We’re not “all Thatcherites now”

21st April, 2013 1:32 pm

When David Cameron said we are all ‘Thatcherites’ now on the morning of Baroness Thatchers funeral he not only crossed the line from national leader to party propogandist he finally buried the political project which was at the core of his offer both to his party and the electorate.

In opposition, Cameron and Osborne’s political strategy  was heavily influenced by  Theresa May’s honest assessment that the Tory party was perceived as the ‘nasty party.’ They recognised that changing this was a prerequisite to winning  an election. They embarked on a strategy to detoxify the Tory brand in an attempt to build an electoral coalition which would deliver  victory in 2010. They hugged huskies and hoodies, claimed to adopt a green agenda and launched the concept of the Big society.

Their failure to secure an overall majority represented a failure of that strategy as too many people continued to fear the impact of trusting the ‘nasty’ party with Government. While this was a blow to the Tories, David Cameron let it be known that coalition with the Lib Dems gave him the opportunity to pursue a centrist agenda and govern as a One Nation Tory. But that is far from what happened.

Instead, he dumped the ‘signature’ green and big society policies and chose to implement a more right wing agenda than Mrs Thatcher ever dared. Using the deficit as an excuse and the Lib Dems as camouflage he has slashed public investment at a pace which has been driven by political not economic considerations and commercialised the NHS undermining its fundamental values. Worse of all, economic failure risks a repeat of the 1980’s when a generation of young people were consigned to the scrapheap of unemployment laying the foundations for intergenerational social problems.

Amidst the genuine sadness felt by many Tories at Baroness Thatchers death and the attempts to glorify her record there has  been an outbreak of collective amnesia on the right. The Tories have failed to win the last four elections  largely because of Thatcherisms nasty party legacy and the British people’s hostility to a right wing, divisive agenda which is being pursued once again in office by a weak Prime Minister who is a “hostage” of his own failure to  change his party.

Ed Miliband’s One Nation Labour is the the only alternative hard headed but optimistic offer which offers the British people the prospect of a better, fairer future in which everyone plays their part.

An offer predicated on the need for big economic and social change. An active industrial strategy supporting wealth creation, a living wage  supporting dignity and decency at work, fair taxes which reward hard work and long term business investment with no opt outs. A job with no option to stay on welfare for those who can work, an Education system which has a quality offer for all young people, a reduced state where appropriate, a strengthened state where necessary, a vision and values which offers hope where there is despair and  stands in stark contrast to the Thatcherism of yesteryear and today’s divided and divisive Tories.

Ivan Lewis is MP for Bury South and Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

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  • JoeDM

    The Tories failed to win for 13 years because they were up against a very good and popular Labour leader for once – Tony Blair.

    • The Tories failed to win because they were largely unelectable . The next election will be the ffirst relatively level playing field for a long time

  • AlanGiles

    OF COURSE we are not all “Thatcherites”, now, Mr Lewis. Some of us never were, but how nice to be reassured by an unreconstituted Blairite:


  • Daniel Speight

    No wonder Gove wants to take control of the history syllabus. We have been getting a rewriting of history ever since Thatcher died. When Cameron speaks we should look back at the Tories’ own history.

    If they are all Thatcherites now, they certainly weren’t when Conservative Parliamentary Party knifed her in the back in 1990. They did this as they thought, probably correctly, that the public would vote her, and them, out at the next election. They also thought that a new leader would give them a chance and they were proved correct in this.

    The comparisons some would like to make between Churchill and Thatcher are mainly false. We could say that both disliked both the Labour Party and organized labour, but that’s about it. Churchill only became leader of the Conservative Party because of Labour’s support. By themselves the Tories would have chosen Halifax most likely.

    Now Halifax is a good example of the Tories of that period. He was sympathetic to appeasement and some suspected to fascism too. People with sub-continent origins should look closely at his period as Viceroy of India. But he was just one example of the then racist and antisemitic people you could find in the Tories and also in the ruling class. It’s always worth remembering the distrust that the Edward Windsor was held in through the war years due to his liking for Hitler’s Germany.

    Another rather unknown piece of wartime history is in the formation of the Home Guard (Dads Army), or originally the Local Defense Volunteers. This was initially very much a product of the left following the ideas of ex-British International Brigade commander and ex-communist Tom Wintringham. Early training being done at Osterley Park included guerrilla warfare by exiled Spanish republicans. List were supposedly drawn up of prominent politicians who may be tempted to switch sides in case of an invasion, the inference being that they would be killed. Churchill was rather cautious in taking control of the Home Guard while the threat of an imminent invasion was still there.

    It does bring a wry smile to my face when I see Jewish, black, Asian and working class Tory MPs. I have to believe they don’t really know the true history of their party as otherwise I would have to believe that greed or ambition had overridden their cultural antipathy to this party.

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