Margaret Thatcher: A deeply qualified encomium…

Never trust the Irish. They are all liars, liars.

That was Peter Mandelson this morning recounting Margaret Thatcher’s words of advice to him on being made Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (possibly in lieu of some more substantial criticism of the late British Prime Minister) who is buried today under a plan that does not radically differ from those laid out under Mandelson’s New Labour regime.

I didn’t get much sleep the night new Labour won their landslide victory in 1997.

Thatcher quote

Taking my kids to school the next morning, a Croatian friend remarked that she did not think a Labour government would make much positive difference to any of us. But the unconfined joy of that day related as much to the fact that after 18 years the story had finally changed.

Margaret Thatcher was an immense figure for people of my age, or older. Love her or hate her, you could hardly ignore her.

In ’79 her citation of Saint Francis seemed more of a taunt after a bruising election campaign. Easy to forget now that she won the 1979 election on the basis that unions were entitled to free collective bargaining (an enticement of the free market). She took pragmatic care to end the winter of discontent by giving the public sector unions pretty much what they wanted.  It was only by 1981/2 that she started slowly putting on her own squeeze.

Thatcher was a brilliant communicator, who applied continual pressure on her front bench spokesmen to ‘get the presentation right’. So much so that when she began to run out of radical ideas, she was inclined to blame poor presentation rather any failure in the substance of her government’s policy.

But we do know for certain that she worked hard and long, not least because of her impromptu  account of what she was doing at 3.15am 12 October 1984 when the bomb in the Grand Hotel, Brighton exploded. It’s not the sort of thing you invent at such a time just to ‘create an impression’.

I experienced her first four years in office at home, in Northern Ireland. Outside of the trauma of the hunger strikes (in which she had to fight a premise set for her by Labour’s Merlyn Rees), and some downward pressure on Welfare and the health service not a lot happened. Although it was her government which finally killed off the Delorean project in October 1982.

She lived her political life by one analogy:  “…the larger the slice taken by government, the smaller the cake available for everyone.” Thus came the sell off of utilities like gas electricity and (inadvisedly) water. In floating off the TSB she pulled off that greatest of tricks and sold us savers a bank that we already owned.

But it was a shift of ownership from the collective to the individual. And it was replicated a dozen times in several ways. The council house sales at knock down (knock off) prices created spoils for the boomer generation that has dinned into them the need to prioritise their own children’s education such that they are able to compete in what has become an over priced undersupplied market.

It made Mrs Thatcher a tacit heroine to thousands of quiet Tories (some of them living in surprising parts of Northern Ireland) who took the opportunity and the social permission to do well out of a dash for wealth and facilitated a flight from class politics that many perceived had held them back. In that regard these cultural effects may have been more profound than any of her more direct political actions.

As a politician she was gifted with a poorly equipped and over confident opposition. Scargill, Foot, Galtieiri and even the IRA all underestimated her determination and (to a lesser extent) her pragmatism. She fortunate too to have the technological zeitgeist behind her. The neo Victorian British Prime Minister, embraced technology as enthusiastically as the first generation of driven industrialists.

Eddie Shah in Warrington, then Rupert Murdoch in Wapping fought skirmishes with the unions that went with the grain of history. Their victories over the print unions – which reekcd of Ludditism – cleared the last resistance to technological progress. Albeit one that has go on to bring the newspaper business itself to yet another, possibly terminal, financial crisis.

After the Falklands War her career thrived on conflict, right up until that final inglorious death rattle of the poll tax.

But she was probably more puritan than pilgrim. The idea of Britain (or probably more accurately Britannia) appealed to her. The Falklands was her opportunity to give symbolic expression to that in a limited conflict which she deemed a defence of ‘home soil’.

But if Thatcherite ideas became current across the western world they were transmitted more by soft power than hard. He legacy in Ireland could be traced as easily in the Tallaght strategy (in which the opposition supported the government’s draconian programme of fiscal tightening) as in any geopolitical legacy from the Anglo Irish Agreement.

Rather she saved most of her martial instincts for the ‘enemy within’ (with all the human cost that entailed). She hated any rival power to the market. She may have favoured ‘free collective bargaining’, but she despised the closed shop. And she met Scargill’s radical activism with what was to prove overwhelming force.

In government, what she could not control or sell off, she centralised. What she could not centralise, she abolished. When the Greater London Council was abolished, its headquarters for just over sixty years (County Hall) was sold to private investors and for a large part it lies vacant some thirty years later.

In this socio economic ‘war’ (little suffices to describe it better), she took few prisoners. Having abolished or rate capped the larger (and more powerful) local authorities, she alienated most of Wales and Scotland and large swathes of north and north east England.

Under mass scale disinvestment, they grew poor whilst the south grew wealthy (relatively speaking) on the deregulated wits of the City.

Mrs T’s distrust of closed shops (or any form of ‘power’ external to the state) is one reason why she came to distrust the European project. Yet outsourcing and deregulation made slow marching ‘Labour’  an uneven match for lightening fast ‘Capital’. And there was little time, mind space or political will for much in the way of public sector investment.

She did rely on competent Tory corporatists like Hestletine who famously declared he would “intervene before breakfast, before lunch, before tea and before dinner”. But he was forced to resign over a radical difference over the fate of Westland helicopters.

Ironically perhaps, her one grand projet, the Channel Tunnel, whilst a triumph of engineering and brute determination, was an utter disaster for its private sector investors.

In almost every other respect the state was a foreign country to her. If truth be told, she barely knew what to do with it. The poll tax, the attempt to privatise the Royal Mail, were strong indicators that, by her third term, Mrs Thatcher and her Tory successors had simply run out of practical ideas of what to do with the mandate.

It was her tight parsimony with the public purse that licensed Gordon Brown’s ten year long spending spree in underinvested public infrastructure, first at number eleven and then next door in number 10. If there is a primary weakness in the British English character it is the way it is given to sudden – often highly irrational –  enthusiasms on the left as well as the right.

So she didn’t trust the Irish (not that I’d be looking at anyone in the room in particular). The truth is she did not particularly trust anyone who was “not one of us”, even if the pragmatist in her knew that she had to ‘do business with them’. Her charm, whilst apparent to her most ardent followers, never quite made it beyond that clique.

But she shifted the previous political story from one of the collective decisively back to the individual, although by the time of her departure, it was largely reduced to Peter Lilley’s invidious “little list” of those “who never would be missed”. Now her Tory successors are looking for some viable means of reviving the individual as a genuinely social being.

For both left and right the ill tempered (and deeply unconservative) radicalism of the past makes that a highly challenging task. Weak trades unionism has ensured a growing gulf between the comfortably off and ‘ the strivers’ and those in poverty. As noted here previously  “the  welfare bill has been swollen by tax credits and housing benefit caused by the labour market reforms and council house sales of the 1980s”.

If no one wanted to buy British Leyland cars under Labour, then today, after Thatcher, there is no such thing as a ‘British car’. Post war, British industry, like British education, became a political plaything that lost its way in a constant ideological tug of war. As a result, the British have returned to that stereotype of the Victorian era,  a nation of shopkeepers (out of town of course), living on their wits and in that famous Oxford phrase ‘winging it’.

I’ll close with the words of one of her most ardent admirers in the press, Bruce [“the Brute”] Anderson (via Private Eye) from 1993:

Mrs Thatcher put a lot of people off. Voters who ought to have become Conservatives were repelled by the narrowness of her social vision. She offered a Britain for the striving and the sharp elbowed. She had less to offer those who could not identify with triumphant Yuppiedom, and never succeeded in translating populism into popularity.

So, where next?

,

  • Alanbrooke

    She’s simply the english Martin McGuinness she said what she meant and stuck with it. You don’t have to like either of them but you do take notice of what they do.

  • Ruarai

    Alanbrooke, come on down! You’ve just won the prize for the must upside down appraisal to date.

    “Never trust the Irish. They are all liars, liars”

    This from the Prime Minister who tried to portray the political slum that was NI as a contest between the “forces of law and order” and criminality all-the-while continuing the long established British tradition of trampling all over notions of law in an attempt to impose a foreign order.

    A leader who hated terrorism so much she employed it as a tactic to pacify a population who had the affront to demand the rights that she claimed came with the citizenship status she professed to love so much.

    If unionists have a problem with some of that perspective then you best look away for this next bit.

    “Never trust the Irish. They are all liars, liars”…she’s talking about you too guys.

    The rotten irony of this whole damn thing is that Whitehall has always and will always see us all as “the Irish”.

    At least they’re right about that bit.

  • Mick Fealty

    Deep breaths now Ruarai… you’re hyperventilating again…

  • Alanbrooke

    Ruarai

    it’s nationalism v nationalism what’s the difference both are stuck in C19 mode and refuse to recognise the changes of the last 50 years. On a lighter note what are the chances Eamon O’Cuiv will be calling on the British Embassy to pay his respects just so the Germans know Ireland is a free nation ?

  • tacapall

    “So she didn’t trust the Irish (not that I’d be looking at anyone in the room in particular). The truth is she did not particularly trust anyone who was “not one of us”, even if the pragmatist in her knew that she had to ‘do business with them’. Her charm, whilst apparent to her most ardent followers, never quite made it beyond that clique.”

    Maybe you should post up the official secrets act 1989 version just to see how really paranoid she was about others, including her own electorate, just who is the crown and does this act cover Martin McGuinness and his past or indeed any other servants of the crown employed in stormont

  • Mick Fealty

    Ruari Quinn got the flight to London and pay his respects at the funeral…

  • Ruarai

    Hyperventilating? Alan owes me for the coffee I just projectiled and the consequent dry cleaning bill for the startled chap it landed on.

    Regardless, would you disagree or dissent from a single sentence I posted?

    As for Quinn, I hope he’s not expecting any of her cabinet to attend his own planting.

    Interesting reaction from the US Senate to her passing: None.

    PS, Great piece:
    http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/8885461/while-cowards-flinch/

  • Greenflag

    “Never trust the English/Unionists /Americans /Russians /Germans / Chinese . They are all liars, liars”

    Discuss ?:(

    Don’t take it personal now 😉

  • Greenflag

    On a lighter note what are the chances Eamon O’Cuiv will be calling on the British Embassy to pay his respects.

    As always the Irish put the boot in ever so gently .Sending an Irish Labour Minister to the obsequies and not an FG true blue was in the circumstances not very considerate .Should’nt Gilmore as Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs been drafted for this onerous duty ?

  • Ruarai

    In that regard these cultural effects may have been more profound than any of her more direct political actions.

    Agreed. Great line by the way.

  • Alanbrooke

    Ruarai

    I’m afraid I think most of it is circa 1913. Something like one in four of the english have Irish roots; nobody cares about an empire, they’re too busy paying their mortgages; another 10% of the population are from maybe India, the Carribean or Poland , what have they got against the Irish; most English see NI as a tax liability. You’re biggest problem isn’t that the english hate the Irish it’s worse, they’re indifferent. And Thatcher would in all likelihood have been as indifferent if it wasn’t for the violence. As ever the issues for most NIers is they think their problems are the biggest in the world instead of just the world’s haemorroid.

  • Mick Fealty

    Not the only one, I hope…

  • Greenflag

    ‘Ruari Quinn got the flight to London and pay his respects at the funeral…’

    ‘addendum ‘

    As a representative of the Irish Government and people ‘ should be added .

    Mick’s quote above sounds as if it was Quinn’s personal choice and not the Irish Government’s decision .

  • “The truth is she did not particularly trust anyone who was “not one of us”, even if the pragmatist in her knew that she had to ‘do business with them’. Her charm, whilst apparent to her most ardent followers, never quite made it beyond that clique.”

    She was able to let Garret FitzGerald persuade her to let Dublin have a consultative role in NI in an attempt to end nationalist alienation and shore up the SDLP against the Shinners. And had she had an Albert Reynolds to work with instead of a Haughey, she might have started the peace process earlier. After all, it was one of her proteges, John Major, who was from an equally atypical Conservative Party background, who was FF’s partner in the peace process initially.

    She had a keen analytical mind as anyone with an open one who has read her book on international politics can tell. She spotted Gorbachev as someone with pragmatic tendencies and passed on the observation to Reagan.

  • Greenflag

    @ Alanbrooke .

    ‘As ever the issues for most NIers is they think their problems are the biggest in the world instead of just the world’s haemorroid.’

    Well said but in fairness not the world’s biggest haemorrhoid . I would think North Korea would qualify for that distinction followed by Syria , Israel/Palestine , Afghanistan . Iraq , DRC , Somalia , etc etc . NI remains languishing in the third or fourth division of haemorrhoidal states which is fine by me 😉

  • Ruarai

    Alan,

    take that straw out of your mouth. No one suggested that “the English” felt any way in particular toward “the Irish”. I was referring explicitly to the mindset of those in Whitehall, not least, though not only, during Thatcher’s years.

    Whitehall has always and will always see us all as “the Irish”.

    Bad form to set up a straw argument suggesting otherwise.

  • Mick Fealty

    The consensus is that ‘she did it because Ronnie asked her to…” but she was disappointed there was not the security response she was expecting as a quid pro quo…

    But I agree with you on that last… We’ll never have an objective account of that offer made after the death of the fourth hunger striker, but we do know she personally was active in that attempt to close it down…

  • Alanbrooke

    Greenflag,

    fair point Preparation H Block didn’t work ! 🙂

  • Alanbrooke

    Rurai

    really ? Who are these Whitehall technocrats ? Everybody seems to see loads of them but we never have any names. If you’re saying the UK has become overcentralised I agree with you, but then the locals in NI now have their own Parliament and have done precisely nothing with it. I hate to say it but in all the times I’ve been to London I’ve never seen anyone in a big chair stroking a white cat while planning the destruction of Ireland.

  • Ruarai

    Alan – not sure the point of the tangent about the UK’s centeralization. It’s not an area that interests me personally as I live in DC.

    Who are these Whitehall technocrats ? Everybody seems to see loads of them but we never have any names.

    Get your own Christmas card list mucker.

    Look, if you don’t think there is a (and was a) certain mindset in Whitehall towards a whole manner of things, I can’t help you other than to say: You’re just wrong.

    I’m not offering you an email address list either, sorry.

    But I will offer you, for what its worth, my own experience of having spent quite a few hours, and more than a few good ones, debating, arguing, rowing and drinking with some of them directly, plus the many others in the press or politics who do and have worked with and around them.

    I think the personal anecdote thing can be overdone and certainly overstated but in my case with regards to the attitudes of British State (and other institutions British and non-British) towards certain groups (in this case Whitehall vis-a-vis the Irish) it can be depressing just how attitudinal and cliched they can be. Staggering even.

  • Alanbrooke

    Rurai

    I’d say there’s a London mindset, but that’s no different than say Paris or closer to home Dublin – capital cities always think they’re superior. However to still say that the brits are planning to go conquering the world is like those people who claim the Germans are out to make the Fourth Reich. Yes you can find all sorts of nutters, you probably spat your coffee on one in DC, but the history of the UK since 1947 has been to ditch as much as possible. And so we find ourselves in the fun position that they’s just like NI to go away but the RoI don’t want it either, we’re the Millwall State.

  • sherdy

    And ‘perfidious Albion’ thinks we’re all liars. Takes one to know one.

  • Kevsterino

    As far as the ‘all Irish are liars’ business is concerned, ideologues do seem to have trouble acknowledging the existence of another point of view, some to the point where it goes beyond a matter of disagreement and becomes either ‘you’re too dim to understand the truth’ or ‘you’re lying’.

    In that respect, the late Thatcher was nothing exceptional.

  • Reader

    sherdy: And ‘perfidious Albion’ thinks we’re all liars. Takes one to know one.
    Well remember she worked with Haughey, and would probably have been aware of the IRA deceiving each other during the hunger strike. If you can identify a unionist who lied during her time at the helm I suppose you could say she had the full set.

  • Ruarai

    Alan, a chara,

    I’d say there’s a London mindset, but that’s no different than say Paris or closer to home Dublin – capital cities always think they’re superior.

    Maybe so. But again, as I said earlier, I’m not talking about mindsets induced by either ethnic group membership nor capital city location – or anything else other that what I actually said: institutional membership, specifically of Whitehall. The mindsets brought about by institutional membership (Whitehall, in this case) is something more real and consequential.

    I’m not that interested in the other generalizations.

    However to still say that the brits are planning to go conquering the world is like those people who claim the Germans are out to make the Fourth Reich.

    Well, just as well no one is saying that then, isn’t it?

    If you’re hearing that despite no one saying it, you should reflect on why.

    Here’s one potential reason, if there is such a voice in your head. People who are not Irish Natioanlists often find it easier to dismiss what Nationalists actually say and instead “hear” racism or sterotyping, etc (read the Irish Sunday Indo to get the picture). Why? Who knows. I presume its because its easier to demonize and then ignore an opponent than to engage with his or her argument at face value.

    Again, no one is making the arguments you keep striking down old boy:)

  • Mark

    Haughey didn’t help with his Kim jong un impressions and they both seemed cut from the same cloth which of course didn’t help .

    On what she supposedly said to Mandelson , I wouldn’t put it past her however I wouldn’t put it past Mandelson to misquote her either .

  • Alanbrooke

    Rurai,

    well who’s demonising ? You have a nationalist viewpoint, so what ? I have simply pointed out that much of what you criticise is mirrored in a competing nationalism, and the problem with most forms of nationalism is they will justify just about anything to suit themselves.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Preparation H Block didn’t work !’

    Not my reading -it certainly worked for SF -They hardly existed politically before . Today they share in the government of NI and tomorrow who knows ?

    Given what the IRA perpetrated on some of Maggie’s closest friends and Cabinet colleagues the woman can be forgiven for any anti Irish (the lot of them ) bias . But then we Irish have never expected much understanding much less empathy from the UK ‘s political elite as regards our ‘independence ‘ There remains a sizable rump within British Toryism which has never reconciled itself to the concept much less the reality of a politically independent Ireland or for that matter Scotland or Wales or even regional devolution for the English north .

    When you frequent Sloane Square /Knightsbridge and Pall Mall and Whitehall then Belfast , Liverpool , Manchester Sunderland , Middlesborough and Hull never mind Dublin seem so far away as to be another country .

    Economically they certainly seem to be !

  • Ruarai

    Let’s continue over the coffee you owe me

  • Mick Fealty

    Mark,

    Spot on. Guess who’s regretting putting it in now… ?

  • Alanbrooke

    Rurai

    I’ll happily buy you a replacement.

  • Greenflag

    ruarai,

    ‘it can be depressing just how attitudinal and cliched they can be. Staggering even.’

    Indeed but then trainee Mandarins climb the Whitehall hierarchy by reflecting the attitudes of their imperial forebears .Those who display any dissenting thoughts are sidelined into career cul de sacs and those who go public with ‘revelations ‘ come to a career ending stop.

    I don’t know if you’ve ever read the Crossman Diaries or watched the tv series ‘Yes Minister ‘ ? The latter is an excellent only half humourous account of how HMG muddles through with as little transparency as possible and without a written constitution.

  • Mark

    Mick ,

    When I read what he said I thought to myself , of all the people ….

    And her boys won’t forget it .

  • Greenflag

    Mark,

    ‘Haughey didn’t help with his Kim jong un impressions’

    Never mistake a pimple for the pox and don’t mix up your Kim Jongs with your Mussolini’s . Haughey earned the epithet Il Duce for his trampling over the farmers who were lying down on the pavement outside his Government Office .

    Thatcher would have handbagged them while trampling all over them .

  • Mark

    Greenflag ,

    Trampling over them on the one hand and picking up the envelope with the other .

    Getting back to Thatcher ( I nearly typed Mrs ) . My first real memory of her was the Hunger Strikes . After school we would get the 6A bus from outside school in Blackrock to the various drop off points . The day after Bobby Sands was elected , the bus was packed with teenagers in their posh school uniforms chanting ” Bobby Sands MP ” . She was the talk of the school for that spring . SF had the middle class in the palm of their hand thanks to that women ……for a while anyway .

  • CW

    Although I was never a fan of Thatcher’s policies I’m forever indebted to her for the great comedy and satire boom of the ’80s which she unintentionally sparked off. Ironically the likes of Ben Elton, Alexei Sayle, Harry Enfield, Spitting Image and Private Eye all flourished under her reign. Back in those days there was still such a thing as “alternative comedy”, an art form that was angry and charismatic, not to mention at times incredibly funny. The comedy you get these days (which is mostly panel shows with substandard Oxbridge-educated comedians) is so limp in comparison.

    OK, this is slightly off-topic and I don’t know what this sites’s policy on plugging one’s own work is – in my defence I’ve been a semi-regular contributor to this blog over the years – 😉 – but I’ve just published my first book, a largely comic and at times surreal memoir of growing up in Co Tyrone during the 1980s and early 90s with nostalgic reminiscences on the news, fashions, music and popular culture of the era (ie the Thatcher years!), which has a degree to relevance to “Northern Irish politics and culture”.

    Further details here:
    http://dreamingarm.wordpress.com/

  • Mick Fealty

    Ya get away with in once CW… 😉

  • wee buns

    her career thrived on conflict,

    Pertinent point shurley- insofar that while much ado is made re the role of the armalite in Irish politics, (current management and ODFM) – Maggie was indeed in the true sense a paramilitary prime minister . Both foreign and domestic policies are testimony to her force versus the democratic process.
    But now that Maggie has ‘gone for her tea’ with a full paramilitary funeral- and this born-to-rule bullshit about ‘liars’ – well knock me down with a cobweb. The woman was, after all, a wrecking ball in the template of Pinochet .

  • George

    Greenflag,

    . Haughey earned the epithet Il Duce for his trampling over the farmers who were lying down on the pavement outside his Government Office .

    Are these the farmers who paid a total of 25 million punts that year compared to the almost 2 billion paid by PAYE workers?

    The ones whose sons and daughters were getting full grants in university while those on 12k a year had to pay £1,500 a year tuition fees? The poor trampled upon farmers.

  • George

    paid in tax that is.

  • BluesJazz

    We’re still a province of spongers, as Harold Wilson correctly said in 1974. As for Augusto Pinochet, absolute gentleman compared to Chavez and Castro.
    Nice to see Henry Kissinger (greatest politician of the last century) at the funeral.

  • wee buns

    BJ
    As for Augusto Pinochet, absolute gentleman compared to Chavez and Castro.

    ‘Cruelty impresses – it’s the most profound political means.’

  • Comrade Stalin

    ack in those days there was still such a thing as “alternative comedy”, an art form that was angry and charismatic, not to mention at times incredibly funny.

    Steve Nallon is the best (clip).

    “I used to admire the Two Ronnies, but I often wondered – could one Ronnie do the job just as well ?”

  • sherdy

    Reader, – The unionists got around to accusing their politicians from Faulkner, to Trimble, to Paisley and Robbo of being economical with the truth. Need I elaborate?

  • John Ó Néill

    Mick – here 79 discord piece is name checking ‘Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace’, the anthem of the British Legion. It was a great piece of communication as it is commonly referenced as citing St Francisnof Assisi when it was a knowing wink to where she believe her core support was.

  • John Ó Néill

    Sorry – forgot to add that the best bit is that the version/word order she actually cites is published not in Catholic literature (the St Francis of Assisi prayer) or the standard hymnal (British Legion anthem sung at Remembrance services) but actually an Alcoholics Anonymous publication.

    If you don’t believe it – google it all.

  • mac tire

    This woman cared more for her ideology and, in particular, “market forces” than humans. I’m afraid that says it all no matter how some try to dress it up.

  • Dewi

    Not worshipped in my village. You shut coal mines – try and get alternative work – like what they did in Sweden….

  • Harry Flashman

    Ah yes, “the Irish are all liars” story comes from that beacon of truth and moral rectitude, er, Peter Mandelson. An unimpeachable source and no mistake.

    Dewi you do realise that Harold Wilson shut down more coal mines than Maggie ever did and that the Labour Party were in government for 15 years after Maggie and never actually got around to opening any mines again?

    Exactly how much do you think you’d need to pay a British working man to dig coal these days (assuming you could find one willing to do so rather than a Polish or Chinese immigrant)?

    How would that compare to the five quid a week an Indonesian is willing to dig coal for?

    Economic viability of British coal, discuss.

  • Reader

    sherdy: The unionists got around to accusing their politicians from Faulkner, to Trimble, to Paisley and Robbo of being economical with the truth. Need I elaborate?,br>
    Wery well then. The set is complete. Thatcher was dealing with liars from every community.

  • Reader

    Sorry, went a bit Sam Weller there.

  • GEF

    “Never trust the Irish. They are all liars, liars.”

    If what Mandelson said was the truth, which I have my doubts about, and we have no way of proving it, then the great British establishment gave a proper state funeral to one of those lying Irishmen The Duke of Wellington. Likewise other 19th century British statemen and former prime ministers, Palmerson, Gladstone and Admiral Nelson all received state funerals. Lady Thatcher’s funeral yesterday on the other hand was a long way short of being stately and elaborate if Churchill’s funeral was anything to go by. See here: 1965: Last farewell to Churchill.

    http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=http://news.bbc.co.uk/media/images/38679000/jpg/_38679959_funeral_238.jpg&imgrefurl=http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/january/30/newsid_2505000/2505981.stm&h=178&w=238&sz=11&tbnid=ZA3Z5Q0JDPe9FM:&tbnh=82&tbnw=109&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dfuneral%2Bof%2Bwinston%2Bchurchill%26tbm%3Disch%26tbo%3Du&zoom=1&q=funeral+of+winston+churchill&usg=__lzWvjLvQKL_OnZTSmCEJkV0_6h0=&hl=en&sa=X&ei=D6VvUcizD4PfPd2EgOgB&ved=0CDUQ9QEwBQ

  • Greenflag

    If what Mandelson said was the truth,

    How would you ever know. Mandelson a.k.a Master Spinner could lie out of both sides of his mouth while speaking the unvarnished truth . Which is why he bit his tongue once too often . He might have succeeded Blair had he not been too unpopular with Labour’s grass roots .

    And who can forget his Irish faux pas with his first speech as NI Secretary

    In October 1999, he was appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, replacing Mo Mowlam. In his very first speech in the post he mistakenly referred to himself as the “Secretary of State for Ireland.’

    Thus annoying Unionists and Republicans

    Burt despite the above Mandelson deserves credit for pushing forward the peace agenda and the GFA groundwork..

  • Rory Carr

    Since Thatcher’s great- grandmother was one Catherine Sullivan born in 1911 in Bonane, Co. Kerry who, “ emigrated to England where she married Thomas Smith, a farm labourer.

    Their daughter, Ellen, married shoemaker Benjamin Ebenezer Roberts and their son, Alfred, was Mrs Thatcher’s father.” (Source Belfast Telegraph 18 April 2013) she is quite a bit of a liar herself by her own determination.

    Her son, Mark will carry the Irish gene on to his daughter as she will pass it on to any male child she may have and so ad infinitum

    In 1987 I lived in a flat in a house in Bayswater where a woman from Cork lived in a separate flat. She was Thatcher’s absolute doppelganger and often had difficulty with strangers approaching her mistaking her for The Evil One. This caused my neighbour much concern as she was a nursing sister and a woman of great humanity whose philosophy of life was diametrically opposed to that of her lookalike.

    One physical attribute which she did not share with Mrs. T however was the crooked little finger, later corrected by surgery, which my friend was emphatic in attributing to excessive intake of alcohol, a habit about which there has been much anecdotal speculation concerning Mrs. T.

    I expect that, now she has gone beyond the aid of the likes of Peter Carter-Fuck and other libel lawyers, we may begin to learn more of Mrs. T’s fondness for the booze and, before you know it, any such deviance will all be put down to her Irish ancestry.

  • The real question, which no one seems to have asked so far, is who did Thatcher mean when she referred to “the Irish?” Did she include the unionists in that definition as so many English do when referring to “the Irish?”

    The British have a long tradition of regarding their settlers in their settler colonies as being less than fully British, but mere colonials. They are British for the purpose of maintaining legal claims to the territory and in comparison with the natives, but not fully British, particularly as they take on so much of the culture of the natives. So when Thatcher made her brief remark to Mandelson was she referring to the unionist protesters after the AIA or just to the Shinners during the Hunger Strike and Haughey?

  • wild turkey

    ‘Her son, Mark will carry the Irish gene on to his daughter as she will pass it on to any male child she may have and so ad infinitum’

    the irish gene? i’ve contacted an old high girlfriend who has been involved in one of the human genome projects. she has is not aware of nor has she heard of the irish gene. she does have an understanding of how a claimed knowledge of genetics has informed some political ideologies. but as she is american, afro-american to be precise, and therefore probably not a carrier of the sacred gene, this may explain her ignorance regarding the irish gene.

    perhaps you can enlighten us?

  • Greenflag

    Rory ,

    Those dates don’t seem right re Mrs Thatchers maternal Kerry ancestry ?

    Maggie was born in 1926 so how could her great grandmother be born in 1911? Surely 1811 .

    As to the Irish gene ?

    It’s the Atlantic Modal Haplotype and it’s not particularly Irish as it’s very common over most of Europe and the Americas etc i.e wherever people from Britain and Ireland and western European countries emigrated.

    http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~gallgaedhil/haplo_r1b_amh_13_29.htm

  • Mick Fealty

    My fault I know. I should have left that damned fool quote off the top. It’s pretty stopped anyone reading below it… And there is quite a bit of serious material below it…

  • Rory Carr

    “Irish gene” was over-egging it. I really meant the gene that determines the uniqueness of Catherine Sullivan (which passes father to daughter, mother to son) and which passed to Sullivan’s son. However I see that I have calculated wrongly and that since it was the daughter of Catherine Sullivan and Thomas Smith who married shoemaker Benjamin Ebenezer Roberts, the grandfather of Mrs. Thatcher then she would have carried her father, Thomas Smith’s gene as dominant. So, she’s not really Irish after all. Perhaps it was knowledge of that sad fact that drove her to the…

  • USA

    So she is exposed as a racist too, no surprise here !!!

  • Harry Flashman

    Having read the material below Mandelson’s comment I have to take issue with one particular point Mick.

    It is now a common trope that Thatcher was “lucky” in her opponents. It was the same when Reagan died and his success was attributed to his being the “great communicator”, ie a genial old buffer who appealed to American voters. This conveniently overlooked the fact that Reagan was an able administrator and had a long record as an ideological politician who had spent decades fine tuning his specific message which when in power he put into practice. It wasn’t just dumb good luck as the liberal media invariably tried to make out.

    Thatcher was “lucky” with her opponents was she? The Marxist leader of the most powerful industrial union in the country which only ten years earlier had successfully brought down her predecessor called a national strike with the avowed intention of doing the same. The leader of one of the most vicious fascist governments on the planet whose military forces had successfully occupied islands a few hundred miles off their coast and eight thousand miles from Britain. The most potent and ruthless terrorist organisation in western Europe who had manged to hold the British army, the second best army in NATO to a stalemate and twice came within an ace of wiping out the British cabinet.

    Maggie was “lucky” to have to confront such opponents at a time of economic downturns and social unrest in her country? We have come up with an odd definition of “luck” methinks.

    Quite apart from the above troika of grisly opposition she faced striking steel workers, teachers, healthcare workers, railwaymen, the unremitting hostility of the academic world, the accepted orthodoxy of the then economic establishment, and two decades of sneering from the state-controlled media.

    Yup it was a cakewalk for Maggie when you look back on it all.

  • Reader

    Rory Carr: “Irish gene” was over-egging it. I really meant the gene that determines the uniqueness of Catherine Sullivan (which passes father to daughter, mother to son) and which passed to Sullivan’s son.
    You would have been better to claim it was just a metaphor – the science looks like gibberish. The Y Chromosome passes from father to son; the mitocohondria are passed from mother to children. The rest goes into the blender.

  • seamusot

    Maggot Snatcher suffered from dementia before she ever soiled her first nappy. Ranting at the Irish – whether natives or planter descendants – would be true to form. Utterly irrelevant. The peacemakers are prevailing and should dump her poisoned and toxic legacy to the sewage treatment centre of history

  • Mick Fealty

    Well done Harry!!

    “The Marxist leader of the most powerful industrial union in the country which only ten years earlier had successfully brought down her predecessor called a national strike with the avowed intention of doing the same.”

    Two things. They had been powerful, but as many ex Tory Ministers have been quick to point out, Tony Benn closed more Pits than Thatcher.

    Now on one level, that’s disingenuous. It was part of a genuine attempt to modernise the industry. There was still scale employment at much larger pitheads going into March 1984.

    And this is my point. A smart, powerful union focused on wider trends in employment would have appreciated its vulnerabilities.

    Scargill, convinced (not without reason, Mrs T allowed herself to be convinced that asset stripping was in fact the equivalent of modernising Britain) that Thatcher meant to close down the industry, went for an unballoted pithead strike whose outcome he could not predict.

    It was heroic on the part of those who followed him, miserable for those didn’t. “Scab” is a mark in those villages you carry to your grave.

    But a strong union, which put the interests of its members first would have done everything to ensure that its members were protected as best it could. Either by negotiating, or waiting for a moment when a strike would have the quickest and maximum effect.

    The truth is the unions all got themselves too comfortable in Wilson’s number ten. The fight itself became the means by which they could communicate power and power (which is always critical in the struggle between labour and capital [corrected as per comment below]) became an intoxicant.

    I also think they fell for the idea that as a woman she would cave. She didn’t and I would argue we are all the poorer for it since.

  • Alanbrooke

    “But a strong union, which put the interests of its members first would have done everything to ensure that its members were protected as best it could.”

    I’ve yet to come across such a beast; most UK unions protect their hierarchy and don’t worry too much about their members.

  • Harry Flashman

    “but as many ex Tory Ministers have been quick to point out, Tony Benn closed more Pits than Thatcher. ”

    As I pointed out to Dewi in post 48 on this very thread.

    “The truth is the unions all got themselves too comfortable in Wilson’s number ten.”

    As Mark Steyn put it, in the 1970s British trades union leaders were household names, mainly because they were responsible for everything your household lacked.

    Maggie wasn’t against all unions, just the Luddite trogladytes, when she encouraged Toyota to open their plant she did so on the basis that all the workers would be represented by a union, one single union. The union she had in mind was the electricians union, a modern progressive tech-savvy union who did not want to be hidebound by the ridiculous and absurd Spanish practices of the old unions. Has anyone ever heard of a strike at the Toyota plant? Has anyone ever claimed that Toyota workers are ground down and exploited by the management?

    The unions brought everything Maggie dealt them on themselves, they were an appalling lot and many of their leadership were bankrolled by the KGB, a convenient little factoid overlooked these days.

  • BluesJazz

    Tony Benn closed pits? Good Grief.

  • Greenflag

    ‘The truth is the unions all got themselves too comfortable in Wilson’s number ten. ‘

    True

    ‘I also think they fell for the idea that as a woman she would cave.’

    Probably true and at least a credible notion given the times .

    ‘She didn’t and I would argue we are all the poorer for it since.’

    My reading also . The UK lost more than it’s coal mining which it might have lost later in any event .It also lost it’s mid level engineering industries (the Germans held on to theirs and have expanded them since to advantage ).

    ‘I’ve yet to come across such a beast; most UK unions protect their hierarchy and don’t worry too much about their members.’

    True comment Alan also applies to the RC Church , Business Corporations , Political parties in Government and in any organisation that has more than about 200 members .It’s a default human nature standard .

    It does not mean of course that these organisations are always purely selfish constructs for their leaders .Without them a planet with 7 billion people could not be governed or maintain a vestige of social stability without which the war of all against all would never end .

    So the UK has gone full circle -from the out of control unions tail swinging the parliamentary dog in 1970’s Britain to out of control banksters swinging the same dog in 2013 .

    Plus ca change maybe but in todays world ‘control ‘ is effected in a much less overt manner . Wildcat strikes have been replaced by complex financial instruments and computer generated algorithms which can create more havoc in world economies than any union -miner’s or any other.

    In Thatcher Britain at least had a PM who could stand up and whether we think her policies ultimately made British Society weaker or not the fact is that in today’s Britain there isn’t anybody either in the Tories or Labour to stand up to the ‘new ‘ tyrants 🙁

  • Mick Fealty

    Nissan, I think you mean Harry…

  • “The truth is the unions all got themselves too comfortable in Wilson’s number ten. The fight itself became the means by which they could communicate power and power (which is always critical in the struggle between Labour and capital) became an intoxicant.”

    @Mick,

    Above you capitalized Labor and left capital in lower case in the reference to the “struggle between Labor and capital.”. Presumably the labor referred to is the unions and not the party, so it should also be in lower case letters. Did you just get confused between the party and the economic sector or are you demonstrating a bias towards labor as an institution?

  • Mick Fealty

    Just in too much of a rush… You are right, of course

  • wee buns

    A smart, powerful union focused on wider trends in employment would have appreciated its vulnerabilities.

    It’s like saying ‘if your granny had balls she would have been your granda’ . Because at that time socialism – still 50% in private hands – had only been in place 35 yrs when Maggie started dismantling it.