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The Forum > Article Comments > Thatcher the way they like it > Comments

Thatcher the way they like it : Comments

By Neil Clark, published 4/5/2005

Neil Clark argues the political landscape in the UK is a different place to thirty years ago, thanks to Lady Margaret Thatcher.

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So the fact that Howard sacked the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party over private comments to the effect of cutting back public service spending is somehow an indication of New Labour's complete ideological sellout to a Thatcherite position?

Far too simplistic, and completely devoid of any credit for either Blair or Brown's contribution on third world debt, significant improvements in health and education, the massive achievements being seen in reducing child poverty et cetera.
Posted by Kris McCracken, Wednesday, 4 May 2005 11:51:40 AM
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I think the most startling aspect of Blair's Britain has been the fact that he has managed to create 800,000 new jobs in the public sector (more than three times that of the private sector) while pursuing an agenda of mass privatisation of key infrastructures. Scarily similar, I fancy, to the path we are taking here, selling off great swathes of essential services - roads, airports, telecommunications - while at the same time adding ever more bureaucrats to suck the blood from the productive half of the economy.

It matters so little which party wins elections, they all end up the same way. Always bear in mind Christopher Fildes description of what happens when you give a government - any government - money.

"It's not a mystery what they will do with it, just a question of which wall they will choose"

Incidentally, Kris, I'd be fascinated to hear some examples of where the Blair project has made "significant improvements in health and education." I recently had direct experience of what happens to people inside the UK health system, having had to watch my father go in and not come out again, and indirect experience of the utter dismay of the teaching profession there from good friends of mine, including a recently retired head teacher. Don't believe everything you read, it has already been freighted with an agenda.

And a little police story for you, from my brother-in-law who manages an inner-city shopping centre in middle-England.

For months, the shopkeepers had been pestering the local police to provide a couple of bobbies-on-the-beat, just to walk through the centre a couple of times a day. Petty theft - shoplifting, bag-snatching etc - was rife, averaging around thirty incidents a day. Finally, they agreed, and lo! thirty a day became zero, overnight.

After a week, the police withdrew the beat, and the felons once again became active. The reason the chief constable gave was... you've guessed it.

"There's no crime in the centre, so we redeployed the men onto more effective duty."
Posted by Pericles, Wednesday, 4 May 2005 5:12:38 PM
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There are plenty of examples:

There are 100,000 more doctors and more nurses than there were in 1997 and more than 99 per cent of people can now see a GP within 48 hours. More than 96 per cent of patients now spend less than four hours in A&E. Cancer deaths have fallen by 12 per cent and deaths from heart disease are down by 27 per cent. And what about the hospital building programme 100 new hospitals by 2010. These are huge improvements on the standard of care delivered under the Tories who, in order to usher full privatisation, starved the NHS.

There are now 28,000 more teachers than there were in 1997, assisted by over 105,000 more support staff. And overall crime is down 30 per cent since 1997 and the chance of being a victim of crime is at its lowest for 20 years. Violent crime is up slightly but so is the fidelity of the policing, with a higher proportion of domestic violence (for example) being reported and policed.

Things are far from perfect but they are far better than they were in the mid nineties. And I suspect the UK will vote accordingly.
Posted by martin callinan, Wednesday, 4 May 2005 7:29:39 PM
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Plus, every national waiting time and waiting list indicator – inpatient and outpatient – has improved since 1997. The Reid report details this.

Similarly, more than doubled investment in rural social housing, 19,000 hectares added to the greenbelt and increased spending on parks and green spaces. 13 billion in social housing since 1997. The number of 'rough sleepers' has been cut by two thirds.

The proportion of 18-30 year olds going into higher education has risen from 6 per cent in the 1960s to 44 per cent in 2004. 186,000 people recieve the Education Maintanence Allowance, effectively an 'earn-as–you-learn' allowance that offers a financial incentive to help overcome retention rates.

There's plenty more there. Does it represent a return to the 'traditional social democracy' of Atlee? No it doesn't. Does it represent a continuation of a Thatcherite stripping down of the state? Not at all.

I just feel that this piece was not particularly balanced.
Posted by Kris McCracken, Wednesday, 4 May 2005 7:52:17 PM
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Statistics are wonderfully adaptable aren't they? I'm not disputing any of them, but I'd appreciate some reference for those you have cited. Particularly as the "reports from the trenches" tell a different story.

"There are 100,000 more doctors and more nurses than there were in 1997"

My sister, who has worked her way through the hospital system and now teaches nursing tells me that there are now more administrators in the UK health system than active medical personnel. The standards of basic care in hospitals are becoming critical, she tells me, and they are having to spend increasing amounts of time reporting to the bureaucrats on PR issues such as MRSA

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2572841.stm

"There are now 28,000 more teachers than there were in 1997, assisted by over 105,000 more support staff."

I love the phrase "assisted by". A very good friend who has been teaching for thirtyfive years and recently retired as a head teacher tells me that her staff spend more time filling in forms than in face-to-face teaching. The reports on individual children are essay-length, and have to avoid any reference to the child's actual ability. OFSTED inspections are nightmarish, often carried out by people who have never had hands-on teaching experience, but are happy to pontificate on the right way to do things.

And it took six months to replace the head at a neighbouring school, thanks to the shortage of candidates and the archaic pay scales.

"And overall crime is down 30 per cent since 1997"

And how do they measure this? One of the side issues from my brother-in-law's experience was that he discovered that the 30 incidents a day did not appear on any of the statistics the local constabulary was required to report.

Kris, your post looks suspiciously like a press release. Do you have a particular agenda here, or did you just happen to drop in? I have no particular vested interest in the outcome of the UK election, but I have been observing with great interest the Blair descent from plain-talking hero of the people to the slippery dissembler he is today.
Posted by Pericles, Thursday, 5 May 2005 10:12:16 AM
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"Kris, your post looks suspiciously like a press release. Do you have a particular agenda here, or did you just happen to drop in?"

I'm currently completing a PhD thesis that has attempted to analyse the trend of 'third way' governance (what/how/why/implications etc). Thus, I'm always interested in any related new material. I happen to feel that the initial piece lacked balance, and expressed that opinion. No agenda other than that.

I find it frustrating that many choose to disregard statistical evidence, instead choosing to rely on a narrow base of anecdotal evidence. This is not to suggest that raw stats are problem free, but feel a comment like: "Don't believe everything you read, it has already been freighted with an agenda" is a little too blase about the desire for objectivity.

I would suggest not believing everything you hear, as often anecdotal evidence is underwritten by an agenda (knowing or otherwise). If you sat down for a few hours with my father, you'd be convinced the world had never been in a more dire situation (workers have never been treated as badly, kids have never been as rude, hospitals have never been as dangerous). This is despite the fact that there exists significant evidence (anecdotal and otherwise) suggesting otherwise. This is not to deny him his opinion, as it remains valid, but please do not dismiss my right to mine.

Polly Toynbee and David Walker's "Better or Worse? Has Labour Delivered?" is an interesting exercise in exploring the dissonance between statistical analysis and anecdotal evidence. Yes, it comes from a particular subjective position, but I'd like to think I'm sharp enough to work within that.
Posted by Kris McCracken, Thursday, 5 May 2005 5:01:21 PM
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