Margaret Thatcher is like Alex Ferguson…

I don’t intend to comment on the putative legacy of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher [Too early to say? – Ed]  Perhaps.  And Mick has it covered…  But I will point to Tom Chivers’ observations on some of the more, erm, extreme reactions.

My own hypothesis, and it’s only a hypothesis, is that she’s hated by some of the less thoughtful elements of the Left in the same way that Sir Alex Ferguson is hated by less thoughtful Liverpool fans: because she won, and won emphatically, and in the process brought her opponents down from lofty pedestals and made them irrelevant. (The analogy works even better because, like Liverpool, the hard Left really sowed the seeds of their own destruction: Fergie didn’t “knock Liverpool off their f***ing perch” so much as Graeme Souness did; a combination of Arthur Scargill, Michael Foot and Tony Benn made the Left essentially unelectable for the 1980s, making Thatcher’s job of crushing them that much easier.) Labour and the Left only became serious opponents again when they took on the free-market capitalism that Thatcher had made normal. The unions and the Socialist Workers’ Party and so on hate Thatcher so much because before her they were powerful, and after her they were not.

None of this is to say that her legacy is overall a good one. I don’t feel in a position to judge. My own instinct is that she did some things that needed to be done, even if some were painful; she also did some stupid, divisive and unnecessary things. Like every politician she is a complex character. But because for some people politics is essentially a football game – my team against theirs, win, lose or draw – and because Margaret Thatcher essentially ended the hard Left as a political force, the supporters of that particular team reserve a special loathing for her. [added emphasis]

Indeed.  And, perhaps, why other erstwhile members of that team would rather we would just move along now.  [But “Her Irish policy failed miserably“! – Ed]  Of course it did…

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  • FDM

    Alex Ferguson has a socialist outlook. You know the same socialism that Thatcher hated.

    Outside of that fantastic analogy, what can I say Pete, another great post.

    Thatchers policy toward Ireland was achieve a military victory towards which end she applied every dispicable every anti-democratic nay fascist trick in the both. Even to the extent of her minions targeting and murdering lawyers, much like her pal Pinochet.

    The same people she refused to let speak on national television are now in national government. Like those terrorists [her words] Mandela, Adams, McGuinness and co.

    An abject failure by all accounts.

  • Rory Carr

    …the Socialist Workers’ Party and so on hate Thatcher so much because before her they were powerful, and after her they were not.

    Hullo ! I must have missed something here. Is it something like the 60’s – if you remember it you can’t have been there ?

    When ever was the Socialist Workers’ Party powerful?
    Never, never, never, never ! is the answer to that question. Not even the more outrageously ott of their spokesmen like Tony Cliff or Pat Stack would have claimed that they ever held any power whatsoever and the more sensible ones (Eamonn McCann, Paul Foot) would have been appalled at the suggestion.

    Thatcher suited the SWP well and they must have mourned her going having to wait until Blair’s Iraq adventure before they had a comparable simple figure of hate. Today though they are quite well off with Osborne and IDS and Clegg who are all quite so easy to fear and loath, each in his own unique way, such is the divergent glory of humanity.

    Dontcha think ?

  • Mark

    Her death and the images of people celebrating it reminds me of similar scenes when Saadam Hussein was hung .

    She has to be up there in the top five hate figures of all time …..

    And no , Sir Alex wouldn’t make the list .

  • BluesJazz

    Do you also think Daffy Duck was ‘dispicable’?

  • FDM


    Do you also think Daffy Duck was ‘dispicable’?


    Daffy was always very entertaining.

    However I can’t say I can concur with your adoption of Daffy as a role model is improving your contributions to slugger.

    I feel more like Roadrunner myself at the minute and see you in my minds eye as the poor Wylie Coyote holding the ignited improvised device, of your own making.

  • GEF

    Subject: [scotch-irish] MARGARET THATCHER

    When history comes to be written Margaret Thatcher will be remembered, quite rightly, for liberating the United Kingdom from both the leviathan state (via the sale of council housing and privatisation of many nationalised industries) and also the stranglehold of the trades union movement (via much-needed trades union reform); but she was not infallible, and she made a number of serious gaffes which should not go unnoticed.

    Firstly, the lady who claimed she was not for turning, did a U-turn immediately on being elected to office in 1979, by immediately reneging on her General Election Manifesto commitment “to establish one or more elected regional councils with a wide range of powers over local services” in Northern Ireland, and convened the Atkins Conference in the Province, which succeeded in stalling the establishment of a province-wide administrative assembly/regional council, long championed by the then Ulster Unionist Party Leader Jim Molyneaux and the late Airey Neave (her campaign manager who had been cruelly assassinated by the INLA only weeks before her 1979 General Election victory). This led onto the ill-fated 1982-86 rolling devolution initiative of Jim Prior, the Brooke-Mayhew talks and the eventual establishment of a power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland in 1998, which the Ulster electorate had previously (and rightly) rejected, as far back in 1973.

    Secondly, it would appear that – for all her refusal to surrender to terrorism – in the wake of the IRA bombing of the Conservative Party Conference, she surely did indeed surrender, as just over a year later she signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement which gave the Government of the Irish Republic effective proto joint-authority over Northern Ireland with the Government of the United Kingdom. Whilst, in her memoirs The Downing Street Years, she subsequently acknowledged this was “a mistake”, and Members from both the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) today cite that as being their primary difference with her, the sad fact is that its legacy continues today via the institutions of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and 2006 St Andrew’s Agreement, vis-à-vis the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and Secretariat, North-South Ministerial Council and North-South Implementation Bodies. For all that the DUP and UUP chanted “No Dublin Interference (in Ulster’s affairs)”, it is still rampant in Northern Ireland twenty-eight years later via the very institutions they now herald as bastions of accountable democracy.

    Thirdly, Margaret Thatcher will be remembered for treating Scotland as a guinea-pig for the reform of local government finance. Following an unpopular revaluation of domestic rates, the community charge (aka poll-tax) was introduced in Scotland a year earlier than it was in England and Wales, although – probably due to Northern Ireland’s local authorities having such limited powers in comparison to their counterparts elsewhere in the UK – it was never introduced in Northern Ireland. This, more than the necessary closure of unprofitable nationalised industries in Scotland, was to set in motion the accelerated decline in support for the Conservative Party in Scotland since 1979.

    Fourthly, on the subject of local government, Margaret Thatcher will be remembered for the abolition of the Greater London Council and the English Metropolitan County Councils, which paved the way for the introduction of unitary authorities in England, and later in Scotland and Wales, when the Tories foolishly abolished the second (or upper) tier of local government there in 1986. One could argue that it was the abolition of Scotland’s regional councils which fuelled the demands for a Scottish Parliament which, in turn, has re-ignited the fire for independence among certain quarters of the Scottish electorate today.

    Fifthly, for all that she was heralded for cutting public expenditure and controlling the money supply, in real terms public expenditure on key services – e.g., education, health and social security – rose in real terms during her premiership, and she did little (if anything) to denationalise these services, although the introduction of compulsory competitive tendering did force local authorities to explore the option of contracting-out a limited number of their functions to the private sector. Moreover, it was Enoch Powell – not Margaret Thatcher – who first championed the cause of monetarism, for which Mrs Thatcher (rightly or wrongly) was later attributed the honour of pioneering.

    Sixthly, for all her purported scepticism of the European Union, Margaret Thatcher was never in favour of UK withdrawal from the European Union, and in fact strengthened the malign influence of EU institutions via signing the Single European Act which established the Single Market and codified European Political Co-operation, the forerunner of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, paving the way for the eventual creation of a European Super-state.

    Others will, no doubt, have their own reasons for liking or disliking Lady Thatcher. None of us are perfect – no, not one – but whilst acknowledging the many good things that she did, we do our country less than justice if we do not also acknowledge those six aspects of her premiership, which are perhaps six of the worst (if not six of the best), she has bequeathed us.


  • Mick Fealty

    Agree strongly with four and five… Especially the point about emasculation of local democracy…

    Where did you get these GEF? Part right in three, but the poll tax is what finally put paid to any recovery… They’d already halved between 83 and 87… You destroy trust to that extent in one fell swoop….

    Good to get a genuine unionist take on the AIA… But as noted most unionists seem to have reconciled themselves to it… “Some undergrowth. That had to e cleared away:

  • GEF

    “Where did you get these GEF?”

    Mike, It was emailed to me as a round robin piece. Unfortunately the poster never included a website were it came from. The title: “Subject: [scotch-irish] MARGARET THATCHER” may be a clue that it originally came from a [scotch-irish] website. I thought it was interesting for SoT’s subscribers to read.

  • GEF

    Apoligies,I seem to get mixed up between calling you Mike instead of Mick

  • BarneyT

    Your gut seems right Pete.

    From a government and ruling perspective, I can see that the unions needed their wings clipped. A new era of cooperation between the unions and government was needed and clearly things could not continue, however it was a war-like confrontation and it didnt have to be.

    The NUM leadership through their actions and ill-conceived campaign issued an open invitation for the treatment they eventually received. This was Thatcher we were talking about afterall.

    I agreed that foot was unelectable, but how much of this was to do with perception and image. Thatcher was polished and professional looking. Foot represented the old and many could not envisage such a character (shallow as that might be) on the world stage. Of course post Falklands perhaps would always have ensured an 83 victory for the Tories.

    How would a Kinnock victory in 87 have changed things? Was it too late? Again did the treatment of the Unions by Thatcher serve as her Falklands II from an electioneering perspective?

    Interesting analogy between Ferguson and Thatcher. Both were fond of the hair-dryer treatment.


  • babyface finlayson

    “Alex Ferguson has a socialist outlook. You know the same socialism that Thatcher hated.”
    You do know how analogies work don’t you?

  • FDM

    @babyface finlayson

    “You do know how analogies work don’t you?”

    An analogy. A similarity between LIKE features of two things, on which a comparison may be based.

    This is fundamentally a politics forum. Thatcher is most certainly a political figure. A very controversial one to say the least. Alex Ferguson is a football manager.

    A good analogy works when “comparing apples with apples”. Not when comparing “apples and spacecraft”.

    Do you know how GOOD analogies work well? Patently not.

    You and Pete should should have a conversation on how ‘hedgehogs and spaceshuttles” are fundamentally the same thing.

  • babyface finlayson

    Come off it. Comparing apples to apples? You are a comedian.
    Comparing two leaders in different fields is a perfectly reasonable use of analogy.
    Fergies socialism is irrelevant to whether the analogy works or not.

  • FDM

    @babyface finlayson

    Come off it. Comparing apples to apples? You are a comedian.
    Comparing two leaders in different fields is a perfectly reasonable use of analogy.
    Fergies socialism is irrelevant to whether the analogy works or not.

    Looking forward to the next mastery of analogy class the subject being

    “Clement Atlee is like Jose Mourinho because…”

  • babyface finlayson

    “Looking forward to the next mastery of analogy class”
    Glad to have helped you.

  • @GEF,

    You left out one important legacy: by defeating the Argentine junta in the Falklands she paved the way for the restoration of democracy there. Because this occurred at a time when the continent in general was moving towards democracy it became permanent instead of merely temporary as had other democratic periods in Argentina’s 20th century history. But because of Argentina’s irredentist claim to the Falklands, her role will never be truly acknowledged as long as the claim remains.

    As regards the AIA, it was intended to electorally weaken the Republican Movement, which it did for several years–over a decade. That Sinn Fein eventually became the dominant nationalist party is mainly to be attributed to the “sneaking regarder” effect in Irish politics, which propelled Fianna Fail to a dominant position in the South for decades.