Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Who is Margaret Thatcher?

There has been much made of the fact that teenagers and young people who were not born till after Thatcher left office don't know about Thatcher and Thatcherism. This raises the question: Should they know who she was? In the Times newspaper April 9 George Osborne said that, "children will study the former Prime minister in the same way that they study Elizabeth 1, Cromwell and Churchill."

Do I want to study about Thatcher? I partly agree with George Osborne. I read up on Thatcher during last summer's school holidays. I came to the conclusion that her legacy still lives on and has woven itself into the fabric of our economic, social and political systems. If you think about it, in the days before she died the harshest ever welfare reforms were implemented and people who didn't manage to buy their council houses were hit with the bedroom tax. Thatcherism is everywhere. Just as are the people who dislike her, who were born after she had left No 10. Her shadow looms large. People who turned out to party at Trafalgar Sq yesterday prove this point. The right may refer to them derogatorily as being 'lefties' or 'Marxists' but an intellectual point is lost - while Thatcherism is practised in any shape or form the recipients have a right to either agree or disagree.

Osborne says that "Margaret Thatcher was an optimist... She had optimism that Britain's best days lay ahead of it  not behind it..." If Thatcherism was taught in this way it would be brainwashing.  Thatcherism would have to be taught in a way that drew together the facts and the evidence. As a student I would want to be taught about how Hayek's "Road to Serfdom"  came to knock Keynes off  the nation's bookshelf. Most importantly, I would want to know why a woman who wasn't open to new ideas and wasn't for turning came to dominate the lives of children who will be born after her death.


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Friday, 12 April 2013

Enough of the Politicization of a Song Which is Associated with Childhood


Suddenly everything is being centered around Margaret Thatcher. I know that she was probably the most famous British PM to date but using a children's song for political point making is wrong and immoral. When I was younger I used to sing along to 'The Wizard of Oz' and the sight of quirky munchkins jumping around demands that this song be remembered for being a jolly and great piece of acting, singing and dancing. Let us    just remember Toto, Munchkins and Dorothy. 
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Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Five Mysteries of Thatcher to a Young Person


I was born almost ten years after Thatcher had resigned and yet I have heard her name being both condoned and praised all at the same time as I have been growing up. Coincidentally, I read up on Thatcher last Summer during the school holidays and I was stunned by the contradictions of her premiership.

1. Why does Thatcher's time in office come across as a series of unrelated knee jerk events? She seemed to be so driven by the ideology of the free market that her years seemed to lack a narrative. Ideology, surely, must be followed by coherent practice. Miner's strikes, right to buy, Germany etc - what was the unifying ideological practice? The miners were fighting for the right to work. Working class people were given the right to buy council property but their means to earn a living were reduced.

2. Why do people insist on calling her a feminist when she herself said that feminism had done nothing for her. Thatcher never believed in collectivism so how could she possibly be a feminist?

3. Why wasn't Thatcher held to more account for not spending the North Sea revenue to improve the country when Gordon Brown is constantly criticized for selling the gold reserves at low prices?

4. Thatcher wrote about how thrifty she and her family were. There is even a story about how they reused thread. How did this thrift extend to an 80s error of champagne and Rolls Royce excesses?

5. She was a show woman. PMQs were about her taking bows, getting the loudest agreements and a delight in upsetting people. What happened to that war spirit that she wrote about when she said "So I did not grow up with the sense of division and conflict between classes".

What was Thatcherism about - just the free market? Isn't that a purely hands off approach?
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Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Would you Employ a Young Disabled Person?

 This is what we need trade unions for. The  SERTUC branch of  the TUC hosted a conference called "Young Disabled People- Employed and Empowered?". In an age where disabled people are being branded as 'scroungers' the youngest of these are suffering. The stats are depressing with 15% of young people with disabilities unemployed, out of education or not in training and 21 % aged 16-24 with no qualifications.

The conference was a brilliant platform for an analysis of how disabled youngsters are coping in the current economic climate and it showed that the cuts and language used stigmatizes them to an extent where employers do not believe that a young disabled person will fulfill the job in the same way that a person without a disability could. The cuts have also slowed down what young disabled people can do because they don't have as much access to facilities such as private transport (public transport is difficult to use). Ambition, that is what is being thwarted here. Access to university, school and work which provide qualifications and life skills are being halted because of lack of funding.

In hindsight I wonder if the Paralympics was a convenient event for the cuts that followed? I am being cynical but I think that the glory of  (so called) helping and providing opportunities for disabled people provided a smoke screen that is hoped would outweigh the cuts and demeaning language used by the Government to justify welfare reform.


Please sign the WOW petition to stop the war on welfare 



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Monday, 1 April 2013

REALLY Uneasy about Being a Lib Dem Today because of Welfare Reform


Me at the protest against bedroom tax on the 30th  March



The Lib Dem principles of, "Fairness, equality and community" have all been breached with the welfare reform and I find myself wondering what our party stands for. The reform which upsets me the most is the replacement of DLA with PIP where 500,000 disabled people will be found ineligible for the payment (BBC source). The most vulnerable in society are being the most hard done by while rich politicians, such as Grant Shapps and our own Nick, sit in their Westminster bubble untouched.

No matter which way you dress up this welfare reform it is not about curing the deficit and gaining growth. It is about a neo-liberal agenda that wants to eradicate state spending. If this was really about cutting the deficit then strong attempts would be made to get the green economy going (kick John Hayes) and to get construction going on the demand side. What about tax dodgers? How much money is lost there?

As soon as you see people like Fraser Nelson talking about how IDS is trying to lead people on welfare to prosperity through work you know that welfare reform is about a play on ideologies and words to create a false picture of those on welfare. The majority on benefits are working but don't earn enough because wages have gone down. Idleness seems to be the only trait picked on by the Government and has been used to stigmatize the unemployed. It is so easy to pick on those who are not likely to vote Tory or Lib Dem and who are not engaged with politics.

 I know that the welfare state was bloated but a scale down of this size is unjustifiable in circumstances where there is no growth, the rich don't pay for their part and Britain has lost the AAA rating. The Government is playing a game of shame blame and deflection away from its' failures by turning the tables to misrepresent the most vulnerable. The government comes up with so many excuses to implement a right wing agenda that tells the same old story of bad immigrants, skivers and work shy people. This isn't about the good of the country folks, it is about kicking aside those who are an inconvenient truth for the need for a proper and constructive welfare state. 


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