May 10, 2012

A certain irony exists that a Conservative Party government should be facing possibly the worst strikes since Margaret Thatcher faced-off the Miners, Dock Workers and Printers in the 1980s.

The legacy of Margaret Thatcher is one of a country that expects high wages, huge profits from their houses and pensions that provide years of high quality life following early retirement. Sadly, too many people bought the dream… or maybe we should call it lies.

The UK of the 1970s was a country in disarray and financial disrepair. Strikes were common place. At one stage, a three day working week was implemented to conserve electricity in the face of a miners strike. The refuse lay on the streets, some hospitals could only accept emergency patients, even some gravediggers went on strike. Neither the Conservatives nor the Labour Party could resolve the problems until… Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979.

And, the strikes continued…

In what was seen as a powerful stance, Margaret Thatcher set out to achieve two key things that now haunt the UK government of 2012. Firstly, she was determined to stop strike action and remove the power of the Unions and secondly, she wanted everyone to benefit from the sale of the country’s assets. The results have been devastating. The Unions crumbled but so did the industries. The country’s assets fell into the hands of foreign companies and fat cat directors.

The Credit Crunch, and now the Double Dip recession, find their routes in an economy of capitalism, selfishness and greed that allowed banks and financiers to benefit from everyone’s opportunity to own their home and achieve security through old age with a private pension.

The working class man became a shareholder, a home owner and a member of the faux-Middle class.

Let’s be honest though. House prices cannot rise ten-fold, nor can wages. Pensions cannot really ‘magic’ money from the stock market. In fact without the tangible output of industries such as coal, steel or manufacturing, it was all just digital numbers on bank and stock market computer screens.

But the people of the UK did, and still do, believe that the money was growing on trees and that the bricks of their houses were becoming more valuable.

Then the bubble burst and the public sector cuts started. The strikes were inevitable because the dream was being taken away. Job cuts are unavoidable because wage cuts are impossible. Today in Central London, so many people marched together, independently! Civil servants, NHS workers, Police, Prison Officers… united they stand but sadly the world has been Thatcher-ised and people put themselves first individually. How foolish should they all feel for buying the dream?

What were formerly nationalised industries are now in the private sector. Private sector workers can’t strike for fear of losing jobs but their pensions are no more secure or profitable. Everyone is being told to work further into their old age but where are the jobs supposed to exist to continue to employ this aging workforce?

It’s a sad situation that’s being repeated across Europe and America in countries where governments followed the lead of Thatcher.

Like most dreams they have to end sometime so who better than the Conservatives to explain to their electorate where it all went wrong and deal with the legacy of the ‘Iron Lady’.

Last updated: May 10, 2012 at 11:16 pm