.

    Every time that he gets up in the House of Commons or spouts on the Beeb, he tells three big lies:
    (1) That he somehow "saved the world"
    (2) That the Conservatives have been wrong on every economic issue in opposing him
    (3) That the Conservatives have no economic policies

    We live in a world where the frequently repeated big lie gains the aura of truth unless it is flatly contradicted. It needs a big set piece speech spiced with something controversial to ensure that the media reports it – and the full text should be handed out in advance. And David Cameron needs to contradict him in the Commons.

    On (2), we have let him get get away with the assertion that the world recession is somehow an "Act of God" that Gordon has manfully coped with. Wrong! The boom and bust were primarily caused by reckless behaviour for nearly a decade by the governments, monetary authorities and banks of the USA and the UK. Secondary players were the nations of southern Europe (given license by the creation of the Euro) and Dubai (allegation left out)It needs to be said and said often.

    Just in passing, the spirit of spin is exemplified by the statement "What matters is not what is true or false but absolutely what is believed." (etc…)

  30. Bazman
    Posted March 11, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    The reality of Thatcher is largely seen by how old you are, where you live or lived and what you do, or in many cases did for a living.
    The destruction of industry, the worst unemployment and child poverty figures ever, along with high crime are still the legacy of the Thatcher era carried by much of the working population and don't forget the largest civil unrest ever due to the poll tax. In the north and north east of the country at the time, much was an industrial wasteland which only picked up when labour was elected and started public spending. If you have ever been unemployed, sacked or made redundant ie working class, then you would see Thatcherism sacrificed society for an economic gain for a minority of the population and if you didn't like it would use the power of the state against you at great public cost. Thatcherism was mostly propped up by oil like any other 'ism'.

    Reply: You have repeated the tired old Labour slogans – try looking at the facts. Manufacturing did better under Mrs T than under Labnour since 1997.What about the 5m plus of working age without a job under Lab before the recession hit?

    • Lindsay McDougall
      Posted March 12, 2010 at 4:34 am | Permalink

      Mrs T had to cope with 3 things simultaneously:
      (1) Reducing Labour's fiscal deficit (plus ca change …………..)
      (2) A hardening of sterling because of the discovery of north sea oil
      (3) The invention of the micro chip

      Small wonder that unemployment rocketed to 9%. It wasn't really her fault. What was she to do? Prop up archaic, loss making, overmanned and union dominated industry?

  31. Billy Blofeld
    Posted March 11, 2010 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    An excellent, refreshing and entirely accurate read………..

  32. S Whittfield
    Posted March 11, 2010 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    " One of the triumphs of Labour spin over the last twenty years has been to caricature Thatcherism. Because they so feared its success, economically and electorally, they set out to associate it with a set of unpleasant characteristics so we would “never go back to it”. Their presentation of Thatcherism was a tissue of lies, but quite successful with some people".

    A very interesting article. Is this an admission by Mr Redwood that the Cameron administration's craven acceptance of Labour's 'nasty party' label has been a massive mistake. Cameron himself said "there is no turning back".
    What does he mean ? – no turning back to the popular Conservative views and values held by the majority of people in this country which won them three elections ?. I say three not four elections, Major wasn't very Conservative. As Maggie commented to Major "John your not being Conservative enough" and she was dead right. Pity she hasn't given the same advice to Cameron….

    Surely this is why the Conservative party under Cameron is so weak in attacking Labour – he has done much of Labour's work by attacking his own party's values and record. Instead of fighting the Labour caricature and standing up for Conservative values he took the wrong path and cowardly surrendered to the Labour accusations and spin.
    So now anything with any association with the 'old' Conservatives is almost ignored….Europe ,immigration, reducing welfare spending when the people are crying out for strong action and leadership on these issues. Other deeply un-conservative policies enthused over by Cameron are copying Labour's reckless spending plans that has helped get us into the worst financial crisis in living memory and having a bloated foreign aid budget. Is anyone surprised they are only a few points ahead in the polls ?

  33. Bazman
    Posted March 12, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    You could argue all day over Thatcherisms economic and social policies being a force for good or evil. Probably both. Have the Conservatives changed enough? The answer is no. The fundamental thinking of the Conservative party, which is as relevant today as it has always been, is that they put forward, support and implement economic and social policies that they themselves will never be affected by. In short they never have to swallow their own medicine or even believe they should. Even traditional conservatives like small businesses during Thatchers time were falling at an unprecedented rate. All the Conservative supporters will just retort that they must have been inefficient anyway. What makes you Cons so clever and untouchable? We all know what does and it ain't intelligence or cleverness that's for sure. Deference and entitlement would be closer to the truth.

  34. CA mens hoodies
    Posted March 20, 2010 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    Excellent article, bookmarked for future referrence!

  35. cheap ghd
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    You can’t be Prime Minister and deny responsibility for policies carried out on your watch. People should be reminded that Labour & Liberals, inc Blair and Brown, were pro-ERM.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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