The Obligatory Margaret Thatcher Post...

Margaret Thatcher RIP (1925-2013)

I guess Margaret Thatcher's policies had a real effect on many people's lives in this country which is why she is loved and loathed in equal measure.

At this time, when I despair at the bland mediocrity of all of our politicians, as they bicker over the middle ground, and concern themselves with appealing to as bland a sensibility as possible, I can't help but look back at her strong leadership and direction with some sense of nostalgia.

I remember the excitement when she came into a power, part in no small measure, to the fact that she was a woman. There was great hope that she would change things; things which had been pretty awful as I remember, with candles due to blackouts and strikes that left the rubbish uncollected and the dead unburied. In a country that was sick of the power wrought over our lives by the Unions, the people voted en masse for change.

And she did change things, in what I can't help but think of as a somewhat Cartesian way. Governments practically everywhere after World War II considered that if it was important, the state must be in charge of it. This meant that there was a clannish elite in charge of anything worth being in charge of. Negotiations with this group meant Unions.

Something had to change, there were undoubtedly things that needed to be done which she got on and did, but she also made mistakes, as we all do, taking some measures too far, using some for political gain rather than the good of the country, and at the end, blinded by her own imperialistic view of herself and at odds with her cabinet and her people. I can remember being incredulous at the way she drove through the poll tax legislation, seemingly without any concern whatsoever for the people's concerns.

She presided over the dismantling of our country's proud manufacturing heritage, perhaps the thing that I feel most aggrieved about personally. She did this because she wanted to get rid of Unions. The power of the Unions at that time was an issue which needed to be dealt with, no doubt, but the de-industrialisation of our country has left us with serious social and economic problems in my opinion. Fundamentally, our reliance on service industry and the fact that we don't 'produce'. Further, I think this has social implications, not just economic ones (although the two are perhaps, inevitably linked in any case).
In my business dealings, I have visited many factories on the continent and particularly in Germany. I have always noted the esteem in which the staff on the shop floor are treated. The praise that is lavished on them by business owners, irrespective of how seemingly menial their labour might appear. On many occasions it has been made clear to me that this or that factory worker is a skilled and essential member of the workforce, who performs a vital role in the success of the company. This is something I have taken to heart and try to replicate in my own business; working among equals, valuing everyone's input as a contribution to the overall success of the organisation.

On a national level. it is important to realise that not everyone is suited to running their own business, being a doctor, a lawyer or an academic. We need to have manual work opportunities which bring with them respect and honour to balance out society. Miners, dockers, welders, these are honourable trades, where a person could go to work, work hard, feel valued and come home with a sense of achievement and having contributed to something valuable. These opportunities are few and far between today. Manual labour seems to be viewed as something undesirable, beneath you, and consecutive governments have failed to support manufacturing and chosen instead to push the idea that everyone should go to university or be a millionaire.

I would love to see a politician with the courage to address this and celebrate and encourage the incredible pool of talent we have in this country in terms of engineering, manufacture and design. I don't think this would be at all unachievable; if one looks at the way our engineering expertise has been exported all around the globe (as highlighted by Evan Davis in the programme Made in Britain - I didn't agree with everything he said in this BTW) we would benefit greatly from a programme of courageous innovation to showcase British talent in this country. We need to start leading and stop following and doing everything piecemeal.

Margaret Thatcher's policies made the market free, the consumer king, and wrought a change that led to the Big Bang and a worship of money which seemed unparalleled in the history of British society certainly it was morally questionable and often sickening. Yet no successive Labour politician seems to have considered redressing the change which she wrought.

I feel that whatever the negative impact of her economic and social policies, she was a proud patriot and someone who lived by the courage of her convictions. She did what she thought was right, and I for that I respect and admire her. For the rest, well, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

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