Friday Ephemera

Wounds Sustained, Oblivion Avoided

By the mid-1970s, Britain was widely regarded - choose your favourite cliché - as the Sick Man of Europe, an economic basket case, ungovernable... In [1978] the year before Thatcher came to power, Britain, upon whose empire the sun never set, endured the Winter of Discontent. Labour unrest shut down public services, paralysing the nation for months on end… Rubbish was piled high on the streets of Britain that winter, and so, at one point, were human corpses. The Soviet trade minister told his British counterpart, “We don’t want to increase our trade with you. Your goods are unreliable, you’re always on strike, you never deliver.” This was what had become of the world’s greatest trading power.

From Claire Berlinski’s “There Is No Alternative”: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters, which I’m halfway through reading and enjoying quite a lot. It’s a brisk and witty reminder of what was at stake and how socialism can lead to extraordinary selfishness. It also has plenty of revealing incidental nuggets, as when Berlinski notes the feelings of some of Thatcher’s loftier enemies:

When asked why intellectuals loathed her so, the theatre producer Jonathan Miller replied that it was “self-evident” – they were nauseated by her “odious suburban gentility.” The philosopher Mary Warnock deplored Thatcher’s “neat, well-groomed clothes and hair, packaged together in a way that’s not exactly vulgar, just low,” embodying “the worst of the lower-middle class.” This filled Warnock with “a kind of rage.”

Claire Berlinksi is interviewed by National Review’s Peter Robinson, again in 5 parts:

1. Socialist winter.

2. How she did it.

3. Thatcher and Obama.

4. Turkey and Islam.

5. What’s a radical?

Glenn Reynolds also interviews Berlinksi here. (Registration required.)

Related: Tory! Tory! Tory! An excellent 2006 miniseries tracing the history and context of Thatcherism, the miseries it involved and the much greater miseries it avoided. Well worth viewing in full. The three episodes are embedded below in six parts: 

Outsiders (Part 1):  

Outsiders (Part 2):

The Path to Power (Part 1):

The Path to Power (Part 2):

The Exercise of Power (Part 1):

The Exercise of Power (Part 2):