How can those two names appear together in the same title? Heath and Thatcher mutually detested one another, surely? Ah well. The Heath in question is City AM editor and stooge of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) Allister Heath, and he has been paying homage to the memory of Margaret Thatcher. Unfortunately for him, the spin is all too easy to unpick.
“Which of these PMs sacked the most miners? (Clue: It wasn't Lady Thatcher)... The amazing facts that make a mockery of the rabble who want to wreck her funeral” kicks off the piece. Heath cannot understand that losing your job when the Government of the day is committed to full employment and there are other equally well paid jobs available is not the kind of thing you’d strike over.
However, losing your job when the Government doesn’t give a flying foxtrot about full employment, and there are already north of three million on the dole, is a different thing altogether. Never mind Al, tell us about those election victories: “she won 43.9 per cent of the vote in 1979, 42.4 per cent in 1983 and 42.2 per cent in 1987 – landslide results of which contemporary politicians can only dream”.
Like Tony Blair getting 43.2% of the popular vote in 1997, you mean? And remember, the Liberals’ 13.8% in 1979 had increased to 16.8% for the Lib Dems in 1997. Heath’s attempt to portray Thatcher as popular ignores the 53% of the vote in 1983 that went to parties opposed to her. She won a landslide victory because of the electoral system and an opposition hopelessly divided.
Ah, but then we get the “social housing” card played. All those other countries that have smaller percentages of it, eh? Heath blames the post-war planning system, but this is bunk. When he says “We need the private sector to build more homes to make sure there are enough for everybody, at affordable prices”, he should know that this is not, and has not, happened, and certainly not in the Thatcher years.
What about those sell-offs, then? “Entire chunks of the economy – including British Telecom and BP – were moved into the private sector, transforming loss-making bureaucracies into world-class firms”. BT and BP were profitable before being sold off. And since being sold off, BP has not exactly distinguished itself (Deepwater Horizon blowout, Prudhoe Bay spill, Texas City refinery explosion).
Heath then fiddles the growth figures – lower over the whole of the Thatcher years than the figure he pitches – and fails to mention the benefits of North Sea oil revenues and the increase in debt. There was, as I pointed out previously, no miracle. And if that’s the standard of economic analysis on offer at City AM, no wonder they have to give the paper away.
It may be the TPA approved version of history. But it does not reflect reality.