Saturday, December 29, 2007

Margaret Thatcher recalled

The interesting David Williamson wrote a piece about Margaret Thatcher's legacy which was published in Thursday's Western Mail. I know its two days late, but I want to chip in my 'two pennyworth'. Perhaps unusually for a Conservative politician, I don't think I've ever invoked the name of Mrs Thatcher gratuitously, either to praise or condemn. But I do consider her to have been the best Prime Minister of the United Kingdom within my memory - particularly during the early years of her premiership. It seemed to me that she sought office to make a difference, rather than for its own sake. And in general, I approved of the difference she made. Its interesting that both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have wanted to associate themselves with her during their stays at No 10, Downing St..

It was the Thatcher Government that dragged industrial relations and the British economy back from the brink of chaos in the early 80s. There was a stand off with militant trade unions that the Government simply had to win. She was fortunate that the powerful coal mining union was led by a vain and foolish man named Arthur Scargill, who was sustained by a loyalty that he did not deserve. It was truly a case of lions led to defeat by a donkey. The legacy of this war still marks political opinion in the valleys of Wales. I sometimes try to imagine how much of the economic base of the coalfields would have been saved if the miners had been led by a man with the vision and skill of Tyrone Sullivan, who led the Tower buy-out and has always been a genuine Welsh hero to me.

The Thatcher Government also displayed great courage in international politics - and much of this was down to Mrs Thatcher's determined personality. History will probably record that it was Mrs Thatcher who put the necessary steel into George Bush to emancipate Kuwait following the Iraqi invasion. And I suspect very few British politicians would have had the b**** to take on Galtieri to expel his occupancy of the Falkland Islands. She helped bring order on both the national and international plane.

But her greatest achievement was to roll back the state through measures such as the privatization of utilities and the sale of council houses. There are still some who believe that nationalisation of business is sensible (Northern Rock being a current example) , that the state should act as social landlord to the population, and that there is no room for independent alternatives or involvement in the delivery of our public services. But thankfully not many.

I did not agree with all that Thatcher Government's did. I was Chair of a Welsh Local Authority when the Community Charge (usually referred to as the Poll Tax) was introduced - and I accepted our Treasurer's opinion at the time that it was unworkable. And I thought the uncompromising rhetoric during the latter part of her premiership portrayed us as being much more uncaring and divisive than we need have been. But I still think she stands head and shoulders above anyone else who has held the office of Prime Minister since the war. She set out to make a difference, and she succeeded. And the credit balance far outweighs the debit side.

24 comments:

Oscar said...

Bottom line, why do you wish to take office/ become an MP?
Give us 3 reasons.

Anonymous said...

Is this the same Tyrone Sullivan who picketed miners in other pits who had democratically voted not to go on strike in 1984? Don't believe the myths Glyn.

Glyn Davies said...

oscar - Challenge accepted.

1) To facilitate harmony and efficiency in the complex arrangements involved in 'processing' Legislative Competence Orders.

2) To raise awareness and protection of the natural world (what I usually refer to as 'countrtyside' issues.

3) To continue the 'constituency' work that I've been involved with for the last 30 years.

You only asked for 3 - so I'll stop there.

anon - The one and the same. I did not know the information that you post. I admired him because of his leadership in respect of the Tower buy-out - and I admit to rather liking him on a personal level. I will correct the spelling of his name.

Anonymous said...

So you just want to go to parliament to hasten the process of handing over power to a Labour / Plaid Cymru controlled Welsh assembly? Tories, please note. Vote Lembit!

frankie said...

Margaret Thatcher's legacy is not without controversy. I personally loathed the woman, especially after her famous quote 'There is no such thing as society'.

Her economic policies were her downfall along with high interest rates and the disastrous
privatization of public utilities.

Thatcherism produced high unemployment and increased class differentiation. She managed to encourage a very selfish society - each out for his own gain.

For me, her legacy is one not to be admired.

Dogides said...

well, you are always going to get some anti-Maggie fanatics like frankie but I think that the balance within your post is extremely good.

When I think back to the 70's I am eternally grateful that someone like Thatcher came along. I agree that not all the changes she oversaw were for the best, but the balance is very much in her favour and London simply could not be the financial powerhouse it is today without what she instigated. There are aspects of community relations that suffered and need to be patched up (although the "what's in it for me" attitude of much of the left is just as to blame as Thatcher for this IMHO) but this seems to be what Cameron is serious about addressing.

And if we want a serious analysis of the society quote then bring it on. It seems to be one of the most mis-represented phrases in history.

Glyn Davies said...

anon - I wouldn't put it like that myself. I want to avoid the dangerous disagreement that I fear and expect between Westminster and Cardiff Bay, which I see as damaging to the union. I might add that those who know me are already well aware of my view on this - and it will be on my personal manifesto.

frankie - there are many who share your view. Its just that I don't, which is why I posted as I did. I do think that using the phrase "there is no such thing as society" as you do diminishes the case of those who disagreed with Margaret Thatcher, by depending on misinterpretation rather than genuine argument.

dogides - I agree with you about the quote. Its so often used by those who have no real interest in the truth of what she said and meant.

Anonymous said...

We should scrap the second rate Welsh Assembly, which is, and always will be, dominated by Labour with Plaid support. It will therefore always deliver policies that are contrary to the interests of the Conservative party. Why you want to give it more power, I can't fathom.

I can't vote for a man who wants to pursue anti-Conservative policies. I would rather vote for a harmless buffoon. I shall do my best to persuade my Conservative friends and neighbours to do likewise.

Glyn Davies said...

anon - calling for abolition of the Assembly is an entirely reasonable position to take - but I believe an unrealistic position which would condemn to Conservative party in Wales to permanently occupy the powerless position that you envisage for it - which is why I suspect that you are not the Conservative supporter that you seek to portray yourself as. Personally, I'm rather more ambitious for my party than that.

Pity you remain anonymous. I would like to go through my thinking with you. I'm particularly interested that you would prefer to vote for a party that wishes to transfer much more power to the Assembly than I do. My main interest is to remove instability from the current constitutional arrangements, which I see as damaging to the union.

Thatcher'sChild said...

10 years on from the final defeat of Thatcher’s government (Major never really escaped from the Lady’s shadow) it is worth re-considering her legacy (far more so than in case of Blair where divisions are far too fresh) and Glyn makes some balanced (for a Tory) and perceptive points.

In my opinion Thatcher became the political figurehead of a generational shift in British politics where the baby boomers, beat generation actually stormed the citadel. British politics had been shaped by the war and post-war consensus and sense of social solidarity right through the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, despite the fact that continuing (and worsening) relative economic decline from the late 50’s onwards was more and more pushing the post-war social market beyond the tensions it could sustain.

One should not forget the tremendous impact provided by North Sea Oil, nor that monetary targeting had been introduced by Denis Healey (with remarkable initial success). It is entirely possible that a re-elected Callaghan would have introduced measures to allow tenants to buy their council house, although significant privatisation would certainly not have taken place.

The fact is that efforts by the war generation to hold the line of the broad post-war social market settlement in the face of mounting challenges were maintained, in many cases heroically, by the politicians who took their formative experiences from the war and immediate post-war era. It so happened that fate pushed a grocer’s daughter into the position of being the political leader with the will and opportunity to overturn key pillars of the post-war structure. Mass unemployment, inner city riots and the like proved weatherable. The trade union movement in face of a resolute and determined legislature and government was tamed (not destroyed, but placed within clear limits), a process assisted as Glyn notes by the assine arrogance and stupidity of leaders such as Scargill and his allies in militant who were bent on undermining the main opposition party in furtherance of their leninist agenda(s). Whether Thatcher’s revolution could have been carried without the fortuitous assistance of the chaotic near meltdown of the Labour party and the massive boost provided by the Falklands War is now a question for historians. It happened and it gifted Thatcher two further election victories on top of 1979’s. It allowed her to reshape the Tory Party in her own hectoring, arrogant, little Englander, monetarist, authoritarian mold.

Thatcher’s shadow was such that, until David Cameron at least, no Tory Leader has escaped it. She changed the rules by which the game was played. She enjoyed good fortune, but also strong will and excellent political nous. For better and worse she changed Britain irrevocably and is worth recalling.

Anonymous said...

Glyn your brush-off of my fellow anon isn't good enough. I think he IS a Tory, and he makes a very fair point when he asks why you want to hand power to a Labour-controlled assembly. Many Conservatives think this is incredibly stupid. Why do you want to entrench Labour and Plaid in power in Cardiff?

Glyn Davies said...

Thatcher's Child - I accept the general thrust of your comment. I accept that any Government post '79 would have to have changed tack to some extent, even though I'm not sure about Labour selling Council houses! And I agree that Labour's misguided politics of the early 80s made Mrs Thatcher's task easier, in that tough decisions could be taken without the certainty of losing office. And good leaders make their own luck. Don't think anyone would call me a 'Thatcherite' - but I am an admirer of her legacy.

anon - I believe the debate which we have drifted into on this post represents the the most fundamental issue for the Conservative Party in Wales. The question is whether we see ourselves as a party of 'government' or of permanent 'opposition.

I don't accept your statement that I want to hand power to a Labour controlled Assembly - and from two standpoints.

Firstly, its not a question of whether power is transferred, but how. As things currently stand, power will be transferred through Legislative Competence Orders, which very few people understand and which will not be subject to any sort of referendum - and will create serious constitutional conflict which will benefit only those of seperatist outlook. I would prefer power to transferred by an understandable system that had been approved by the people.

Secondly, I do not accept that my country will forever be Labour controlled. I may well be overly optimistic in the short term, but I believe that the Assembly could well become Conservative controlled - but we have got to believe in it first. We came within a whisker of dumping Labour out of office last May.

I know that there are many Conservatives who think my approach to be unwise, and I know that there are many who would prefer to ride the anti-devolution and populist tiger. But I think it would be a huge mistake - and would condemn us to a permanent position on the sidelines. Being the 'official' opposition cuts no ice with me at all. It is a position of virtually no power and no influence. And anyway, what's the point of being in politics if I'm not going to say what I think. If I can't persuade a majority of the Conservative Party to agree, it cannot become party policy - so why are you so bothered unless you think there's a danger that the 'ant will move the rubber tree plant'.

Con Saunders said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I have been reading your posts in amazement and increasing despair. Thank God that there are decent Conservatives in parliament who still believe in the Union. I am afraid that I think that you and some other so-called Conservatives in the Welsh Assembly no longer represent what I believe in. I am glad I don't live in your constituency because I could not bring myself to vote for you. It gives me no pleasure to write this, either.

wildgoose said...

All this talk of yet more powers for the Welsh Government, and similar talk in Scotland of handing over yet more power to the Scottish Parliament.

Meanwhile we English still haven't got an equivalent Parliament of our own.

Of course, there is an obvious answer.

The Welsh, Scots and Northern Irish can all have full Parliaments, (which appears to be the end game anyway), and then we can remove all non-English constituencies from representation in Westminster so you stop interfering in English matters.

Bingo! Everybody is happy. Especially us poor bloody English who everybody else despises anyway.

Glyn Davies said...

Sorry anon one - had to delete. Its perfectly ok to refer to me as an idiot, but not a f***ing idiot! My children read this blog.

anon two - You share the opinion of anon one but I'm not sure why you despair. I only write and post what I've been writing and saying for years. I didn't want the constitutional mess that is the Government of Wales Act - but we've got it and I'm just trying to face up to what is needed to prevent it leading to conflict. In my opinion (which you clearly disagree with) its the curent Act, based on differing interpretations in Cardiff and Westminster that represent the threat to the Union.

wildgoose - I agree that there must be some mechanism for allowing 'English' MPs to decide on matters than have been devolved. Not sure there is an 'end game' in the sense you comment. For me its a case of where we go from where we are now. I've always conceded the logic in going back to pre 1997 - but tempered with a reality that its not going to happen. I believe that we ned a UK Parliament with a balanced system of devolution operating in the 4 nations in those subject areas that have been devolved.

Anonymous said...

If you don't want the "constitutional mess" of the Act, then help repeal it. Trouble is that too many so-called Conservatives in Cardiff now regard the Assembly as a meal ticket. Some of the assembly members' statements are unbelievably pro-devolution. Bourne even wanted to have a coalition with Plaid Cymru, for goodness's sake! Plaid are opposed to everything Conservatives believe in. A lot of Tories feel badly let down.

wildgoose said...

The only "mechanism" for English constituencies to decide on matters for themselves without outside interference is EQUALITY. In other words, an English Parliament for devolved matters equivalent to those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

I see no good reason why my fellow English should be second-class citizens under the Union.

Perhaps you would care to explain why the Tories under David "There's plenty of Scottish blood in these veins and I am going to stand up to the sour little Englanders" Cameron thinks that we don't deserve equal rights with the rest of the Union?

Of course, no doubt we will just hear the same rubbish about England being "too big", even though it's the same size it has ever been. Scotland is twice the size of Wales, and Wales twice the size of Northern Ireland. Silly me, "too big" is only ever going to be used against ENGLAND.

And it's not even as if an English Parliament could possibly affect the other countries in the Union, because it would only be responsible for devolved matters just like the other devolved administrations.

So why refuse to give us Equality? Why insist that we aren't allowed to govern English matters with our own separate English Executive and our own separately elected English Representatives just like the other "Home" Nations?

Ken Clarke has now spent how many years trying to come up with the Tory proposal? I see it's still "Real Soon Now", and I can guarantee it will be the same kind of warmed over Grand Committee that can safely be ignored and which was considered completely unacceptable to the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish.

Second-class citizenship for the English again. I have 3 young children and I don't want that for them. I want them to grow up as full citizens with equal rights with all of their fellow citizens. And it seems the only way we will get that simple desire is with an independent England.

Glyn Davies said...

anon - in a democracy, winning power is a prerequisite to repealing anything. The reality is that in Wales, the only scenario of Conservatives being in power is to do some sort of deal with Plaid Cymru. The alternative is permanent Labour control. I don't know whether the Blue/Green agreement can ever be possible - but Proportional Representation forces every party to look at unlikely alliances. Ironically, I think it much more likly if Labour MPs become more anti-devolution as they fear an end to the inbuilt electoral advantage they have through over-representation at Westminster. As it happens, I believe that many Plaid Cymru supporters are inherently centre/right - even if the majority of the Party's AMs are politically left. Gareth Jones, Elin Jones, Alun Ffred Jones plus others are sensible enough to work with. In general. I comment that active politicians have to work with the world as it is rather than as they would like it to be.

Welsh Tory, thinking of leaving! said...

If you don't want the "constitutional mess" of the Act, then help repeal it. Trouble is that too many so-called Conservatives in Cardiff now regard the Assembly as a meal ticket.
A lot of Tories feel badly let down.
Here Here!!!!!!!!!!!!
perfectly ok to refer to me as an idiot, but not a f***ing idiot
Well either way the message came across!

Glyn Davies said...

wildgoose - don't pick on me. If a majority of the people of England want to set up an English Parliament, I wouldn't want to stand in their way. Since Wales decided (against my advice I should add - bearing in mind the way this thread has gone) to establish its own devolved Parliament, I've argued that some mechanism should be found to give the same power to England in devolved subject areas. I've always suspected that a majority would prefer to use the 'English' MPs to do the job, rather than create a whole new raft of politicians. But let them have what they want is my attitude. But something must be done to avoid the growing resentment that I warned of during the referendum when Wales decided to vote in favour of devolution. You can see from reading through this thread that some readers of this blog think that the answer is to reverse the devolution process. They are sometimes unnessecerily rude in the way they express their opinion but its an entirely logical position to take. If the devolved institutions were to be scrapped, you would have your equality. You'll have to judge for yourself what chance there is of that happening! You will note that I think its 'No Chance'.

Anonymous said...

The reality is that in Wales, the only scenario of Conservatives being in power is to do some sort of deal with Plaid Cymru.

If the only way of achieving power in such a Mickey Mouse institution as the Welsh Assembly is to do a deal with separatists, then leave it to the mice.

Glyn Davies said...

anon - I do not think that Conservatives should agree any sort of policy that would lead to 'separation'. Any heads of agreement programme could never include a 'seperatist' policy. I also believe that the way in which power is being transferred to the National Assembly is much more 'seperatist' than would be the straightforward granting of a law making capability is devolved subject areas - an opinion that is not shared by all Conservatives. And finally, I've always maintained that it would be impossible for Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives to work together if the Assembly had the power to persue a genuinely 'seperatist' agenda.

Anonymous said...

But Bourne is virtually a separatist. I don't recognise him as a Conservative. Most Tories in Wales have given up on him and the rest of the group in the assembly.

The draft agreement between Bourne, Plaid and the Libs was a disgraceful document. And now he and you are banging on about Welsh parliaments. I despair of you both. You've surrendered.

I repeat I'm glad I don't live in your constituency. I would vote against the Tory for the first time in my life.