Margaret Ferrier: she doesn’t look well, does she?
It’s no more than she deserves.
Margaret Ferrier is an MP for the SNP (whip currently suspended) who took a Covid-19 test on September 26 after experiencing symptoms.
Then, instead of self-isolating (just in case) she visited a gym, a beauty salon and a gift shop.
On September 28, while still awaiting her test results due to the lamentable slowness of the UK’s privatised testing system, she took a train from Scotland to London and spoke in a Parliamentary debate.
That evening she received a positive test result. Then, knowing she may have infected anybody in the gym, beauty salon, gift shop, on the train to London, and in Parliament itself, what did she do?
She took another train back to Scotland and lied to her party whip that a family member was unwell.
She admitted her offences on October 1, in a public statement. Afterwards Ferrier was suspended from the SNP, and referred herself to the police and the Parliamentary standards authorities.
Party leader Nicola Sturgeon has been referring to her as “Margaret Covid” ever since.
The reference may be to Typhoid Mary – a person who carries a disease to many others.
This Writer thinks other key players in the Covid-19 crisis should also be granted appropriate nicknames – and I see that I am not alone:
Love Nicola Sturgeon’s idea of calling Margaret Ferrier ‘Margaret Covid’ and think we should roll it out to everyone who does shitty, inexcusable things.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Look at all that white space: What a wonderful – free – canvas for any would-be Banksy to pass comment on the woman whose image stands at the top of it. At least, that’s what this artist’s impression suggests.
It seems nobody wants to have a statue of Margaret Thatcher on their doorstep.
Westminster Council rejected plans to put it up in central London last year, basing the decision on a report that it could attract “potential vandalism and civil disorder”.
Now, according to Metro, councillors in Baroness Thatcher’s hometown of Grantham, Lincolnshire, are considering putting the £300,000 statue on a 10ft plinth – also to deter “politically-motivated vandals”.
They haven’t thought it through at all.
A 10ft plinth will be a blank canvas for every wannabe Banksy who wants to try their hand at satirical graffiti.
They’ll come from every corner of the United Kingdom to make their mark on that wonderful 10ft expanse of white stone – and to make a point about the woman whose image will stand at the top of it.
And with 17 objections to the statue plan, and only seven in support, it is doubtful that many people will be upset if they do.
Vox Political needs your help! If you want to support this site
(but don’t want to give your money to advertisers) you can make a one-off donation here:
Here are four ways to be sure you’re among the first to know what’s going on.
1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the left margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.
Does anybody know anything about crowdfunding? Perhaps something could be done to make Mr Cullen’s exhibition a permanent feature of the London scene.
Plans to open an anti-Thatcher museum in London are being hatched by artist Darren Cullen.
The 32 year old, originally from Leeds, says he is in the early stages of planning, but has already been looking into finding potential locations and raising the funds for a temporary exhibition on the Iron Lady.
In 2013, Cameron gave his backing to a £15million museum and library called The Thatcher Centre, that would celebrate her life to “ensure Thatcher’s legacy lives on”.
But Darren thinks that there should be an alternative to this: a museum which exhibits the negative side of Thatcher and the UK under her rule.
Darren says:” I wanted to start this project because I think there’s going to be a serious need to counteract the whitewashed version of Thatcher’s legacy the official museum will present.”
Martin Rowson’s Guardian cartoon of April 13 satirises the spectacle of Baroness Thatcher’s funeral, calling it as he sees it: A primitive tribal ritual.
“This is Hell, nor am I out of it.” – Mephistopheles, Doctor Faustus.
As I write these words, the funeral of Margaret Thatcher is taking place at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Unemployment stands at 2.56 million (7.9 per cent of the workforce).
The banks are not lending money.
More small firms are going out of business every day.
The economy is stagnant and the outlook for growth is bleak, according to the International Monetary Fund.
The rich elite prey on the poor – Britain’s highest-earners are billions better-off than in 2010, while wages for the lowest-earners are increased by so little that most of them are on benefit and sliding into debt (0.8 per cent rise in the year to February).
The cost of living has risen by around three per cent.
900,000 people have been out of work for more than a year.
The number of unemployed people aged 16-24 is up to 979,000 (21.6 per cent of all those in that age group).
Politicians lie to us, in order to win our support by deceit.
Assessment for disability benefits is on a model devised by an insurance company to avoid paying money to those who need it most.
Health services are being privatised, to make money for corporate shareholders rather than heal the sick.
Government policies have reinstated the ‘Poll Tax’ principle that everybody must pay taxation, no matter how poor they are.
Government policies mean child poverty will rise by 100,000 this year. It will not achieve the target of ending child poverty in the UK by 2020.
Government policies are ensuring that many thousands of people will soon be homeless, while social housing is being sold into the private sector.
And Legal Aid is being cut back, to ensure that the only people with access to justice are those who can pay for it.
This is not a good time to run a retail business – the effect of the Coalition’s benefit cuts will trickle up and bite our rich retailers and industrialists hard.
According to the BBC website, business activity was hit hard by last month’s exceptionally cold weather, with the number of people visiting shops down by more than five per cent.
For one person, this will have been an extremely pleasant piece of news, because for once he won’t have to explain himself.
That person is, of course, Gideon George Osborne.
For one month, he hasn’t been in the unenviable position of having to root around in the political undergrowth for a reason the economy has tanked – that isn’t related to his own hopelessly inadequate economic policies.
For one month only!
He will not have an excuse when the figures come in for April, worse than for March, as sane economic forecasters should expect.
Instinct says he will tell us the funeral of Margaret Thatcher will have something to do with it. He used the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as a shield – what goes for ‘matches’ must surely apply also to ‘dispatches’.
The real reason will be the effect of the huge benefit cuts, that will take £19 billion out of the economy over the next year, if commentators are to be believed.
That’s just in money terms. Add in a conservative estimate of the fiscal multiplier (the effect on the economy) and we’re staring into the black pit of a £30.4 billion loss. That would be £500 for every person in the UK, if we were all affected.
But the richest among us won’t be. It is on the poorest and least able to defend themselves that this hammer blow has fallen. The government has been giving money back to the richest, as we all know.
In fact, this show of support for his cosseted buddies might protect them from the storm that’s coming, and may therefore prove to be a shrewd move – but we must all remember that Osborne is not an intelligent man and good fortune coming to anyone as a result of his policies is pure chance.
Because the rich will be affected by the benefit cuts. Poor people have no choice but to spend the money they receive. They have to buy things they need and pay the bills, so it goes on food, heat, light, water, the rent, repairs and other necessaries. With less money available to them, they will not be spending as much in the shops, and will be more careful about how much gas, electricity and water they use, as well.
Who owns and runs the shops? Who owns the shares in the utility companies (now that the bulk of shares have been bought up from the middle-class speculators who bought them in the 1980s)?
After a few months of this, we’ll see what happens to their profit margins. My guess is that a £100,000 tax rebate won’t help very much.
The propaganda machine keeps spewing out nonsense, of course. Only last weekend we heard Francis Maude telling Jonathan Dimbleby and the Any Questions audience in Exeter: “The Coalition government, which is two parties which have come together from a different place, in the national interest, to do something quite big and difficult, which is to address the biggest budget deficit any country in the west had.”
It wasn’t the largest budget deficit of any western country – either by size or percentage of GDP. That was a flat-out lie and I wish Jimbles would pull him up on it.
The deficit in the United States is greater than ours in percentage terms; in money terms, it dwarfs the UK.
Across the whole world, Japan has the biggest deficit.
Strangely, you don’t hear the Japanese making a big fuss about it.
It seems police confiscated an effigy of the Blue Baroness after protesters set fire to it in Glasgow. It is doubtful that the scene looked anything like the above image. Without an effigy to burn, the protesters did NOT become violent. No – they did a conga, while chanting, “Maggie Maggie Maggie, dead dead dead”.
Why on earth does Boris Johnson think it’s necessary to put the fear of violence into our heads, just because people are coming to London to demonstrate in favour of common sense?
The London Mayor said hundreds of Metropolitan police officers would be “kitted up” and ready to be deployed rapidly, in case of outbreaks of disorder.
The trouble with that, of course, is that he has made everybody involved – protesters and police – paranoid that unpleasantness of some kind will happen, and that it will be the other side that starts it!
How utterly ridiculous. By all means, keep your political tools (the police) ready, Boris, but keep them in the background. Otherwise, you’re the one inciting trouble.
If only he was able to step back and look at the situation dispassionately. Consider what the protests are about:
The main event is a demonstration against the current lionisation of Margaret Thatcher that has already cost the taxpayer nearly £2 million in expenses payments for MPs who were recalled to Parliament during their Easter recess for no good reason, when tributes could have been paid to the Blue Baroness upon MPs’ scheduled return, on Monday. Add to that a further £10 million for a state-funded funeral with military honours that a huge proportion of the population believes is undeserved – especially when the late champion of privatisation had more than enough cash in her estate to pay for as much pomp and ceremony as she could ever have wanted – and anyone can see there is a valid justification for the event.
Attendees will include former miners, and members of mining communities that were devastated by the Thatcher government’s decision to force a confrontation with the unions – the real reason the pits were closed in the mid-1980s. They will be joined by travellers – whose kind were attacked by police, in their role as a political tool of the Thatcher government rather than as guardians of lawful behaviour, most notably in the ‘Battle of the Beanfield’. Students whose grants were transformed into loans during her period of office will also be represented, along with those who are politically opposed to her policies and their legacy.
History tells us that violence involving those groups has always been instigated by those arrayed against them – the forces of the government; remember, the BBC was forced into a (grudging) apology after it was proved that footage of a police charge had been doctored to make it seem the miners had attacked first, when in fact the police provoked the unpleasantness.
So let’s hope that nothing of the kind happens today – either at the main event, the UKUncut demo against the Bedroom Tax and benefit cap, or the Taxpayers Against Poverty march.
But if it does, let’s all take a good hard look at whoever kicks it off – particularly their voting history. I have a sneaking suspicion that anyone causing trouble today will have a prediliction for supporting the Conservative Party.
In fact she’ll get a military funeral, which is just as expensive and unwanted by the majority of Britons. What this image makes clear is just how badly wrong the current UK government’s priorities have become.
Can anyone imagine the kind of row we would have seen this week if Labour had blocked the recall of Parliament to pay tribute to Margaret Thatcher?
Did David Cameron really believe that the demise of his beloved ex-leader was a national emergency? Of course not. This was merely a chance to scrounge some more money off the taxpayer.
He turned the Blue Baroness into a cash cow.
According to the Daily Mirror, every MP returning to Westminster to take part in the debate could claim expenses totalling £3,750 each.
So, if all 650 MPs turned up, the cost to you and me would have been £2,437,500 – for a debate that could have happened next week, at no extra cost.
Was it a bribe, to get more Members to turn up? If so, it didn’t work very well. Sure, the government benches were packed with Tories, climbing over themselves to orate on how great Nanny was – but the Opposition benches were conspicuously empty. It seems 150 Labour MPs had better things to do.
We should all be grateful for that – it took the bill down to £1,875,000.
Should Labour have opposed the recall? The speaker, John Bercow, was reportedly – let’s say – less than enthusiastic about the matter, especially the way it was conducted: The request came in a telephone call from a mid-ranking 10 Downing Street staff member, rather than in writing, according to The Guardian. The Speaker had to remind the Prime Minister that he must follow protocol and it was only then that Cameron formalised his request in writing.
(Cameron seems to have a problem with following the rules. The first time he got up in Parliament as the Prime Minister, he appeared to forget that he must address his comments to the Speaker and put many of them directly to some of the Members opposite – until a few sharp comments from Mr Bercow put him back in his place.)
Bercow then sought a reaction from the Opposition, and it seems the decision not to oppose it was political, in order not to cause a row in which they were bound to be vilified for failing to show due respect.
Given the facts that street parties broke out in several major British cities on the day she died, while ‘Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead’ appeared at number 10 in the midweek charts, it seems unlikely that any Parliamentary party needs to lower itself in that way. The British people have spoken.
So Mr Miliband trotted out a speech about how the Blue Baroness was a woman of strong convictions who held to her ideals (even if he didn’t agree with them) or some such.
Then he sat down and listened, for hours, to the other speeches, including this from Glenda Jackson:
“We were told that everything I had been taught to regard as a vice – and I still regard them as vices – under Thatcherism, was in fact a virtue. Greed, selfishness, no care for the weaker… they were the way forward. We have heard much, and will continue to hear over the next week, of the barriers that were broken down by Thatcherism, the Establishment that was destroyed. What we actually saw – the word that has been circling around with stars around it, is that she created an ‘aspirational’ society. It ‘aspired’ for ‘things’… One of the former Prime Ministers, who himself had been elevated to the House of Lords, spoke about selling off the family silver, and people knowing under those years the price of everything and the value of nothing. What concerns me is that I am beginning to see possibly the re-emergence of that total traducing of what I regard as being the basic, spiritual nature of this country, where we do care about society, where we do believe in communities, where we do not leave people to walk by on the other side.”
And this, from David Anderson:
“She came to power promising to bring harmony where there was discord. In the mining communities up and down the country, she brought the opposite. She believed we were no longer any use to the nation because we were deemed to be uneconomic… because we insisted on running safe coal mines in this country. One of the great disgraces of this country today is we import over 50 million tonnes of coal a year from countries where men are killed, literally in the thousands, and we closed our industry that was the safest, the most technologically-advanced, in the world.
“The other area where the so-called economic justification falls down was the failure of Margaret Thatcher and her government to take into account the social cost… where no alternative employment was put forward for those people who were losing their jobs – and particularly for their children. The village where I lived had seen coal mining for almost two centuries. In a matter of months after closure, we were gripped by a wave of petty crime, burglary, car crime – mostly related to drugs. We have never recovered from it.
“We’ve seen the reaction of people whose frustration is heartfelt because they’ve lost their sense of place in society; they’ve been made to feel worthless; they’ve been cast aside like a pair of worn-out pit boots. They’ve seen their community fall apart. They’ve seen their children’s opportunities disappear. And they’ve not been listened to.
“Mrs Thatcher’s lack of empathy, her intransigence, her failure to see the other side, her refusal to even look at the other side, has left them bitter, and resentful, and hitting out in a way that is uncharacteristic of the miners in our community. Her accusation that the “enemy within” was in the mining areas of this country still rankles people. I wasn’t the “enemy within”… All we wanted was the right to work. We didn’t just want it for ourselves; we wanted it for our kids, and that was taken away.”
David Cameron wanted to pay his MPs huge amounts of money to come back and spend seven and a half hours – and remember, Winston Churchill only got 45 minutes after his death – singing the praises of the Blue Baroness – to the high heavens. He got what he wanted, and it is fair to say his Party members enjoyed telling their little stories.
But the contributions of Labour members like Glenda Jackson and David Anderson are the ones that will be remembered.
Get your votes out: But who will you support, if your local council is holding elections this year? The mid-term poll is always carefully watched, so your vote could sway predictions for the 2015 general election!
Hard though it may be to believe, in the midst of all the ‘Mrs T’ drivel, but life goes on and there are elections on the way.
The Liberal Democrats have launched their bid for seats on 34 councils in England and one in Wales, predictably, with a smear campaign.
Apparently, both their Coalition partners the Conservatives, and Labour, are inefficient and waste money on “vanity projects”.
This will be a hard criticism for the Tories to counter, considering they are about to waste up to £10 million of taxpayers’ – our – money on a ceremonial funeral for Baroness Thatcher that the majority of the people in the UK simply don’t want.
Apparently, MPs can claim £3,750 each, from the taxpayer, because Parliament has been recalled to pay tribute to her. If they all take advantage of it, that alone will cost us £2,437,500!
Praise is due to Labour’s John Mann, who the BBC placed among those calling the debate a waste of money. He said tributes could have been made next week, when Parliament is due to return.
But then, what is the Liberal Democrat plan to increase the Personal Allowance, that we are all allowed to earn before we start paying Income Tax, if it isn’t a vanity project?
Nick Clegg says the Liberal Democrats will spread “the burden of austerity fairly”, but if this policy really has made 24 million families in the UK £600 better-off than they were in 2010, that means the Treasury has received £14,400,000,000 less than it otherwise would have. Nearly 14-and-a-half BILLION pounds!
This is money that could have eased the severity of the benefit cuts on the poorest in society, or the government could have invested it in projects that would have created jobs, increasing the tax take and lessening the burden of debt repayments and benefits for the poor.
Noticeably absent from Mr Clegg’s speech, at the Eden Project in Cornwall, was any mention of what his party would do with any new council seats it picks up. Instead, he went back to the Liberal Democrat ‘message script’ that was thrust upon his party back between Christmas and the New Year. “Only the Liberal Democrats will build a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life” he droned.
Here in Radnorshire, Wales, people hearing that will be thinking those words are familiar, and asking themselves when they were aired before. Oh yes – it was last week, when our MP Roger Williams and AM Kirsty Williams were talking up the increases in the Personal Allowance.
So there’s no offer from the Liberal Democrats.
At least Labour’s Ed Miliband launched his party’s campaign with a solid commitment – he wants councils to be allowed to prevent payday lenders from operating in their areas, and to stop bookmakers from opening as well.
In hard times, it makes sense for gambling to be curbed – although it is a shame that the last Labour government allowed it to become commonplace before the financial crash hit. And payday lenders must be brought to heel – the huge interest rates they charge mean borrowers – who need the money because they receive such a poor pay packet from their fatcat bosses, don’t forget – fall even further into debt.
But Labour’s recent behaviour in Parliament has created deep mistrust of the party among its core voters. Labour betrayed the poorest workers in the UK, and everybody who is looking for a job, by supporting Iain Duncan Smith’s retroactive law to legalise his illegal sanctions against jobseekers who would not take part in his slave-labour ‘mandatory work activity’ schemes to raise cash for ‘work programme provider’ companies and commercial enterprises that took part.
If Labour wants to win that trust back, it needs to field prospective councillors who genuinely want to represent the interests of the people in their wards, with good Labour values – ensuring they get the best value for their council tax money, rather than turning services over to private enterprises who then make councils pay through the nose for inferior work, for example.
And what about all the new contenders that have sprung up since the Coalition came to power and started reversing all the good work the previous Labour government did, justifying it by saying the new austerity made it necessary (it isn’t)?
The National Health Action Party can be ruled out, I think. That organisation is a single-issue party created solely to attack Coalition members of Parliament, and anyone else who voted in support of the Health and Social Care Act, that allows private, for-profit companies to run NHS services.
What about the ‘No’ Party? This group claims the UK needs a fresh start, and wants to contend the next general election “on a massive scale”. In that case, they should start at local level. Political organisations of any kind won’t be trusted with Parliamentary seats until their members have proved themselves in the local arena and the May elections are a perfect opportunity to get started. Where are the ‘No’ candidates?
What about the People of the British Political and Lawful Rebellion Party, which says it aims “to put the People back into politics”.
This organisation’s Facebook page says: “It is time this country came together and started the mass political and legal upheavel required for a legitimate, lawful, peaceful and successful rebellion. As a newly founded political party, we take one-step at at time while learning to utilise our skills as individuals and collectively.”
Okay, then why not start now – in local councils? Then the ordinary people will be able to find out what they’re all about.
It seems too early for any wide-based, mainstream ‘Party of the Left’, of the kind Ken Loach has been pushing, to come together in time for these elections – which is a shame.
In the light of Labour’s actions on the Jobseekers (Back to the Workhouse) Bill, it is possible that there does need to be another mainstream, national left-wing political organisation – if only to remind Labour of what it ought to be.
One of the most telling comments about the late Baroness Thatcher was that she changed not only the Conservatives, but other political parties, meaning that Labour followed a similar course to the Conservatives when it came to office in 1997.
It’s time Labour remembered that there are other, real and workable alternatives – and started working on them.
The Iron Lady: This is probably the most iconic image of Margaret Thatcher from her tenure as Prime Minister of the UK. “The lady’s not for turning,” she warned. Unfortunately for Britain, she kept her word.
It isn’t every day that a former Prime Minister dies – and even rarer that we witness the death of one who affected the UK in such a fundamental way as Baroness Thatcher.
As I write this, the outpouring of tributes and discussion of her achievements in the mass media are in full swing – mostly concentrating on what their editors would define as the ‘good’ she did for our country. Most of the TV channels and papers are run by right-wingers, of course – so you can expect them to be dripping with adulation.
However, as I commented on Facebook yesterday evening, street parties broke out in Brixton and Glasgow, celebrating her demise (I understand celebrations took place in Leeds and Liverpool, and possibly many other cities, towns and villages across the UK). They had bands, they have people handing out milk (remember, she was the ‘Milk Snatcher’ before she was PM), they were chanting “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie – dead, dead, dead” and popping champagne.
There was a humour – a sense of wit – about it, not only in what was going on (the milk, for example) but also the locations (there were riots in Brixton during her tenure, and Scotland was where the hated Poll Tax was piloted).
But I said it is also tragic “that a person should do so much harm in her life, and be so hated by the people she was elected to represent – more than 20 years after she left office – that her death is marked by spontaneous celebration and, literally, dancing in the streets”.
That comment thread has now been read by more than 15,000 people (usually I get one or two thousand through my Facebook door). A question I posted has received more than four times as many votes saying she harmed the country as say she improved it (47 – 11).
What DID she achieve?
According to Paul Krugman’s blog, it’s debatable whether she achieved anything, in terms of the economy.
“Thatcher came to power in 1979, and imposed a radical change in policy almost immediately,” he wrote. “But the big improvement in British performance doesn’t really show in the data until the mid-1990s. Does she get credit for a reward so long delayed?”
Good question. In fact, her two-and-a-half terms in office constituted an extremely rocky road for those of us who had to live through them (and I was one)! My opinion is that this is because she was not interested in improving Britain’s NATIONAL prosperity.
No – the Thatcher crusade was ideological. She wanted to thrust her form of Conservatism so far down everybody’s throat that it would take decades for any other way to be accepted – and she succeeded beyond her wildest dreams.
Let’s look at the policies that most clearly demonstrate this ideology.
She sold off Britain’s council houses. The cheap, rented social housing that accommodated those of us who earned the least were sold wholesale during her premiership – and not replaced. Mrs Thatcher is said to have had a dream to create a Britain full of homeowners. Sadly, this is not what happened. Instead, the majority of council houses were sold off to private landlords who then rented them out again – at higher cost. The lack of replacement council houses meant that the country’s poor had no alternative but to rent at the higher level, meaning they had less disposable income than before the sell-off. The rise of housing associations to fill the social housing gap has meant an extra layer of bureaucracy between the tenant and their elected representatives, who can now claim that any abuse of power by landlords is nothing to do with them.
She broke the unions. Some say this was vitally important, as the unions had become too powerful and were able to bring the country to its knees whenever they felt like it, calling strikes on a whim – and there is mileage in this. But it’s also possible to say that business bosses and members of the Thatcher government provoked confrontation in order to justify the erosion of union power – this is certainly true in the case of the mineworkers’ strike of 1984-5. There is an argument that National Coal Board chairman Ian MacGregor was paid millions of pounds to engineer the confrontation. The result was that the unions were stripped of many of their rights, meaning working people had nobody left to stand up for them in wage negotiations. It is a direct result of this that workers’ wages have risen by just 27 per cent over the last 30 years, while bosses’ salaries have multiplied by 800 per cent, and the gap between the country’s richest and poorest has grown, massively.
She stripped the UK of its manufacturing industries. What can be said about this? Thatcher saw much of Britain’s private industry as uneconomical, unprofitable. She oversaw a switch to service industries and finance – boosting this with bank deregulation. It is this move, which took place in the USA at around the same time, that led to the financial crisis of 2008 and the austerity measures which the current Coalition government is using to hammer the poorest in the modern UK.
She privatised national utilities. The share sell-offs were, on the face of it, intended to make it possible for every British citizen to buy shares in the companies that provided power, telecommunications, water and so on. In practice, the poorest couldn’t afford it, and those on middle incomes saw the shares as a short-term investment, believing they would be able to sell their shares on for many times the amount they paid, a few months later. This has led to the vast majority of shares in the privatised utilities falling into the hands of – you guessed it – the very, very rich. Another publicised intention of the sell-off was that, as private companies, these organisations would deliver a better service at a lower price. This was a fantasy; it never materialised. Look at British Rail (which I admit was privatised after Mrs Thatcher left office, but is a great example of the trend): Not only do users pay much more for their tickets now than when it was publicly-owned, but the subsidy paid to the private rail companies by the government has multiplied massively as well. Result: Rich shareholders become very much richer. Poor users struggle to cope with rising prices.
Can you spot the trend here?
She changed taxation to make the poor pay more. I refer, of course, to the infamous Poll Tax. Mrs Thatcher claimed in 1989 that a flat-rate tax for local services – with everybody, rich or poor, paying the same amount – was fairer. The public – who had already been fooled by the council housing sell-off, the public utility sell-off and the breaking of the unions, and were therefore sick of being hoodwinked – claimed otherwise and refused to pay. The public won and Mrs Thatcher was consigned to the waste basket of politics soon after. The current Coalition government is working hard to ensure that this policy is carried out, with the so-called ‘Pickles Poll Tax’ – the council tax support scheme that ensures everybody pays council tax. Meanwhile, efforts to ensure the rich pay less are going ahead, with Corporation Tax cut by a quarter during the lifetime of this Parliament, and the ‘Millionaires’ Tax Break’ cutting the top rate of Income Tax from 50p in the pound to 45p.
She kept Britain out of the Euro (or more accurately, European Monetary Union). This was her one sensible policy, history has proved. There is much to be said in favour of a free-trading zone where countries can trade amongst themselves at favourable rates – but monetary union cannot be a workable part of that, when the countries involved are at hugely varying stages of development. Mrs Thatcher was right to oppose it and the fact that the UK is not mired in the current Eurozone crisis, except as a member of the EU with trading interests to protect, is to her credit.
By now, dear reader, you are probably wondering how Mrs Thatcher lasted so long, if her policies were all so divisive, and so clearly trained on impoverishing the lower classes. The answer is simple: She was excellent at public relations. The fact that she was the UK’s first-ever female Prime Minister was a huge publicity boost for her, and she built on it by nurturing an image of herself as ‘The Iron Lady’ – a Prime Minister of firm convictions who knew that what she was doing was absolutely right for Britain (“Right for the goolies of Britain,” as Graeme Garden joked on Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue at the time). The PR-reliance was clear from the start – the Conservative Party hired the Saatchi & Saatchi agency to run its 1979, 1983 and 1987 election campaigns. It is notable that this partnership dissolved during the 87 campaign and Thatcher’s premiership ran out of steam shortly afterwards.
To sum up, I’ll leave you with the comment I placed on the New York Times website, in response to that paper’s piece about Mrs Thatcher’s death:
“Having lived through the Thatcher years and the changes her government perpetrated on British society, allow me to assure you that there is little reason to heap praise upon her.
“The entire thrust of her thinking was to ensure that the rich and powerful became richer and more powerful, and the poor – especially those with intelligence and/or ability – would be denied any chance of prosperity or success.
“What’s the American Dream all about? Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness? Everybody created equal, with opportunity for each according to their ability or achievement, regardless of social class or circumstances of birth? The Thatcher government is a rejection of all those aspirations, as is the current Cameron government, which is its natural successor.
“The Thatcher government deprived people of their liberty by creating a large underclass of unemployed people and using the threat of unemployment to depress workers’ wages.
“As a result, they did not have the disposable funds to take advantage of the sell-offs of national utilities such as British Gas and British Telecom.
“She sold social housing but did not build any to replace it.
“She used the police as a tool of political repression, rather than as guardians of the law.
“She used taxation in a similar manner, crippling the poor with punitive measures such as the hated Poll Tax – a flat-rate charge, effectively a tax cut for the rich, but a huge tax hike for the poor.
“That was her fatal error, of course.”
Goodbye, Baroness Thatcher. Hopefully your passing will trigger a reassessment of your career, so that we can all move on from the political nightmare your policies created for the vast majority of middle- and working-class people whose only political mistake lay in entrusting their future to you.
Is it a good building? Do you get on with the neighbours? Do you live in a pleasant part of the country?
Well, take a good look around because you could soon lose it all if the Tory-led Coalition government has its way.
The plan is to scrap Council Tax Benefit from April next year and compel local authorities to set up local council tax support schemes, in order to cut 10 per cent from the current council tax benefit bill – a total of around £470 million per year.
Because pensioners will not be attacked in this way – at this time – this means working-age people are likely to face a loss of at least 16 per cent of their benefit.
Councils could choose to reduce spending in other areas or increase their revenue through council tax but, as these will affect groups other than current benefit recipients, I think we all know which way our councillors will be pushed. Either way, the local authority will take the blame – or at least, that’s what the Coalition hopes.
It will then be up to those authorities to pursue poor people through the courts for payment, if they cannot afford the new charge. This could amount to more than 760,000 people who work, but whose incomes are so low that they currently receive council tax benefit (The fact that the benefit being paid to them is effectively a subsidy for their employers, who should pay enough for them to support themselves without the need for benefit, is apparently a side issue) plus the disabled (already a target for hate campaigns by the Department for Work and Pensions), the unemployed, and families with young children.
The alternative, of course, is to move somewhere cheaper. You see, this is another part of the government’s social cleansing policy, created to run alongside the housing benefit cap and the ‘bedroom tax’.
The plan, in the government’s Localism Bill, has already been labelled a revival of Margaret Thatcher’s hated Poll Tax because it aims to ensure that everybody pays, no matter how little money you have.
To put this in perspective, the annual saving will total less than one-twelfth of Vodafone’s tax bill. That company owed the UK Treasury £6 billion but the government let it get away with paying just £1.25 billion after a ‘sweetheart’ deal was made with HM Revenue and Customs. That’s the same government that will have you kicked out of your home for the sake of a few pennies.
Rebates of up to 100 per cent have been available to the unemployed, disabled people, full-time carers and households on low incomes, many of whom have not been required to pay at all, ever since Council Tax came into effect in 1992.
Councils are currently setting out how they plan to deal with the change. Manchester has launched a consultation on proposals to require all households except pensioners to pay at least 15 per cent of the council tax bill, while Barnet is proposing a minimum 25 per cent charge for all working-age residents – clearly that council wants to clear out the poor and set up shop as a desirable residence for the rich.
Adding insult to injury, the tax increase for the low-paid will be timed to come into effect next April, on the same day as a tax cut for millionaires.
It all seems a very vindictive way to keep the scheme’s architect, Eric Pickles, in pies.
Wouldn’t it be better just to get Vodafone to pay its taxes?
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.