DID THE IRON LADY CREATE TEFLON TONY AND CAMERON’S ‘MODERN CONSERVATISM’?
Britain has been well governed (more or less) since 1979;Govern Britain well and you share at least 5 fundamentals on how to govern
1. Sustain and reinforce your power base by cultivating yourself as a ‘hate or hero figure’.‘Manage’ the opposition’s effectiveness.
2. Induce desperation on the opposition backbenches by denying opportunities for political oxygen. Keep in mind that the best form of fighting ‘dirty’ is to fight ‘clean’, and then wait for infighting, reversion to the political ’womb’ (growing radicalism) desperation and the sowing of the seeds of inevitable division.
3. Use a ‘Trojan horse ’ie. Confuse, flatter and appropriate your opponent’s policies whilst giving no public recognition,. Let them work for your benefit.
4. Create a ‘mythology’ of a unique style that breaks from the past. Appear to challenge the ‘ancien regime’ of politics etc It wasn’t the SDP who broke the mould of British politics, it was Thatcher.
5. A nationalism to enhance the cultivation of ‘Britain leading the world stage that it never really left’ ,coupled with the ability to appear inclusive in the newly formed ‘New world’ led by Britain. We create, invent and pioneer in Britain, so why wouldn’t Britain pioneer a new innovative political agenda?
Further thoughts about Thatcherism, New Labour and ways of ‘spin’.
Thatcher bankrolled a direct attack against those who had destroyed Heath’s Government of 1970-74 (she was promoted by him and succeeded him when the fickle public voted against him.) She did so by a broad Privatisation Programme that engaged the public coffers and gave the limitless illusion of success to those joined-in by purchasing and then selling –on their shares. Never had so many been included at the expense of so few in Foot’s labour party who didn’t secretly admire the gall of Thatcher’s redistributive if capitalistic enterprise. Mass participation and maximum interest in the ‘project of profit’, offered a unique form of individual wealth ownership to an unprecedented demographic in Britain. Socialist’s ‘created nationalisation but Thatcher trumped it with a public who ‘truly’ shared public ownership. An economic code was broken, an ancient political prejudice of both deference and of social class political allegiances had been shattered. Labour’s monopoly of public ownership had ended by reinvention of it as an unadulterated Capitalistic programme open to all Britons.
One must never underestimate the social impact and conscious social engineering by a Prime Minister who transformed Britain’s view of women without reverting to gender triumphalism herself, dismissing all its bias but enjoying all its unspoken advantages - President Mitterand of France said that Thatcher had the lips of Marilyn Monroe but the eyes of Caligula. Although Blair also ‘worked’ the political audience, appearing on French chat shows at ease with the bilingualism of ‘New Labour open for more business’, Thatcher was impervious to changing or moderating her ‘media image’, Blair was receptive and flexible. Despite this collision of identities and personalities, they both politically admired each other, even though Thatcher seemed to wear the ideological trousers of Post modern ideas, most cherished in the reinventing of public ownership to the popular selling of council houses. Social engineering was Thatcher’s political genius too, because she undercut the bedrock of Socialism by rewarding working people with the chance to validate their self-ownership’ whilst being a participant in redistributive ‘social justice’ edified and of a Tory nature. This truly redeemed Britain’s self-esteem by rectifying the ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ mentality still lingering as recent as during Macmillan’s premiership in the 1950’s/60’s.
Meanwhile, Thatcher had out -manouevered the union NUM boss Scargill and his national unofficial NUM strike. Reserves of coal were plentiful, a mutual vendetta made personal was massaged by new and controversial employment and trade union statutory legislation, reinforced by the courts who ruled according to the new laws. Scargill had led his best troops into unemployment by way of gifting the closure of their coal pits by a strike that was not sustainable. Thatcher hadn’t just neutralized a political opponent, she had undermined him by new laws she’d created, she enjoyed a daily breakfast of the media having its customary feeding-frenzy against Scargill and his cohorts. However, this destruction of the bedrock of union dominance in the country was mirrored in the Labour party that Blair inherited. The Tory party would indeed rue this, as it enabled Blair to make demands on the unions and not the other way round.
Now, when people talk of ‘New Modernity’, Blair’s New labour in Britain, have we lost sight of the massive sea-change of party political fortunes that we should be aware of, or not? Blair reminded Tories endlessly of their jibe of him being ‘bambi’ without even saying a word. Like Thatcher he’d cracked the code : He let others boast that he was more ‘Thatcher than Thatcher, yet more NHS friendly than Nye Bevin’(its creator). He didn’t tax and spend as expected, he encouraged the traditional enemy of Labour(the City of London) to make as much money without government interference as it could enabling him to use taxation of the City to fund his social projects of the NHS, state education and overseas development etc. He had proved that he could link the hitherto ‘carnivorous’ City to funding a social project. He’d bankrolled a massive injection of funds for his social projects whilst watching Tories wilt in the heat of being ‘out-Toried’ without shouting and boasting – very British and comfortably rebellious.
Welcome to Teflon Tony. He’d not just been a ‘creative-accountant’ for Britain’s benefit, he’d spotlighted a new agenda, an emphasis to engage Capitalism as a potential mass self-sustaining entity, ‘idiosyncratically British’ based on newly conceived’ forms of modern redistributive capitalism. He neither rubber-stamping profit nor fuelled a desire for re- nationalisation.
He evangelised about a new modernity on an international stage where his ‘Socialism’ wasn’t tired or out of touch; for him dependency on industrial ‘shibboleths’ should be replaced ‘or die’ . At this moment Blair’s power was at its zenith internationally and domestically. This historical moment for Britain had been initiated by Thatcher’s ability to confront all and win, especially over the trade unions. Blair was left with a ‘free-hand’ of plausible deniability while the unions were in rapid decline, rejoicing at his freedom from ‘old baggage’ ennobling his new powers as Labour leader. He appealed to all forms and all social classes for collective social aspiration. His’ collective appreciation of the individual ‘barely disguised his rejection of confrontationalism of Thatcher. He appeared too self-effacing to survive ‘politics’, but that was his electoral appeal. Like Thatcher, Blair had a self-image and a zeal as inventor and victim, leader yet political soul and conscience of the nation‘. Instead, he saved the Conservative parties’ fortunes by a military calculation that proved that he was out of his depth, and a complete misreading of the ‘new’ Labour movement. The news of a guerrilla-war that extended the vulnerability of British forces went down in Britain like a lead balloon. There was no ‘Falklands war’ definite outcome, just more body bags and a spreading of the military campaign to Afghanistan – this wrote his political obituary. One can only speculate that his advisors lied to him or he wanted people to know that he was capable of confrontation and brinkmanship etc He risked the changes he’d made, and exposed his grumpy chancellor as without any subtly or vision to properly succeed Blair.
To be continued