Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cameron: I will be as tough as Thatcher.

I'm sorry, but is there a positive to this that I am failing to see?

David Cameron will today promise to be as tough as Margaret Thatcher in taking on Britain's "vested interests" if they seek to block the reforms and spending cuts he would make as prime minister.

The Tory leader will recall Baroness Thatcher's battles over curbing trade union power, privatising state-run industries and selling council houses to tenants. He will pledge to emulate her strong leadership as he brands Gordon Brown as "weak" over the British Airways and rail strikes.

Speaking in London, Mr Cameron will declare he is ready for a "fight" with the teaching unions, local authorities and educational establishment over Tory plans to allow charities, churches, private schools and parents to set up new state-funded schools and restore classroom discipline. He also signalled a readiness to face down unions gearing up to oppose spending and job cuts in the public sector. "I have no doubt that some of the changes we want to make will mean facing down some really powerful vested interests," he will say.

A government led by him would represent "the national interest" rather than "pandering to vested interests" like the unions as Labour is doing, he will declare.

I thought Cameron had spent years trying to distance himself from the legacy of "the nasty party". Indeed, he even went as far as to say that, "there is such a thing as society" in order to put some distance between himself and Thatcher.

And now, because of a strike by BA, he seeks to put himself in the role of the Iron Lady battling against union extremism. The strike is by BA for God's sake. Air stewardesses going on strike hardly brings back the image of the Winter of Discontent.

It's yet another sign of the quite ridiculous opportunism of Cameron.
"Political leadership means standing up for the people – and standing up to those who act against their interests," he will say. "Put simply, you can't change Britain unless you take on vested interests. Change doesn't just happen. Change isn't easy. It's hard because there will always be people who want to preserve the status quo even when it isn't working in everyone's interests."
He says this at the very moment when his party is being bankrolled by Lord Ashcroft, the man who William Hague promised would pay "tens of millions" in taxation if only Tony Blair's government would give him a lifetime peerage. Of course, once he got his peerage, he reneged on that deal and Cameron is refusing to fire him. Indeed, the Tories have spent the past decade desperately refusing to even ask Ashcroft if he had complied with Hague's promises, but reassuring us that they had no reason to believe that he had not.

So, he's not promising to tackle the kind of "vested interests" that I would like to see him tackle. He's promising a war on air stewardesses.

He plans to go on to say:
Mr Cameron will say: "Margaret Thatcher's government was defined by taking the side of the people against the powerful, the vested interest – those whose survival depended on keeping things as they were."
That's not my memory of Thatcherism, nor do I imagine that's the memory of any working class person in this country.

I remember a woman who split this nation in two, and who oversaw a government where the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. A woman who ran pretending that she was concerned about unemployment - her famous poster, Labour Isn't Working implied that she would do something about unemployment - but, the second she was elected, she oversaw the largest rise in unemployment in living memory and labelled those unfortunate enough to be unemployed as "social security scroungers".

That's the memory which Cameron is invoking. I've always thought him to be a dreadful opportunist; but, with his declaration promising to be the new Thatcher, I'm beginning to think he's an idiot.

Only a person brought up in the hallowed halls of Eton could evoke Thatcher's legacy without realising the toxic memory which he is summoning up in many people.

The riots in Brixton and Toxteth, and the battle of Orgreave, are all part of our collective memory of the time when this nation was ruled by the woman who called Britain's mining community "the enemy within".

Promising to be "the new Thatcher" because a few air stewardesses have gone on strike is not simply being ridiculously opportunistic, it's dumb.

Cameron may very well rue the day he uttered those words. For the memories that he is invoking are not pleasant one's to a great many people in this country.

Nor is he even worthy of the analogy. When one thinks of the steel that ran through Thatcher's veins, one can't help but look at Cameron and see only what is lacking. Indeed, the very life of Etonian privilege which he has enjoyed were things which Thatcher actually came to despise. The Tory grandees were never terribly fond of the lady. Cameron's class actually looked down on Thatcher as "the grocer's daughter from Grantham".

Which only makes him invoking her memory all the more ridiculous.

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