Friday, January 13, 2012

The lady's not for burning

Having now seen “The Iron Lady” I can understand why most people hate it. Funded by Channel 4, the National Lottery and the French, it concentrates on Mrs Thatcher’s dementia. You can imagine the left-luvvies gloating about how the mighty are fallen. But really it’s just disgustingly cheap, cruel, merciless tat, for all that Meryl Streep’s impersonation is uncanny.

It’s stunning how apparently grown-up and apparently intelligent adults can be reduced to gibbering, malevolent balls of fury by the very mention of the name Margaret Thatcher.

The new Meryl Streep film “The Iron Lady” has given them yet another opportunity to dust down their prejudices and blame everything from the credit crunch to the world domination of Google on Britain’s only female Prime Minister.

Surprisingly, women are among the most vehement in their loathing of Baroness Thatcher.

As one of her many sworn enemies says: “Everything now flows from the Thatcherite view of selfish individualism.”

You might think they would applaud her achievement in rising to the top in what is still supposedly the “man’s world” of politics. But no.

Instead, they portray her as an aberration, someone who disliked her own sex and never represented the “female virtues”.

They are of the Harriet Harperson school of politics – they seem to think if only women ran the world, we would all be happy, prosperous and peaceful.

So they can’t cope with the idea that this woman’s reputation rests partly on her victory in the Falklands War and, even more so, her victory in the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

She is accused of every evil in the book and yet the evidence points strongly in the opposite direction – she is not, after all, a Tony Blair.

Far from wasting taxpayers’ money on monumental follies, newly-released Government papers reveal Mrs Thatcher took the view that our cash should never be spent unnecessarily – even on Prime Ministers.

When the Department of the Environment announced it was spending £1,736 refurbishing Number Ten, her reaction should shame all of her successors.

She said they didn’t need to buy new bed linen, she would supply her own, she rejected the idea of spending £123 re-polishing furniture and said she would buy her own ironing board to save the taxpayer £19.

She went on to tell the Welsh Secretary to obtain new quotes after being told it would cost £26,000 to refurbish his one-bedroom flat in Cardiff. In the end, the work cost £12,000.

You could call this penny-pinching but – as the MPs’ expenses scandal revealed – we are right out of politicians who realise the money they spend comes from our pockets.

This little piece of evidence of Mrs Thatcher’s care for our cash has rather disappeared from view compared with the other “revelation” that came out in 30-year-old Government papers released for the first time.

That is the suggestion raised by the then Chancellor, Sir Geoffrey Howe, that the Thatcher Government should abandon the city of Liverpool to “managed decline” after the Toxteth riots.

This has been taken by Mrs Thatcher’s many enemies – it’s too mild to call them critics, given their foam-flecked fury at the very mention of her name – as proof of the uncaring nature of her Government.

What they ignore is that Mrs Thatcher did not abandon Liverpool to its fate. On the contrary, she sent Michael Heseltine there with pots of money and told him to sort the place out.

You might argue she would have been wiser to do nothing, on the grounds that Scousers would never vote Conservative and their gratitude for Government help would be about as deep and heartfelt as the Scots’.

But, for all the allegations that Mrs Thatcher’s Government created a me-me-me world where there was “no such thing as society”, her intervention in Liverpool proves these claims are unfounded.

It is true she was pretty fond of her own opinion and didn’t take kindly to backsliders who tried to trim the Tories’ policies.

It’s also true that she was clear about what was necessary and single-minded in trying to achieve it.

She did allow large parts of British industry to die – but they would have died anyway. That was the point.

And it’s true she tried to curb Government spending, which some of the harridans of the left have always hated.

But if only her successors had followed her example we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in today.

As for the film, I haven't seen it yet and probably won't bother. Apparently it's hideously bad despite Streep's performance. It's basically a study in dementia which is cruel because it's about a real person and the episodes from her career are one-sided and ridiculous.

Even so, one of her critics complains: “Meryl’s magnificent performance humanises a politician many of us find monstrous.”

Lady Thatcher has been proved right in almost everything she did and said. What led to her political downfall, for instance, was the failure of people like Heseltine and Howe to see her wisdom in refusing to integrate further with the European Union.

What people loathe about Margaret Thatcher is what others admire so strongly. When she was rejected for a job at ICI in 1948, her interviewers wrote: “This woman is headstrong, obstinate and dangerously self-opinionated.”

Will we ever see her like again?

Monday, January 09, 2012

Unknown quantity

Oh dear, looks like I am leaping into the unknown by speaking at a lunchtime event at Blackwells in Oxford on Thursday. I'm talking about my novel "The Smoking Gun" and about politics in general but will anybody turn up?

It seems the answer is no-one knows. Previous speakers have attracted anything from more than 400 (a TV celeb) to one (for a well-known poet).

So if anybody fancies meeting up, Blackwells bookshop in Oxford on Thursday might be the right time and place for us to have a chat....

For more info, go to the Blackwells website.

For more about the book, please go to

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

And a happy new Euro to you too

As the economy recovers, England win the 2012 European Cup as a celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee while the London Olympics are a worldwide triumph.

What more could we ask from the coming year?

We may as well look forward to it with a sense of optimism; we might otherwise persuade ourselves our prospects are as gloomy as Greece’s.

But the coming 12 months could be triumphantly happy for the country.
Take the economy. All the official statistics are pointing south but that doesn’t mean we’ll actually be hit by another recession.

The best brains across the entire European Union – the largest economic bloc in the world – have spent months sorting out the crisis with their single currency.

All the pundits predict the implosion of the Euro and financial crisis in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland.

But the best brains in Euro-politics can’t all be wrong, can they?

Despite evidence to the contrary, they must know what they’re doing. So we must assume they will guide the Continent’s currency to broad, sunlit uplands.

As a result, our own economy will pull back from the brink of recession and, as optimism returns to the whole of the EU, we’ll see a revival in our own fortunes.

We will export more and create the jobs necessary to replace those being lost through public sector cuts.

This could all start to become obvious as soon as Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget in March, when the turnaround in the mood of consumers and the positive predictions for the future will get a further boost.

The Chancellor will realise that to give the economy an extra shove in the right direction he needs to introduce significant tax cuts.

This will lead to a reduction in VAT – and a drop in the rate of inflation as a result – as well as lower taxes for families to counter the last few years of wage freezes and rising costs.

As a sense of enormous well-being sweeps the country, celebrations begin for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June.

The Monarch, with Prince Philip newly-restored to robust good health by her side, will tour the country to general acclaim and gratitude for her years of devoted service.

The trials and tribulations her family has faced over the long years of her reign will count for little when set against the new recognition of the debt we all owe to Queen Elizabeth II.

The mood of support for the Monarchy spreads far and wide – even to Scotland, where the people abandon thoughts of independence from the rest of the United Kingdom and reaffirm their loyalty to the Crown.

With all this new-found national confidence, it is no great surprise to find England beating France 5-0 in their opening match of Euro 2012.

The contest, which takes place in Poland and the Ukraine, is not without its dramas and back at home there are growing complaints about the shortage of Polish plumbers.

Even so, the nation is glued to the TV as England’s team of perfect gentlemen compensate for the disaster of the last World Cup to make their way into the thrilling final where they beat Germany 4-2 after extra time.

After a month to take all this in, we are again on the edge of our seats as the Olympic Games get off to a spectacular start in London.

The opening ceremony is neither boring nor embarrassing – a world first for the Olympics.

Luckily, there are no strikes by air traffic controllers, public transport workers or refuse collectors.

The public sector unions have calmly accepted changes to their pension arrangements because the hard-pressed taxpayer can no longer afford to be as generous as in the past.

Among other benefits, it means all those fears about terrorism scares and chaos on London transport are proved groundless as the entire event goes off without a hitch.

While the British team scoops a record number of medals, the greatest winner is the nation itself.

Visitors go home reporting on how hospitable the people are, how good the food is and how extraordinarily punctual the public transport has become.
They even give five stars to the traditional British weather.

Indeed, the reputation of this country is so enhanced around the world that even the tourists who stayed away to avoid the Olympics crowds come rushing over as soon as the games are triumphantly closed.

By the time of the autumn party conferences, Ed Miliband has finally accepted that, as long as he remains leader, the Labour Party doesn’t stand a chance at the next General Election.

So he stands down and the party elects Mrs Balls, Yvette Cooper, as its first female leader.

It doesn’t make much difference to Labour’s standing in the polls but at least it gives a boost to the British fashion industry which was in the doldrums a little because the Duchess of Cambridge has had to limit her public engagements since giving birth to a daughter.

When we come to look back on 2012, we will remember it nostalgically as the year everything went right.

You never know…