Sometimes things happen that make you think about whether your parents are right or wrong. Sometimes the sad conclusion is that maybe they are just humans that react with emotion rather than reason.
I have always been quite adamant that I should never be a partisan, never take sides, because I believe that a partisan is always blinkered. He ignores that which is faulty in his convictions, and focuses on what is faulty in the opponent’s. Being a partisan is reducing politics to a team sport, and the aim becomes to score a goal against the other team, and not to govern well.
Two days ago Margaret Thatcher died, and I posted the post I did because I have grown up on hearing horror stories about that time. While I’m not going to dress in sack-cloth and ashes here and claim I did something wrong, it did make me think about whether what my parents told me were actually true.
If you’re in the middle of a storm, you’re not going to be too concerned about where the storm came from. You’re not going to measure the millibars and wind-direction and the air-pressure to understand the storm. You’re going to run for cover from it.
My grandfather took his wife and two daughters and moved from place to place looking for work after the pit in their home town was closed down, and eventually settled here in the south of England. My uncle was old enough to move out on his own, and crossed the border to Scotland.
The town became a ghost town. The thousands of jobs that were there before 1984 disappeared. All the subsidiary services that existed to serve the main and sole industry of the town closed because once the main industry died, there was nothing to sustain the grocery shops and petrol stations and chippie shops.
Hundreds of years of history evaporated into a depressive economic coma, and the town now, apparently, hobbles on in a very diminutive state compared to times past. Thousands of people left. Multiply that by dozens or hundreds of towns just like it across the area and region and the North.
If you’re in that state, and see that happen to the place that’s the only thing you know, then maybe you can be excused if you’re not responding rationally to the economic storm that Thatcher brought.
But here’s the question I’ve been grappling with. Was there any other way than this way? Could it have been avoided? Could the communities and the history and the cohesion have been saved?
The source material that I’m reading is quite suspect, but the image I have is of a state in dissolution. The Winter of Discontent was in fresh memory. Rolling black-outs due to strikes went on and on, and people actually suffered. Inflation was rampant at up to twenty per cent per year. That is a twenty per cent wage cut every year, if the actual earned pounds remained the same. In Liverpool the dead even had to be put into freezers when the grave diggers went on strike, and there was even talk of mass burials at sea, to the great alarm of bereaved ones.
When the conservatives went on to win the 1979 election, it won by a landslide because of all these strikes. That year had over 29 million lost workdays due to strikes.
I am not supposed to be partisan, and I have to look at real numbers and real situation, and not go with merely what I think should happen. That way I become a mouth-piece and squander whatever little self-respect I have for myself.
Someone elsewhere asked me what should have been done instead, and I honestly don’t know. I don’t have the answer. I did read up on what Sweden did when it was in the same situation, and it was roughly the same.
The country sold all its loss-making state-owned companies like the railroads and the phone company and the steel-mills, but somehow Sweden managed to keep a high level of unionization. Maybe it has to do with the fact that Sweden has municipal sovereignty, so the state has never been so powerful to begin with?
Municipal self-rule dictates that only that which is not doable on a local level is decided on in parliament. The UK seems to have it the other way around, where everything is decided by ministers.