I found this extremely interesting snippet in Robin Ramsay’s ‘News from the Bridge’ section in the latest issue of the parapolitics magazine, Lobster, for Summer 2017. According to Frank Field, shortly after she retired, someone asked her what she most regretted. The Iron Lady answered that it was cutting taxes. She said she believed that it would result in a more giving society. This had not materialised.
I watch our politicians and, even though I know that as politicians they’re interested in power first and the truth second (or fifth, or not at all15), and have been conditioned to listen to polls and focus groups for their professed views, I find myself unable to suppress the thought: I wonder what they are really thinking? Take Margaret Thatcher: what did she really think she was doing when she fronted the creation of the grossly unequal society we now have? Frank Field MP gave us a striking insight into her thinking recently. Just after
she retired she was asked, ‘“What was your greatest disappointment in
government?” Back shot Mrs T: “I cut taxes because I thought we would get a giving society. And we haven’t.”
If we take this seriously, she apparently thought charitable giving would replace some of the state’s functions. This is consistent with the anti-state prejudices of the group with which she was allied in the 1970s – Keith Joseph, Alfred Sherman, the Institute for Economic Affairs et al. Another interpretation would be that, having decided to cut taxes to win elections, she rationalised the reduction in state spending with the thought. ‘Oh, well, people will give more to charity.’ Either way, it shows that Mrs T had no understanding of the
society in which she lived and the great tide of possessive individualism17 she was encouraging. But we knew that already, I guess.
See the section ‘Oh, Really?’ at http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster73/lob73-view-from-the-bridge.pdf
Assuming that this is genuine, and not Thatcher trying to make herself look genuinely caring and self-aware when the opposite was the case, this undermines somewhat the central myth of Thatcherism. The Tories have consistently attacked the welfare state on the grounds that it discourages private charity. I remember Thatcher and the Tory press prating on about how the retreat of welfare provision would strengthen private charity, as private individuals and charities stepped in to fill the vacuum left by the state. Reagan and the Republicans spouted the same nonsense over the other side of the Pond, followed by Bill Clinton. There’s footage of the former governor of Arkansas telling one Conservative group that ‘we know that there isn’t a government programme for every need or social problem’ or words to that effect, before going on to praise the effectiveness of private charity in tackling poverty and deprivation. And it’s true that American religious Conservatives are personally more generous than secular liberals. But the left has pointed out that private charity is inadequate for tackling poverty, unemployment, and issues like disability and poor health. You need state provision.
Now it seems, despite all the rubbish talked about Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ or May’s ‘shared society’, all this Thatcherite talk about private charity was rubbish, and known to be so by the woman who uttered it, after she tried it and it didn’t work. This has to be an embarrassment to a party for whom Maggie can do no wrong, and which is still preaching her discredited bilge nearly forty years after she came to power.
Get May and the Tories out now! Before they can wreck the NHS still further.
Tags: Alfred Sherman, Arkansas, Bill Clinton, Conservatives, David Cameron, Frank Field, Institute for Economic Affairs, Keith Joseph, Lobster, Margaret Thatcher, NHS, Parapolitics, Republicans, Ronald Reagan, Taxes, Theresa May