The end of Thatcherism?

Anthony Barnett argues that the new coalition represents the end of Thatcherism. Personally I think it’s far too early to say that, and that the new government will be far more “Tory” than the early publicity has led us to believe. But let’s wait and see.

However, the very fact that people can be proclaiming “the end of Thatcherism” is testimony to how enduring Margaret Thatcher’s influence over British politics has been. Tony Benn acknowledges this in his diary entry for Sunday 3 August 2003, with an observation that is interesting to consider alongside Anthony Barnett’s prediction that we have moved from an era of “conviction” to “coalition” politics:

There was also an article in the paper today saying how lonely Mrs Thatcher was, and I felt for her as an individual. She’s not very well, she’s had a couple of strokes, Denis Thatcher’s gone. Her name is still in the papers because she’s set the tone for British politics from about 1975, when she became Leader, until today. That thirty-year period I would like to say has ended, but of course it hasn’t, because the neo-conservatives in the form of President Bush in America have taken it up and developed it. Blair has taken it up and adopted it. So we’re still in the grip of that woman’s ideas, and what it does show is that if you use the premiership in order to argue your philosophy, you can have a bigger influence than by being a chief executive for a period.

An earlier entry (Friday 22 March 2002) shows a touching personal sensitivity towards Mrs Thatcher:

Mrs Thatcher, who’s had one stroke already, has been told she may never speak again. I was asked to comment on Newsnight and Channel 4 News an I refused, because I didn’t feel this was the moment to say anything nasty, as she would be lying in bed at home watching the telly, and I just thought that was unkind.

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