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What Thatcher was right about

John Rentoul

MerylStreepAsMaggie1 206x300 What Thatcher was right about“It’s as if Margaret Thatcher never existed.” With the release of 1981 Cabinet papers and this week’s The Iron Lady, my column in The Independent on Sunday today returns to a familiar theme.

Most people on the left came to accept that, although the costs were too high, she was right about the trade unions, free markets and the importance of low inflation. Monetarism was flawed economics; mass unemployment was not a “price well worth paying”; benefit dependency was one hell of an unintended consequence; and under-investment in public services subtracted from personal prosperity. But the Labour Party abandoned sub-Marxist dreams of abolishing the laws of supply and demand, and accepted economic freedom, the rule of law and sound public finances.

I used this as an excuse for an unfair criticism of Maria Eagle and Robert Halfon, two politicians whose grasp of economics seems uncertain. Eagle, Labour’s transport spokesperson, wants a lower limit on rail fare increases. In other words, as she is not proposing higher subsidy, she is proposing higher fares for those facing below-average increases. Put that in the manifesto.

Just to show I am not biased, I also question the e-petition for “cheaper petrol and diesel” drawn up by Halfon, the Conservative MP for Harlow. The cuts in fuel duty must be paid for by higher taxes on something else, or cuts in public spending, or higher borrowing. Sadly, these are not specified by the petition. Instead, it proposes going to the free money tree and picking some of the low-hanging fruit, which is the only sensible translation of “pressure big oil companies to pass on cheaper oil to motorists” and “set up a commission to look at market competitiveness, and radical ways of cutting fuel taxes in the longer term”.

Photograph: Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady

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  • porkfright

    What Thatcher was right about-well, nothing at all, really. End of story.

  • porkfright

    Sensible left being born-again Tories, no doubt.


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