Archive | April, 2013

#Communitiesnotmarkets

26 Apr

To paraphrase many of her ignorant, moronic, supporters: ‘One thing you’ve got to say about Maggie, she stirred up debate’. Well perhaps, but what now?

Last week I had to turn off the solemn, pompous, portentous, droning TV commentary on that funeral. The BBC has this tiresome default mode that, in my darker moments, makes me wish they will lose the license fee one day as punishment. At the end of that never-ending day, a BBC political reporter sounded close to tears as he reflected on the ‘we’ll never see her like again’ theme. I don’t know why, as an organisation, the Beeb feel compelled to act in this manner, the misguided vomiting of synthetic gravitas. As one ex-miner observed, having an official state owned channel reel off, without irony, the names of each of the horses pulling the gun carriage with the coffin is something you might expect in North Korea. It is simply bizarre to have it here.

What now the ceremonial shenanigans are over? We will no longer have these jaunty, over-enthusiastic, TV reporters visiting ex-mining communities sticking microphones in people’s faces, wanting an angry criticism of Thatcher which can later be condemned as ‘bad taste’, not least by the right-wing tabloids, only for one of those papers to have a zoomed in, close-up, full front page image the day after the funeral of her grieving daughter. A matter of taste? With friends like that rag, who needs enemies.

But now the story has already faded, feels old, who will visit these economically decimated communities, trying to bait them into a response they have little interest in hearing? These are the forgotten places, forgotten to the London-centric media circus at least.

However, it would give Thatcher too much credit to lay the blame entirely at her door. The oil crisis of the early seventies changed the western economies irrevocably. The reaction of the Labour government in the late 1970s, who went crawling to the politicised IMF for a handout only to have their economic policy dictated to them, foreshadowed the monetarism that would come in the 1980s. The ball was already set rolling by those who should have known better.

Going forward, what would be constructive is to have a continued debate about the state of the nation like the one unleashed by the death of Thatcher but unconstrained by considerations of ‘good taste’ and ‘not speaking ill of the dead’, a poor argument in a democracy when in reality any positive words can only be due to hypocrisy or ignorance.

So what of those areas ravaged by industrial decline and now about to face another onslaught – vindictive welfare reform? Is the only solution for everyone to move South and desert these places, a modern Pompeii, only ravaged by economic and political forces, opposed to natural ones?

It is perhaps easy to romanticise these communities and the world before Thatcher. But as someone who is just about old enough to remember this former, now distant, world when it started to unravel, I would walk across hot coals to spend one day back there, a real Life on Mars moment. Then, amidst the thick cigarette smoke and creaking British Leyland cars, I might catch a glimpse of a less brutal world, for all its faults. Alas there will be no vacuous reporters or indeed bloggers there. So, I fear, it would count for little…

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