Margaret Thatcher: Revolutionary heroine of Britain’s working class

Martin Durkin

SHUT your eyes and think of Margaret Thatcher (twin-set, pearls, hand bag, smells nice) and Fidel Castro (combat fatigues, bushy beard, revolver, smells of backy). Which one is the firebrand working-class revolutionary? The answer, of course, is Thatcher. The vile Castro enslaved and impoverished the many-headed in Cuba. Thatcher enriched and liberated them in Britain.

The reason the Left hates Thatcher so much is that she stole the working class from them. And she was able to do this because she understood and shared their aspirations.

Behind the bluster about her death this week are two very different visions of the working class. According to the Left, the proles are oppressed, and the source of that oppression is economic freedom. They want the working class living in state housing, travelling on state transport, working in state-controlled jobs, receiving a state education. The Left fights not to change, but to preserve working practices and “working class communities”, as it offensively calls them.

Thatcher had a sneaking suspicion that people wanted to own their own home, perhaps in a leafy suburb rather than a council estate. She had the idea that “working class” people wanted the things she wanted – to leave money to their children, to own a few shares, maybe start a little company, go on foreign holidays, own a car – maybe even two cars! She was right. They did want this, which is why ordinary working people voted for her in huge numbers.

She redefined the class struggle - between workers and the state

The shop keepers and builders and taxi drivers of Basildon (formerly Labour) thought she was God’s gift. Thatcher saw voluntary profitable economic exchange as an essential and vital part of a truly human existence. Her commitment to economic freedom was moral and inspired by a love of and confidence in other people.

The “market” was not a wicked thing. It was lively and sociable, she said. It brought spices and coffee and bananas into the shops. In her day, it brought Fred Astaire to the local cinema. And most ordinary Britons had the good sense to agree (unlike the Left, our “intelligentsia” and the Tory old guard).

To the horror of the Left, Thatcher, re-defined the class struggle. The socialists argued that “the workers” were being ripped off by “the bosses”. But when workers looked at their wages and saw almost half had gone, they knew it wasn’t the bosses who had taken it. It was the state. “Socialism” was reduced to fleecing hard-working people in the private sector to keep the middle class public sector gravy train rolling.

The new class struggle, as defined by the revolutionary Thatcher, was between Tax Producers (in the productive economy) and Tax Consumers (in the parasitic public sector). The regions that voted Labour were dominated by public sector workers and benefit recipients (they wanted to keep the tap on). The regions that voted for Thatcher were populated by the suckers who footed the bill (and rather resented it).

All the talk today of “austerity” would cause Thatcher to boil with rage. “Whose austerity are we talking about?” she would thunder. “Theirs or ours?” (to paraphrase Trotsky). Less public spending means a lighter burden on the productive economy. She knew it. The good people of Basildon knew it. Perhaps someone should tell George Osborne.

Much rubbish has been said of Thatcher in the last week. We’re told that her deregulation of the City (which broke the old boy network and let in the barrow boys) ushered in an era of greed and was the cause of the great crash. Let’s spell it out so even Robert Peston can understand. The crash was the result of the preceding credit boom. Credit booms are the result of governments pumping too much money into the economy – which Thatcher was adamantly against. She knew why politicians like doing it: phony booms make them look good and it’s a way of stealing money from savers without the saps even noticing. Thatcher also knew the terrible consequence: pumping money in lowers interest rates, encouraging debt and discouraging saving. If only Thatcher had privatised money too to prevent politicians abusing their monopolistic control of it!

We’re also told that Thatcher damaged manufacturing. Again, let’s set the record straight. Manufacturing does well when it makes a good profit. Higher taxes mean lower profits. It is the burden of supporting Britain’s bloated public sector (now roughly the same size as our private sector) which is crushing the life out of capitalism (manufacturing included).

There will be plenty of people lining the route of Thatcher’s funeral. But they won’t be the toffs down from Hampstead. They’ll be ordinary folk from Basildon. The sort of people who used to vote Labour. And unlike the regimented mourners at the funeral of a Socialist dictator, the sorrow will be genuine. This is one revolutionary who deserves our gratitude and affection.

Martin Durkin is a television director and producer. His latest film Margaret: Death of a Revolutionary airs tomorrow at 7pm on Channel Four. His previous films include Britain’s Trillion Pound Horror Story.