Friday, May 01, 2009

Mrs Margaret Thatcher - 30 years on.

Was a guest on Patrick Hanann's 'Call to Order' today, alongside former Cardiff Council 'supremo' Russell Goodway. Under discussion was the incomparable Margaret Thatcher, who ascended to the position of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom thirty years ago. I've always had a lot more time for Russell than most, but I totally disagreed with his assessment of the great Lady.

In 1979 I was a newly elected 'Independent' councillor in Montgomeryshire (elected at a by-election which I won by one vote). I was genuinely 'independent' and had voted both Plaid Cymru and Conservative, and had huge respect for the Liberal MP, Emlyn Hooson, who is now a good friend. At the time, politics was peripheral to my life. Following my father's early death, I was striving to establish myself in business - and there was also the small matter of the three sprogs already born (with another to follow). My memory of the time was that Britain had been brought to her knees by a Labour Government unable to stand up to the likes of Jack Jones, Hugh Scanlon and Joe Gormley. And then along came this woman, Margaret Thatcher, backed up by her philosophical inspiration, Keith Joseph. She had snatched the leadership from the 'Heathites', and was promising to sort out the nation's industrial relations nightmare and shambolic economic policy. I do recall thinking that she would be measured by her success in wresting control of the British economy back from what we called 'the union barons'. After a nervous start she delivered big-time - though a lot of credit must go to Arthur Scargill, who did more than any other single person to destroy union influence.

But back to 'Call to Order'. Where Russell Goodway saw a woman who undermined the social, civil and industrial institutions of the time (even blamed her for the current economic problems delivered by irresponsible bankers), I saw a woman who transformed an economic basket case into a economic success story that became a major player on the world stage. And her legacy remained intact until last week's appalling budget, which has ensured that Gordon Brown enters his own historic niche - as Britain's worst ever Prime Minister. In the 1970's, the destruction wrought on the British economy by a Labour Government created the stage onto which Mrs Margaret Thatcher strode and commanded with such panache. Thirty years later another Labour Government has wrought destruction on the British economy and has created another stage which awaits a new star. David Cameron, 'Come on Down'.


Anonymous said...

each side will see the woman as they wish, yours is ceainly more rose tinted than mine.

One thing that worries me about the political classes in wales is how few we have of quality, glyn do they invite anyone else to the various radio shows, press interviews in ales, you seem to be full time on it.

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - I'm not doing much in the English Language at the moment. But I must admit that I'm on a good run in Welsh - which I need to improve my language skills. I did Dau o'r Bae today as well, and did find myself having to concentrate very deeply to follow what was being said by the other panellists. The Rev. Aled Edwards uses a Welsh so complex that he's almost impossible for me to understand.

Timothy Sisters said...

Thatcher was a Wales wrecking hag.
There will be joy in the valleys when she withers and dies.

Like you said...

On matters of simple communication a Microbiology Professor teaching a class held up a King James Bible and quoted a few lines from the OT.

He was a devout communist so this was not a Bible Study.

The Professor was making a point, don't use complex language.

Anonymous said...

she did nothing to support any one or anything out side of her narrow belief system.
she had no regard for the wider impact that her policies had.
she had some good qualities but the damage she did far outweighed those.

Like you said...

Hit the scrawl button … but Glyn’s reference to Russell Goodway brought back some memories …

I met Russell Goodway by chance (never met him since) some years ago in Washington, DC at a "World Cities Alliance" meeting. I guess Cardiff was a member. Anyway, I chatted to Goodway for a couple of minutes and listened to his speech (to be fair, there were several European municipalities/cities represented at the meeting including local authority officials from a Swiss Canton who were promoting their growing biotechnology industry).

Russell Goodway was interested in promoting the idea of passenger ships visiting Cardiff. I don't know if anything came of the idea, but I was impressed and said so in a letter published in the Echo or Western Mail in support of Russell’s plans for Cardiff. From my brief observations it was clear that Russell Goodway is clearly very intelligent and articulate; a great guy – pity his interest in promoting Cardiff on the international scene was largely ignored back in Cardiff. He spoke briefly in Welsh, and delivered an excellent content-neutral speech promoting Cardiff – a text-book speech I thought, unlike Rhodri Morgan’s recent speech at the British Embassy in DC.

How did I end up at the World Alliance Meeting in Washington DC?

I attended bioVA or some such thing at Mount Vernon at George Washington's former home (the home of the first President of the United States of America), the then Governor of Virginia opened the event with a content-neutral speech (are you listening Rhodri?); it was Virginia's way of linking itself to the huge bioevent in DC (incidentally, the then governor of VA is now one of two Senators representing the state of Virginia in Congress). A day or so before or later I was invited to a garden party at the British Embassy’s Ambassador’s residence where Lord Shaftesbury, in contrast to long winded Rhodri Morgan’s speech that some Americans found insulting of March this year, Lord Shaftesbury gave a crisp lean speech promoting the British biotech industry free of back-handed complements – you see Rhodri, it is possible to give a speech at the British Embassy that does not insult Americans.

I did not have a car so my boss drove me to George Washington’s former residence and arranged for a guy to drive me back home from George Washington’s house to my apartment building on (South) Glebe Road in Arlington near DC.

Turned out this guy was a senior economic figure in Arlington, he ran the World's City Alliance from offices on (North) Glebe Road in Arlington, just up the road from where I lived; he told me that he organized the World Cities Alliance and the Mayor of Cardiff was going to be at the next World Cities Alliance meeting in Washington, DC. He immediately invited me to the World Cities Alliance meeting.

He was astonished that he was driving home a biotech guy from Cardiff, Wales. He actually said that my boss didn’t know who was on his team - actually he did, that’s why he took me to the Virginia event celebrating the DC biotech/word event in Mt. Vernon at George Washington’s former home – my boss wanted to promote his law firm and attract biotech business.

Small world getting smaller.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone see any similarities with the 1970s and now? Labour reeking havoc with the economy, negative inflation, rising bankruptcies….

I’m old enough to remember the posters put up by the Tories, using the slogan “Labour isn’t working” with a queue outside a dole office. Unfortunately unemployment went well over three million under the Tories.

Cameron is going to come to power within the next 24 months, labour are going to get their arses whipped, and will be back to the situation of the 1980s and early 1990s whereby they [Labour] were totally unelectable.

Thatcher did give us the “post Thatcher consensus” of politics based on the teachings of Milton Friedman (replacing Keynesian economic policies) but as we have seen we have gone from boom to bust, a few times in the past 30 years, under the Tories and Blu Labour.

Activist said...


She was a brutual, uncaring, small minded, economically illiterate demogog. For many years her ruthless destruction of any sense of mutual dependency and community and her near religious promotion of individualism and selfishness made me ashamed to admit to being British. Some change was needed but not the way she did it. Look to civilised countries like the Netherlands or Scandinavia to see how to modernise a country without the wanton destruction she wrought on so many communities across the UK.

Any government who descibes unemployment as 'a price worth paying' is immoral and should attract the utter condemnation of history.

My real fear is Cameron has ripped of the the thin facade of caring conservatism and is now openly preening his Thatcherite feathers. Its the public sector to blame now for the mess we are in, not his mates and cronies in banking sector and sub prime markets. So its nursing homes, hospitals and schools to pay the price as he mindlessly tries to cut his way out of a recession.

The only good thing Thatcher ever gave Wales was devolution. She finally persuaded Wales it had to protect itself from a future Tory assault from Westminister.

Bonetired said...

Incredible Glyn: 19 years after she lost power and 30 years after she gained it, she is still the most divisive PM of modern times. I respected rather than liked her feeling that - to use the old cliche - she was a necessary evil who dragged Britain out of the mayhem caused by the Union dominated Labour Government. She was very lucky with her enemies (as Andrew Marr pointed out), Galtieri and Scargill - both of who played into her hands (the irony of one being a fascist and the other being at least a marxist-leninist is not lost on me)and ironically strengthened her position (who remembers the "Longest suicide note in history?").

Whatever her legacy - for better or worse - there is no doubt that she was the most influential prime minister since the war ...

Popcorn with that said...

Hit the 's button' ...

Thatcher learned from the coal miners union threat to Heath’s government, Israel has learnt a similar lesson … the castles and rooks necessary to counter the Iranian threat of Shababs targeting Israel and more particularly a certain facility in the Negev desert with the intention of causing massive fall-out issues.

more tantalizing whispers from DC land … you read it first on Glyn's blog ...

the US is moving to a “Thunderbirds are GO” status against Iran … you can take that to the (west) bank. The deal has been made; the deal is going down when, not if. Iran is going to face threats of draconian sanctions, and if that doesn’t convince the Iranian government the castles and rooks currently being positioned and tested will come into play.

Israel has just publically signaled that its X-Band radar (shipped from the USA) is now fully operational (in the Negev Desert).

In addition, IAF anti-ballistic teams are reported to be near complete battle readiness. Specifically, IAF technicians manning Arrow and Patriot batteries are close to peak readiness. Even Patriot and Arrow anti-IBM reservists are spending a day a week honing their skills in countering computer simulations of Iranian missile barrages. An article just published in the Jerusalem Post (JP) noted that "Last month, the IAF held its 17th (field) test of the Arrow 2 interceptor, shooting down a missile mimicking an Iranian Shihab ballistic missile." Syria is signaling that it will side with the west if the real brown stuff hits the fan … Russia and China the same. Using up 17 interceptor missiles must mean Israel has a lot of interceptors and then some. Well, Israel (based on technology shipped from the USA) is making the Arrow 2 interceptors. Implication: they are coming off a dedicated production line in Israel.

The JP reports that the IAF is "preparing for (Iranian ballistic missile) barrages, split warheads and other surprises (dummy and decoy stuff) and therefore we (Israel and the free world) need to retain a high operational level by everyone, including reservists."

In addition, JP reports: "the IAF will hold an unprecedented and massive exercise with the US military to jointly test three different ballistic missile defense systems, including the Israeli-made Arrow and the American THAAD and Aegis (castles and rooks), which will be brought specially to Israel for the exercise."

The Aegis kit (Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System employing block 3 Standard Missiles (antiballistic missiles)) is eminently deployable to shoot down Iranian Shibabs during boost flight, and will likely be further deployed for interception of Shababs on re-entry - if memory serves, a block 3 Standard Missile was fired last year to shoot down a low earth orbit American satellite that, if memory serves, NASA and/or the Pentagon came out with a cover story that hydrazine fuel aboard might cause problems; a single block 3 SM did the job, the low earth orbit satellite was destroyed, hydrazine and all. Love or hate American missile technology, it was amazing how quickly the US Navy adapted the block 3 technology to switch from being a ballistic missile interceptor to a satellite killer. What does this mean: well, think of a multilayered sponge cake comprising a base layer of chocolate sponge, a layer of double cream atop the base layer, a top layer of cake atop the double cream layer, said top layer of cake defining a top surface, a layer of ‘frosting’ above said top surface with ‘hundreds and thousands’ deposited on the frosting. What do you end up with? A Right Said Fred too sexy for this cake?

The US Navies block 3 antiballistic missile has a unit cost under 10 million. This means the USA can easily out-manufacture the Shibabs.

Is Israel is thinking of acquiring and modifying a few Hercules sized gunships (not to be confused with a helicopter gunship) to carry X-band radar to fry, inter alia, Iranian S-300 radar (if deployed) absent Israel getting JSF stealthy aircraft. If not, the IAF should be thinking about it. X-band technology including operational software is now in the hands of the IAF, so it is only a matter of time before the Israelis modify it and use it as a flying frying pan. The aircraft might be remote controlled (Israel is a word leader in remote controlled drones). Israeli avionics is so advanced that the IAF want to put their own kit in the upcoming F35 JSF (new fifth generation fighter) in place of Lockheed kit (Lockheed is the main contractor for the JSF); Lockheed are behind in F35 production and Israel is now thinking of retro-fitting its F15 Eagle aircraft with stealth technology sufficient to avoid air bourn radar but not sufficient, absent radar countermeasures, to be hidden from ground Iranian radar – hence the crying out need for airborne X-band radar to fry ground radar.

Chwythwr Chwiban said...

Thatchers greatest success was New Labour which means we have been subjected to her right wing political doctrine for thirty years, and and the Tories look set for a sufficient majority at the next General Election to be in power for another three terms.

Glyn Davies said...

TS - Well, that´s going to create a few more Thatcher fans.

VM - As I said to Russell, its great that we can see things so differently. It creates debate.

Like you said - I too thought Russell a ´doer´rather than a ´talker´ - but he did have an amazing capacity to create enemies.

Anon - I do see similarities. Much is made of the three million unemployed in the early eighties, which was the consequence of Labour´s economic mismanagement - and it will be over three million again by next May - and at least in part for much the same reason.

Activist - Its not David Cameron who is wrecking destruction on our public services ' its Labour. And to compound what its done, it has produced a budget which will ensure more pain for the most vulnerable. Thank goodness not that many people remain as blinkered as you.

Bobetired - agree with every word. i too disliked her style, but realised that the previous Government had so destroyed our country that I admired Mrs T for turning things around. There was much I did not like (I was not politically active in the 70´s and 80s) but I regard her as the best Prime Minister within my lifetime.

Anonymous said...

Must congratulate you Glyn.

You, like a large number of Lib Dems (Peter Black, Frank Little, et al) allow "Anon" comments, unlike Plaid Cymru - good for you!

Anonymous said...

When returned to Cardiff after a 8 year absence in 2002 the first thing that struck me was how dirty the the city was. Then of course there was the row about Russell's allowances (highest paying councillor in the UK) he cost the people of Cardiff Millions of pounds in a lost court case, and refuses to pay it back.Somehow most Cardiffians who live outside the Cardiff Bay bubble do not feel so generous about our former "Boss" Thats why we fire him in 2004. and in 2008 the labour group were cut from 27 to 13 councillors. Sounds like that old rhyme "10 green bottles".