David Thompson
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April 13, 2013

Comments

John D

A lot can be said with an eyebrow.

Heh. Just watched on TV. Poor Neil Kinnock can't shake off his old (lying) habits.

David

John,

It was extraordinary to watch. Every time Kinnock spoke he was either transparently evasive or transparently disingenuous.

Jonathan

Brilliant skewering of lefty snobbery and hypocrisy. The Ministry of Truth will have some work to do tomorrow.

Anna

Channel 4 still had to call it a "controversial thesis".

WTP

Well, controversial is good, right? It used to be. Right along side of "provocative".

David

Jonathan,

Brilliant skewering of lefty snobbery and hypocrisy.

I think that was one of the film’s most well-made points – the sheer snobbery and presumption that was aimed at her and, more to the point, at the people who voted for her. As when Jonathan Miller sneered at suburbia, patriotism and “commuter idiocy,” which is to say, those poor idiots whose taxes pay for just about everything, including arts subsidies for loftier souls like Jonathan Miller. Meanwhile in the Guardian, the novelist Frank Cottrell Boyce tells us that “Margaret Thatcher never liked her country.” He then asks, “She may not have provided the arts with cash, but she certainly gave them plenty of material. Why didn’t this work? Why wasn’t she mocked out of power?” Which again suggests a dogged failure to comprehend the obvious.

It reminds me of Durkin’s previous film Britain’s Trillion Pound Horror Story - available here - about debt, public spending and the weight of the state. (It’s worth seeing just for the blathering of the TUC’s intellectual colossus Brendan Barber. Doing a Kinnock, as it were.) The Guardian didn’t like it at all, though reviewer Lucy Mangan managed to disapprove without addressing (or apparently understanding) any of the points the film actually made. Our fearless Guardianista admitted, “Obviously I have not the time, space or qualifications to consider the validity of [the economic arguments] here.” Yet despite this handicap she still managed to insinuate that those same arguments (which, remember, she didn’t address or understand) should be dismissed as improper and unimportant. Given her admission of ignorance, you can’t help wondering exactly how she knew this.

Jonathan

David,

"you can’t help wondering exactly how she knew this".

She knew it because it was self-evidently true: that is to say it was the opinion of everyone she knew. It seems that lefties live in a world where all information comes from the Guardian and the BBC. I'm always surprised, though I shouldn't be, at how ill-informed my left-wing friends are about politics, history and current affairs.
I liked Durkin's " The Great Global Warming Swindle" too.

Min

It's funny how the left were basically saying the same thing as the old aristocracy - "Know your place".

Steve

Thanks for the tip David, that was a great watch. My only complaint is that Durkin didn't expose Toynbee's snobbery / elitism as he did with Mary Warnock; it would have been nice to see her squirm a bit.

David

Steve,

My only complaint is that Durkin didn’t expose Toynbee’s snobbery / elitism as he did with Mary Warnock;

You could always console yourself with this.

I actually hoped for more of Toynbee too, and critics will of course say Durkin’s film is partial, which it is, and that it omits other less flattering details, which it does. But it conveys, quite vividly, why Thatcher was indeed both an outsider and very popular, and it reminds the viewer of just how grim and absurd the reality that faced her (and us) was. The UK’s slide into socialism had prompted Helmut Schmidt, then German Chancellor, to describe Britain as “no longer a developed country.” Given the number of people, especially younger people, who seem to regard Thatcher as some inexplicable act of vandalism, the context Durkin provides is quite timely.

[ Added: ]

As Durkin says,

The extent of nationalisation under Labour and Tory governments was breathtaking. The ports and the docks and shipbuilding were nationalised; the trains and the railways; freight transport; canals, ferries and buses were nationalised; the airports and airlines; car, bus, truck and airplane manufacturing; the coal industry, the oil industry, the gas industry, the steel industry; water and electricity were all nationalised; telecommunications were nationalised; much of the computer industry; radio and television were nationalised; the government even took over some pubs and the travel agent Thomas Cook. Britain – once the world’s leading capitalist industrial nation – became one of the most state-owned of any country outside the communist world.

And yet these state-subsidised monopolies were for the most part hopelessly inefficient, all too often unreliable and in many cases billions in debt. With no real incentive to improve and few, if any, consequences when they failed to meet even basic expectations, degradation and decline were inevitable. And this wasn’t just a matter of numbers that didn’t add up. It was also a matter of culture and mindset, a “managed decline” that was psychological too.

Steve

David,

"You could allways console yourself with this"

Great stuff and probably about the only time I've ever warmed to Littlejohn, but that was 5 years ago! Someone else must have been able to expose her hypocrisy since then surely?

Any news on the book yet?

David

Editing... editing...

Robert Edwards

I have just watched it - a remarkable, but much-needed piece of work. Thank you for the heads-up. It was good to see the warhorses finally permitted an outing.

Darleen

oh crud ... the youtube vid has been yanked and the 4oD link is unavailable in my area ...

Jonathan Stuart Berkey

I have the same issue as Darleen.

What ever are us Yanks to do?

BTW, I find it most excellent that co-bloggers at some of my other favorite blogs - Ace of Spades, and Protein Wisdom - are clearly coming to this site often.

*applauds Darleen Click*

*goes off to hit David's tip jar*

Dom

Is there any other way of watching it? Youtube and 40D are not working for me either.

jones

I'm also provincial and thus unworthy of enjoying.....

Joan

Every time Kinnock spoke he was either transparently evasive or transparently disingenuous.

Kinnock might have been our prime minister...

Nube

The Kinnock interviews were hilarious. Still no sign of a review in the Guardian, Observer or Independent.

David

Jonathan Stuart Berkey, Darleen, Dom, jones,

What ever are us Yanks to do?

Apparently it’s not available in Canada either. If I find another upload, I’ll post a link. I’d imagine the production company Wag TV may soon release a DVD.

*goes off to hit David’s tip jar*

Your host endorses this behaviour wholeheartedly.


Nube,

Still no sign of a review in the Guardian, Observer or Independent.

Well, you can see the problem for leftist reviewers. Whatever the film’s shortcomings and omissions, it shows a pre-Thatcher world that many on the left romanticise or simply pretend didn’t happen. And it shows why a great many working class people wanted to escape it and voted for change, repeatedly. Like the excellent Tory! Tory! Tory! (available here), Durkin’s film shows where socialism – actual socialism - had taken us. A society in which the big political debate was all too often about the rate at which statism should grow and the speed with which the country would sink into destitution and irrelevance. A society in which your ability to watch a film in the cinema, or to get to work, or even to eat with the lights on, was at the mercy of a few hundred militant communists and their credulous followers. And I’d imagine quite a few student ‘radicals’, perhaps even some of those celebrating Thatcher’s death via Twitter on their smartphones, would find it rather shocking and not at all flattering.

Steve 2

Maggie was "divisive". Over the last few days I've come to understand that "divisive" means not obeying the demands of the left.

David

I like the part (around 50 minutes in) about those who objected to the emergence of wealthy proles with their new cars, “loadsamoney” and social mobility, which some on the left found terribly vulgar, thereby mirroring the old landed Tories. On which point, Madsen Pirie notes how the complaints from the left could seamlessly shift from ‘Thatcher will make people poor’ to ‘Thatcher is making people flashy and materialist.’ And then Janet Daley asks an obvious question: “Is it worse to be vulgar than to be poor?” The following section is interesting too, on the demographic change in Labour Party membership from traditional working class to middle-class public sector workers. And as Durkin notes, when taxation is the reason for nearly half your wages disappearing, in order to bankroll a bloated state and middle-class lefties in the public sector, socialism looks rather less benign.

[ Added: ]

I’ve never been an unequivocal fan of Thatcher, not by any means, though my appreciation for the things she got right has increased over the years. What interests me is how the reactions of the left, especially in the arts and academia, often revealed more than intended. Much of our intellectual and cultural establishment despised Thatcher - vehemently and ostentatiously - especially if she was winning the argument of the day. There were endless jibes about her populism, “philistinism” and “anti-intellectualism” - often from people who assumed they had some proprietary claim to the term ‘intellectual’, as if it were a synonym for ‘pretentious middle-class pseudo-socialist’. Decades later, the same self-flattering jibes were still being made by much the same people. And it occurs to me that our cultural and intellectual betters sneered at her - and sneered at those who voted for her - for some reasons they couldn’t publicly admit – i.e., that they’d been made to look irrelevant. Their place in the conventional hierarchy, above thee and me, had been thrown into doubt. They simply weren’t needed onside for her to reach the electorate.

Henry

"I’ve never been an unequivocal fan of Thatcher, not by any means, though my appreciation for the things she got right has increased over the years. What interests me is how the reactions of the left, especially in the arts and academia, often revealed more than intended"

This very much describes my thoughts. By the end of the 80s, I fear I may have found her manner a teensy bit tiresome. But a broader view makes you see the benefit of a strong leader with self-belief - precisely the quality lacking in this country for many decades...

One of the things that makes me take her side is the vitriol of the so called nice-guys towards her. Academics, journalists and others seem unable to see her as anything other than a hate-figure, or to understand what this says about them and their worldview...

Charlie Suet

There was a rather amusing review of this in this morning's Metro. Histrionics barely covers it.

David

Henry & Charlie,

I suppose part of it is there’s an awful lot of folk mythology about the woman, on both sides. And railing against a malevolent all-powerful Demon Queen is so much more flattering to the egos of embittered socialists. Or young people who one day hope to be embittered socialists.

As a non-political youth watching the news in the Eighties, it was still hard to miss the way Mr Scargill’s goons would initiate violence before complaining about the inevitable pushback. (Same old same old.) But lots of the details escaped me until much later. Like the fact that Scargill’s ‘flying pickets’ were attempting not only to stop miners from working lawfully but also to prevent them voting on whether or not NUM members should be striking at all (a vote Scargill knew he would have lost). Again, our Stalinist buffoon was no fan of democracy. After the fact, even Neil Kinnock admitted that the miners had been “hideously exploited” by Scargill. There’s a useful and graphic history of the strikes by miners and print unions here.

Dr Cromarty

I had to laugh at Baroness Warnock sneering at Margaret Thatcher's taste in clothes. Warnock looked like a bag lady/hobo

David

Dr Cromarty,

Yes, this moral philosopher and professor of rhetoric, and of course Guardian contributor, unwittingly reminds us of how the patrician left and right were often remarkably similar. Still, it’s funny that this noted intellectual from a very comfortable background, a woman very nearly chosen as Director General of the BBC, could be driven to “a kind of rage” by a blouse with a bow. Or rather, by its suburban, lower-middle class connotations. Just as the pious lefty Jonathan Miller, again no pauper boy, was offended by Thatcher’s aspirational fervour, her “odious suburban gentility” and her petit-bourgeois background. Presumably, he must also have been offended by the aspiring suburbanites who voted for her in large numbers. But then poor Dr Miller – or not-so-poor Dr Miller - would later rail against the “feral” prole children and “rough-looking boys” disturbing his own neighbourhood in NW3.

Clearly, some kinds of aspiration are just better than others.

Dr Cromarty

Agreed, David. Rage at a blouse with a bow is just the kind of rationality one expects of a professor of moral philosophy.

David

It’s also the implicit idea that objecting to hooded riff-raff hanging about on the road where Charles Dickens lived is perfectly okay, but aspiring to live in a respectable house in suburbia, as opposed to a council flat on a crappy estate, is somehow vulgar and unsophisticated. Yes, these things are just beastly when working class people do them.

Jonathan

@Dr Cromarty
Unfortunately, these people are now the Establishment.

T Dickinson

There were endless jibes about her populism, “philistinism” and “anti-intellectualism” - often from people who assumed they had some proprietary claim to the term ‘intellectual’, as if it were a synonym for ‘pretentious middle-class pseudo-socialist’.

LOL. This is why I come here. *Hits tip jar* Have a glass of something on me, David.

David

T Dickinson,

Have a glass of something on me, David.

It’s that or I’m buying a copy of Giant-Size Man-Thing.

Sam

Just tweeted by Peter Tatchell: "Thatcher supported economic dictatorship of the rich."

David

Just tweeted by Peter Tatchell: “Thatcher supported economic dictatorship of the rich.”

Oh my. And from a man who once played cheerleader for Maoism.

svh

At what point can we describe leftism as 'divisive'?

David

At what point can we describe leftism as ‘divisive’?

You’re being divisive. Stop it at once. In the interests of unanimity your views must be realigned with those of our socialist betters. Then there will be no more divisiveness, which was All Thatcher’s Fault™.

svh

I'll report for realignment at once. :D

Steve 2

Leftism is never divisive, it is progressive. Its most excitable proponents like Mao, Stalin, Castro et al may have killed or jailed large swathes of their own populations, but True Socialism Has Never Been Tried and leftwing thinkers like Pilger and Chomsky will no doubt prove that the United States of America and neoliberals are to blame. Divisiveness, like greed and racism, is a right wing trait and the sooner we accept that the quicker the socialist Jerusalem will be built. Except not Jerusalem of course, that's too Christian and dead white male-ey. Mecca perhaps?

David

When WrongThought™ has been purged, the nation will be healed, all faces will be happy faces and puppies will smell of candy floss.

Richard

Thoroughly enjoyed the documentary, David. Thanks for pointing it out. The snobbery of the Left is not a pretty sight and the last section of the Kinnock interview was comedy gold.

AC1

"At what point can we describe leftism as 'divisive'? "

Er "Class War" is uniting... oh...

David

Richard,

The snobbery of the Left is not a pretty sight and the last section of the Kinnock interview was comedy gold.

Glad you liked. It does offer a perspective that’s shared by quite a few people yet not often explored by our betters. And yes, the Kinnock scene does have a marvellous ‘rabbit-in-headlights’ quality. Re the snobbery, Janet Daley put it well in her Telegraph column:

It is very difficult to explain to people under the age of 40 what this change [in attitudes to social class, encouraged by Thatcher] has meant… At the time of Dr Miller’s widely quoted remarks in which he likened Thatcherism and its supporters to “typhoid,” a BBC television arts producer I knew who had grown up in a lower-middle-class family said: “Hey, that’s my mum and dad he’s talking about.” But presumably it never occurred to the Left-wing aristocracy that anyone in their own professional circle might himself have risen from the respectable working class or the truly accursed one just a notch above it. That would be because the idea of “rising” at all was faintly ridiculous and contemptible.

Maybe that’s why many left-leaning academics and cultural figures despised her so. Whatever her sins, she made them look rather at odds with their own professed virtues.

sackcloth and ashes

Having read various cretins (Mark Steel, Owen Jones etc) pontificate about why Thatcher was hated, I am struck by the fact that Welsh ex-miners who were bitter enemies of the Conservative government are capable of being a lot more magnanimous than those who were either too young to remember the 1980s, or were indeed in a position of far greater material and financial comfort than the Rhondda working classes:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/margaret-thatcher-funeral-welsh-miners-pay-respect-despite-anger-towards-the-former-tory-prime-minister-8576356.html?origin=internalSearch

I am also reminded of a conversation I had a few months back with a colleague at work with a proud East End blue collar background. He's as Old Labour as you can get, but he provided me with a better analysis of the left's problems in the 1980s than one could expect off someone with bluer blood and redder politics.

He remembered watching the results from the 1983 election with a group of friends and acquaintances, all of whom had in common the fact that they were Labour supporters. The evening watching the results was therefore not a celebratory one, and a particular trigger for despair were the results from Basildon; formerly a red strong-hold, it had elected a Tory in 1979 (Harvey Proctor) and was due to return another (David Amess).

My work-mate Bill then noticed that amongst the more socially elevated individuals present, despair at the loss (again) of what had once been a Labour safe seat gave way to some particularly spiteful commentary about its electorate. Bill had to listen - with increasing anger - to a series of sneering remarks about white working-class voters in Basildon, and how stupid they were. The straw that broke the camel's back was a throwaway remark about how the Tories had evidently bribed voters by giving them a free Doberman. Whilst others guffawed, Bill exploded, rounding on the author of this bon mot with the words 'It is precisely attitudes like that that make working class people vote Tory!' Bill burnt more than a few bridges that night, but he had basically ceased to give a fuck.

David

sackcloth and ashes,

Bill had to listen - with increasing anger - to a series of sneering remarks about white working-class voters in Basildon, and how stupid they were.

I’ve heard similar stories and encountered similar attitudes. I suppose the snobbery and contempt fits with the self-flattering arrogance of leftist thinking generally. Say, the belief that one is entitled to confiscate even more of other people’s earnings, and that one should tell the unenlightened proles how to live and think correctly (what with their ‘false consciousness’ and all). Or better yet, do the thinking and deciding on their behalf, lefties being so much smarter and more radical than people who disagree.

Yes, smart people like the Guardian’s Giles Fraser, who attempts to shock his readers by admitting:

I voted for Margaret Thatcher. We all decided down the pub that this was the best way forward. Forget the Labour party and their pathetic version of incremental change. What was required was nothing less than a revolution. And in order to bring this about, things had to get a good deal worse. That was the logic: a Thatcher government would trigger a general uprising against the inequalities created by free-market capitalism… It was a bizarre measure of the extent to which I hated Thatcherism as a philosophy that I was prepared even to vote for Thatcher to defeat it.

And some on the left still wonder how it can be they lost to her, quite dramatically, three times.

sackcloth and ashes

The whole point about Labour was it was supposed to represent an alliance between blue collar workers and white collar intellectuals. That alliance is essentially dead, unless one counts the influence of some TU dinosaurs.

I have a theory about the left's problems which I'm trying to articulate. The problem it has is that whilst it has a historical record (at least in Britain) of fighting the right battles, it fails to understand that its commitments cannot and should not translate into lasting allegiance.

The left may have campaigned for worker's rights, democracy, women's equality, anti-racism, and gay rights (and sometimes on these issues it was the white collar types whose attitudes were streets ahead of their working class comrades, particularly on issues such as fighting homophobia). The problem is that the activist concerned - whether a Labour member or not - will not allow for the possibility that any of those they have campaigned for might turn round and say 'You know what? I'm actually thinking of voting for the other side'. Any decision by working class voters to support the Tories, for example, or for a woman from Grantham to choose her own path towards emancipation without paying homage to Dworkin or Greer will be seen almost as an act of personal betrayal, rather than as an opportunity for some political introspection.

Allied to this is the abandonment of a basic principle, abandoned in the rush towards identity politics. As you yourself have noted, David, if a white collar leftist is confronted by homophobia or misogyny from (say) an Islamist cleric or a Jamaican musician, he or she is incapable of turning around and saying 'That is bigotry and I abhor it'. The response is either to either turn a blind eye, or to do a Decca Aitkenhead or a Priamvadya Gopal, and resort to some fatuous and utterly illogical argument to excuse the inexcusable, or even to blame the victim. This hypocrisy may not be commented upon, but it is out there and evident to all.

A follow-up here is a reminder of Orwell's point that '[there] are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them'. To read the 'Guardian' (a once great paper) is now like reading the internal publication of a millenial cult. The riots in English cities in August 2011 was a not an act of ochlocracy; it was a political protest by an oppressed underclass against a rich elite forcing austerity on the country. Argentina's claim on the Falklands Islands is not an act of colonialism and a violation of the basic principle of self-determination; it is a just claim which only some Colonel Blimp-type can oppose. The fact that Israel upholds gay rights whilst its neighbours do not is not a testimony to its democracy; it is a cynical act of 'pink-washing' designed to distract the international community from its crimes against the Palestinians. The Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other similar movements are not the Islamic world's answer to the Khmer Rouge; they are justified in taking up arms against Western imperialism. And so on and so forth.

What would anyone who is not a Guardianista think of such bullshit?

David

sackcloth and ashes,

Any decision by working class voters to support the Tories, for example, or for a woman from Grantham to choose her own path towards emancipation without paying homage to Dworkin or Greer will be seen almost as an act of personal betrayal, rather than as an opportunity for some political introspection.

It helps if you don’t regard the working class electorate as victims, pets or property. [ Added: ] Over the years I’ve had several exchanges with people who were, as they put it, “amazed” that I, a gay man, low-born and a bit arty, am not a big fan of the left. On more than one occasion I mentioned the left’s history of economic idiocy, the tendency towards dogmatism, the urge to coerce, etc. I wasn’t rewarded with much of a reply, but in each case the subtext was hard to miss: “How dare you leave the plantation? You owe us your allegiance until we say otherwise.”

Not entirely unrelated, Sigillum over at Anna Raccoon:

[Thatcher] did not fit the Leftist feminist agenda at all. This still so irritates the feminist Left that it either ignores Thatcher, or demonizes her as not really a woman, but somehow a proxy man… Listening to a discussion with Thatcher’s recent biographer Gillian Shepherd today, Shepherd pointed out that in the past year or so there had been something like 60 books on feminism published in the United Kingdom. Almost none of them made reference to Margaret Thatcher, and where they did so it was in uniformly negative terms. Yet it is hard to appreciate the sheer scale of her personal breakthrough at a time when it was still unusual for a married woman to have their own bank account, single women struggled to get mortgages, and the less than 3% of university lecturers were women.

It gives you a flavour of the spite towards apostates and escapees; and in Thatcher’s case, walking rebuttals.

Doubting Rich

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I rarely watch documentaries, but this was great. Great tribute, great defence, great attack on her enemies and a great memory of just how screwed up this country was. I was only young when she was elected (indeed she was elected on my 6th birthday and I had to wait all day for my presents as my parents canvassed for the Conservative Party; worth every instant even if each had felt a year) but I remember many of the things in the film, mostly as they disappeared as she overcame them.

sackcloth and ashes

'Over the years I’ve had several exchanges with people who were, as they put it, “amazed” that I, a gay man, low-born and a bit arty, am not a big fan of the left'.

Over the past ten years, I have learnt not to be surprised about this at all, because when it comes to standing up against people who would actually kill you for your sexuality, the great and good of the left will throw you to the wolves unless the threat comes from white neo-fascists. And this attitude comes from the universities, the informed commentators, and the self-professed 'great and good'.

As is the case with the parable of the Good Samaritan, we have no shortage of Priests and Levites who will leave people in the gutter rather than help them.

David

Any decision by working class voters to support the Tories, for example… will be seen almost as an act of personal betrayal, rather than as an opportunity for some political introspection.

This seems somehow relevant. Because it’s saddening and baffling when the proles think for themselves.

Conservative Prole

Because it’s saddening and baffling when the proles think for themselves.

LOL. They're 'freeing' us so that we can do exactly as they say.

Susan MacMillan

Bill had to listen - with increasing anger - to a series of sneering remarks about white working-class voters in Basildon, and how stupid they were.

'Socialists cry "Power to the people", and raise the clenched fist as they say it. We all know what they really mean — power over people, power to the State.'

Margaret Thatcher, March 15, 1986.

Horace Dunn

David

Thank you for alerting us to the Durkin film. It was an excellent polemic. I think the key moment in the film is that referred to several times here, when Kinnock is presented with an open goal: did Thatcher make Britain a worse place? And he’s quite unable to score. So this man, one of the most prominent politicians and statesmen of our time (as Joan pointed out above, he almost became Prime Minister) when given the opportunity to summarise why he has spent his entire political career – decades! – railing against this woman, finds himself unable to make even the broadest and blandest assertions.

The sweet irony, of course, is that the man who was regularly characterised as a windbag, provides the most eloquent summation of everything he stands for by giving us ... silence.

I was about to say that this is a potent example of the dishonesty of the left. But I think it’s truer to say that this is a potent example of the dishonesty of the political establishment. A reminder, if one were needed, that our constitutional arrangement should be one in which we keep those bastards under our thumbs, rather than the other way around.

As Maggie’s great buddy one said: “We are a nation that has a government. Not the other way around”.

I wish.

David

Horace,

“We are a nation that has a government. Not the other way around.” I wish.

Given how little the electorate thinks of politicians in general, it does seem odd that quite a few people want to give those same politicians even more power over our lives, and in increasingly intimate and unaccountable ways. The promise of more “free” stuff will always seduce some people, especially those who don’t much care about who actually has to pay for it, or whether that arrangement is equitable, or even plausible. But as Thomas Sowell points out, “When politicians say, ‘spread the wealth,’ translate that as ‘concentrate the power,’ because that is the only way they can spread the wealth.” And a quick rummage through the archives will reveal any number of “wealth spreaders” - Richard Murphy, for instance - who prefer the idea of a “courageous” parental state that happens to have an electorate, preferably a compliant and dependent one.

[ Added: ]

For readers who weren’t around during Thatcher’s time in power and have no memory of what came before, this edition of Uncommon Knowledge, in which Peter Robinson talks with the journalist and author John O’Sullivan, may also be instructive.

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