the iron lady: not the war horse she’s cracked up to be

David Broder went to see The Iron Lady, with Meryl Streep starring as Margaret Thatcher

After the adverts for the merits of cinema advertising, and the adverts for the cinema itself, came a trailer for War Horse. Based on Michael Morpurgo’s novel, this is a film about a horse from a humble farm who is deployed for use in World War I, runs around a lot through battlefields as carnage rages all around him, and ultimately saves the day and warms all our hearts. This plot is more-or-less identical to about half of The Iron Lady, although seeing Maggie Thatcher rise from grocer’s daughter to Prime Minister and obstinately press ahead with austerity as rioting and mass unemployment wreak havoc on all around her… it’s just not as uplifting

Indeed, the message of The Iron Lady is rather curious. Structured as a series of flashbacks by the now seriously mentally ill Baroness Thatcher,  she repeatedly recalls people giving her saccharine nuggets of advice: ‘Be yourself’, ‘Don’t let anyone tell you what to do’, ‘You can achieve anything’, and so on. Thatcher’s children Mark and Carol apparently considered the film a ‘Left-wing fantasy’; while they are wrong insofar as the film portrays its hero largely sympathetically, it is nonetheless a sort of liberal mystification of who Thatcher was: her fight against class and gender prejudice is pushed to the fore, and through her determination she manages to overcome these barriers and thus forces the establishment to accept her. Continue reading “the iron lady: not the war horse she’s cracked up to be”

thatcher and liverpool – thirty years on

Adam Ford writes on revelations that the Thatcher government discussed a ‘managed decline’ of Liverpool.

Ah, the summer of 1981! The spectacle of a ‘fairytale’ royal wedding was a distraction for some as a Conservative PM led a ruling class offensive and unemployment skyrocketed, while riots shook the inner cities. ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same’, some have commented today, as government documents from those days are released under the thirty year rule.

toxteth riots, 1981

Amongst revelations that the government lied about negotiations with the IRA during the hunger strikes and that Thatcher – shock! horror! – paid for her own Prime Ministerial ironing board, we are given a glimpse of the Thatcher cabinet’s reaction to rioting in London, Bristol and – in particular – Liverpool. It turns out that Thatcher played referee in a policy battle between then Chancellor Geoffrey Howe and then Environment Secretary Michael Heseltine. Continue reading “thatcher and liverpool – thirty years on”

big society: all that is holy is profaned…

With the ‘Big Society’ project apparently on the rocks, Adam Ford asks what’s really behind the initiative

The political fraud that is David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ has been grabbing a lot of mainstream media attention over the last couple of weeks. The frenzy was kicked off when ‘Big Society Tsar’ Lord Wei cut his hours, after discovering that working for free on three days each weeks was not compatible with “having a life”. But what is the class significance of the Coalition’s crusade?


Wei – a ‘social entrepreneur’ – was ‘created’ a Tory peer by Cameron in May last year. He started work advising on the ‘Big Society’, but “at the last moment it turned out to be unpaid”. He committed himself to first two and then three days per week, but “in the autumn I asked to go back to two days”. Apparently, he had to balance “…making a living, seeing my family, and helping to change society.” Continue reading “big society: all that is holy is profaned…”

no choice on may 6th

by Danny Ryan-Smith

With an election with less choice than ever shambling across the horizon, most of our time not spent working seems to be dominated by the question of elections, or specifically- who should we vote for?

With even capitalist media and the introduction of presidential style debates unable to drum up excitement among the general public for a contest that most of us see as largely a race between three identical parties, the time has come that we face the reality that nobody can be a substitute to represent our own needs and interests but ourselves. Continue reading “no choice on may 6th”

book review of phillip blond’s ‘red tory’

by Sebastian Wright

Two events intervened just prior to my reading of Phillip Blond’s ‘Red Tory‘, which made me doubt the necessity of the exercise. The first was the publication of Jonathan Raban’s wonderfully enjoyable lampooning of it in the London Review of Books, under the title of ‘Cameron’s Crank‘. Whilst Raban is a bit hard on Blond’s writing skills (personally, I think the book is pretty well written; its more the dubious intellectualism at fault) he does a great job of cutting to heart of the parochial, nostalgic sentiment that prevails throughout. In the same issue of the LRB, John Gray reviews a book by Tim Bale on the Conservatives from Thatcher to Cameron, and concurs with Bale’s assessment that, in regard to the Red Tory retreat to socially conservative anti-liberalism, ‘Conservatism of this kind spells potential disaster for Cameron and his party.’

Phillip Blond, Red Tory-in-chief

Which leads to the second point. This ‘disaster’ seems to be unfolding in front of our very eyes. With the Blond-inspired ‘Big Society’ idea apparently falling flat on the election trail, and inverse rhetoric about the ‘broken society’ also not winning over many fans, Cameron has recently decided to adopt a tougher, more conventional Conservative message, evident in the Conservative party’s billboard promising to cut the benefits of those who refuse to work. Continue reading “book review of phillip blond’s ‘red tory’”

twenty years after we beat the poll tax

by Allan Armstrong
former Chair of Lothians Anti-Poll Tax Federation and co-Chair of first Scottish Anti-Poll Tax Federation Conference

It is twenty years since Thatcher’s Tory government tried to impose the Poll Tax upon the people of England and Wales. The Poll Tax had been introduced a year earlier in Scotland as a test run for the abolition of Domestic Rates throughout Britain. (Even the Tories had more sense than to try to introduce the Poll Tax in Northern Ireland in the context of the ongoing Republican resistance there!) Continue reading “twenty years after we beat the poll tax”

the cuts consensus and the general election

by Dave Spencer

The 2010 general election will be a watershed for the politics of the British left.  Business as usual will not be an option because of the scale of the attacks on the working class that are coming. No matter which party wins the election or even if there is a hung parliament, it is clear that the ruling class has decided to make the working class pay for the economic crisis and the bailing out of the banks.

The left groups have failed over 14 years to form a united alternative to New Labour. If they use the same methods and politics as in the past, they cannot possibly be up to the tasks ahead. Continue reading “the cuts consensus and the general election”