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On Balance a Necessary Prime Minister

John Rentoul

margaret thatcher 281x300 On Balance a Necessary Prime MinisterWe were discussing in the office, once again on a Saturday, what the reaction would be to Margaret Thatcher’s death, as we made contingency plans (again) for The Independent on Sunday.

I said I thought she would be remembered as a prime minister who saved the British economy but at too great a social cost. It wasn’t necessary to push unemployment that high – and so much of it hidden on sickness benefit – to end excessive trade union power.

Indeed, the breaking of trade union power may well have gone too far: part of the problem with today’s labour market is that low-paid work is so insecure, with zero-hours contracts and so on, that it makes it harder for people to get off benefits.

But she laid the foundations for decades of economic growth from which the vast majority of the country eventually benefited, and moved several unresponsive public industries into the private sector (do you remember telephone sockets and being able to buy your own answering machine? – although I do remember saying that I had no problem with nationalised British Gas with its morning or afternoon engineer appointments).

And she did the right thing on the Falklands, although that started as a bipartisan venture, it was just that the Labour Party lost its nerve after the first 24 hours.

Here is what I wrote about her when that film came out.

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  • mightymark

    If she does she’ll have more than a few IRA killers for company. Not that I’d wish that even on her!

  • creggancowboy

    Tiocfaidh Armani – 3500 dead so Gerry Adams gets an upgrade to 1st class flights into Dulles Int!

  • mightymark

    Sorry – havn’t a clue what you are wittering on about!

  • Pacificweather

    I can imagine those things but I never experienced them because the realty was quite different for the wast majority of us who worked in manufacturing industries. My union did some good negotiating with the large clonglomerate I worked for and we never had any industrial action. We had a great social club, good canteen reasonable working hours and fare wages. The senior management were poor businessmen (all men) and the middle management were mostly useless. Supervisors performed the middle management role effectively and production increased steadily when a new breed of senior management invested in automatic machinery in the mid ’70s. Wages kept pace with inflation and increased production prevented job losses due to automation.

    By 1981, sales in the USA had declined as patents expired, and there were too few innovative products coming out of R&D because the senior management focus was on production not new products. Government cutbacks affected the defence division which suffered major job losses. Privatisation of British Telecom caused lost contracts but the medical division still made money. By 1983, commercial sales had not recovered and I decided to move on. By 1991, all the manufacturing divisions had closed.

    Margaret Thatcher’s part was small but crucial. The transition was too fast for the slow pace of senior management and we did not have the time or the cash to transform

  • mightymark

    John. The Guardian has a piece entitled “Was Margaret Thatcher the first Spice Girl”.

    If the QTWTAIN list isn’t still open I think it should be reopened for this gem and a number allocated.


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