Progress to the Right
Posted on July 4th, 2023
by Rab Bruce’s Spider
I’m old enough to remember the days of Margaret Thatcher’s Government. I was a young lad in a decent job, and I do recall that the Tories were swept in on a wave of expectation after the many disasters of the 1970s. Three day working weeks, regular power cuts and endless strikes had left the UK in a sorry state, and because there was no media other than the newspapers, TV and radio, most people’s thoughts were shaped by what they were told to think, with any protest voices being labelled as part of the "Loony Left". I’m sure that sounds familiar to many readers because the media still plays those same cards when any threat to the established order presents itself.
Looking back, I’m embarrassed to admit that I initially fell for some of the Tory slogans. Trickle Down economics sounded quite sensible to a teenage lad trying to work his way up the employment ladder. I know I was not alone in this, but I would add in my defence that I was far more interested in beer, sports and girls, with politics being a long way down my list of concerns.
One other thing I do remember, though, is that, for all the many faults of Thatcher’s Government, most of the politicians seemed competent, and most displayed some gravitas even when they were spouting Tory rhetoric. Recently, I’ve begun to wonder whether that was my memory playing tricks, because we all know the damage the Tories did to so many aspects of our lives. Indeed, the legacy of those days is still with us in far too many ways.
Recently, however, I was listening to The News Agents podcast. It’s very Anglo-centric, but since England controls Scotland on an ever-tightening leash, I find it can help to keep tabs on what is going on at Westminster without the BBC bias getting in the way. Last week, one of their features was an interview with Lord Deben, better known to my generation as John Selwyn Gumer, once a member of Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet. He has recently retired from his role on the Climate Change advisory Group, and it was a fascinating listen. Compared to today’s Tories, he sounded like a Leftie snowflake in his thinking. He was, though, articulate, sensible and made a number of very good points, most of which were critical of the current UK Government. I could not help thinking that Gummer, who was often viewed as a bit of a buffoon back in the 80s, would run rings around any member of the current UK Cabinet in a one on one debate.
Now, he is a Lord, so he is fundamentally part of the problem in the undemocratic way the UK functions – or, as most of us have realised, does not function. Even so, it was a reminder to me of how far to the extreme right UK politics has shifted. When a man who was part of the Government which killed off Scotland’s heavy industry, which introduced the poll tax and began the privatisation move, and which encouraged the greedy, "Me first!" society, can sound reasonable and sensible, it shows how far towards fascism the UK has degenerated. And Margaret Thatcher still lies at the heart of this problem because she helped create the environment in which today’s authoritarians have been able to flourish. As a result, the UK is a broken state. Even Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party is further to the right than Thatcher’s Government ever was, and that is quite an achievement.
As ever, Scotland’s only hope is to become a normal, self-governing country. My hopes for this are actually encouraged because, thanks to greater political awareness and the advent of social media, today’s young people are far more aware of current affairs than my generation ever was.