In the 70s I was a Police Officer in Bedfordshire.
I remember mid 70s the Tory Government of Ted Heath,
I remember a dreadful culture of strikes. The car factories
in the Midlands led by Communist Shop Steward 'Red Robbo',
The Mines led by Communist Miners Leader 'Arthur Scargill'
The Dockers ( particularly Liverpool ) etc etc etc threatening and
going on strike.
I remember living in Bedford when every night during the winter weather
the whole town had to endure 'blackouts' as the electric was turned
off to save electric because Arthur Scargill had brought the miners
out, blackmailing the Government. We had to sit in darkness in
the house, cold weather, no lights, no TV, no cups of tea. Just
talk in the dark until the electric came back.
Eventually things were so bad that the Country was almost ungovernable,
Ted Heath called an election. The Labour Party said 'Vote us in and we will
get the Electric back on'
The Labour Party were voted in, the Callaghan Government, we then
witnessed the continued threats by various Unions against the Government,
reaching a point were it was common to see a bunch of Union Leaders
going up the street and being invited into 10, Downing Street to argue
the toss with Callaghan and his Government about what they wanted etc etc.
Things didn't get better, they got steadily worse where prior to the
1979 election the whole country seemed to be on permanent strike. The miners
( as usual ) demanding huge wage rises, the dustbin men and trash was building
up in huge piles on the street ( no wheelie bins then ). Even the Undertakers
were on strike
and bodies were piling up in the mortuaries. The car workers in
This was a point when it seemed the Country was truly 'ungovernable' and
the Unions had a stranglehold on everything. All this happening in the wintertime
was labelled 'The Winter of Discontent'
Then came the 1979 election and Margaret Thatcher, I saw her go through
the streets of Bedford in an open top car with the Conservative Candidate
Trevor Skeet. She seems like a breath of fresh air 'just different' after years
of despair and strikes. She was voted in.
She wasted no time in number 1 saying the Unions would not be invited into
Number 10 to make their demands, she knew she was on a collision course
with the Left Wing Unions but thats what she wanted to bring back some
sanity to the Country. She started building up Coal Supplies as
she knew she
was in for a fight with Arthur Scargill and was determined not to have him
hold the Country to ransom with Power Cuts.
When Scargill called out the miners on strike there were huge supplies of
coal to keep the Power Stations supplied for Months and Months.
Scargill introduced 'Flying Pickets' where his 'thugs' would travel miles to
barricade entrances to mines where miners did not want to strike and wanted
They then faced barrages of missiles and abuse being labeled 'SCABS' by striking
miners. They also blockaded the huge piles of coal from being moved
to Power Stations by lorry drivers.
Margaret Thatcher was having none of it and mobilised Police from
all over the Country, coaching them and even flying them to keep
gates open so that miners who wanted to work could still get to work.
I was in the CID as a Det Sergeant so never did any pit duty, but many of
my uniform colleagues did and in some locations it was open warfare with
striking miners trying to stop miners that wanted to work from accessing
their place of work. Margaret Thatcher did a fantastic job and was the first
Politician to beat Arthur Scargill..... it was a defining time because never
again did the Communist Union Leaders hold the Government to ransom.
Whatever you thought of her ( whichever side of the political divide you stood )
you couldn't help admire her for her beliefs and the way she stood up for
Britain, against the Argentinians in the Falklands War, against the EU and
getting Britain back the huge 'Rebate' she did.
Her policies of Private Ownership ( council
houses ) and of shares
in big previously state owned and uneconomic industries was at
the time like a breath of fresh air.....and hated by the 'Left'.
No person gets everything right all of the time, BUT, she always stood up
for her principles. She never had a problem making a decision unlike today
where decisions are avoided and a 'Commision of enquiry announced' to
put off a decision until after somebody else comes up with recommendations
on a plate ( and the matter has gone out of the Public mind and no
longer a 'hot potato' ...ie forgotten ).
People like Margaret Thatcher dont come along very often, how we could
do with some politician like her now to grab things by the scruff of the neck,
seems strange that it took a woman to come along and do it, back in the 70s
women were just not quite
She was a towering personality.
For us in the Police Force she was brilliant, 100% supportive of the Armed
Forces and Police Force...Law & Order.
Ohh how times have changed.
So when I see these youngsters demonstrating and asking people to dance on her grave they just dont know what we went through sitting in darkened houses at
night, no tea, no TV, cold......... waiting for something to happen. They know so
Very sad state of affairs
To add to this, below sent to me by a friend out here, ex Army Officer
To blame Margaret Thatcher for today's problems is to misunderstand history
that it is now 23 years since she left office, it is absurd for Lady
Thatcher’s opponents to still be blaming her for Britain’s economic
While many of her reforms fortunately live on,
she can be held responsible neither for the state of today’s
manufacturing sector, nor for the financial crisis. To claim otherwise
is to misunderstand history, her own philosophy and the nature of our
She inherited a basket case of an economy,
crippled by obsolete state-owned firms, a legacy of decades of poor
policies. Management was insular and demoralised, the workforce used as pawns by militant union leaders who would call strikes at every opportunity, customers treated like dirt and production techniques stuck in the past.
was appalling, overmanning the norm and the quality of UK-made goods
notoriously poor. Britain was sclerotic, anti-entrepreneurial and
anti-innovation, often specialising in industries with no long-term
Yet it is a little-known fact that manufacturing output
actually went up during her time in office, despite the necessary
liquidation of so many unviable plants. Even the uncomfortably high pound, which shot up as a result of North Sea oil, wasn’t enough to throttle the recovery.
British factories boosted their output by 7.5pc
between the second quarter of 1979 and the third quarter of 1990, when
she left Downing Street, according to the Office for National
Output had grown another 4.9pc
by the start of 1997, when the Tories were booted out. Given the
bitterness of the 1980s’ recession, caused by the desperate need to
wring out extreme levels of inflation from the system by using high
interest rates, it shows just how effective her supply-side reforms
turned out to be.
The real decline happened under Labour: in the
second quarter of 2010, when Gordon Brown left office, the output of UK
factories was fractionally lower
than it was when Thatcher took her last, tearful ride in that
ministerial Jaguar. It was significantly lower than when John Major
left. Total industrial production including coal rose even more
substantially under Thatcher than just manufacturing, thanks to North
Sea oil. Far more miners lost their jobs, and far more mines were shut,
in the 1960s and 1970s than during Thatcher’s time in office. Britain is
suffering from a bout of collective amnesia.
Today’s ultra-efficient car industry, and its record exports, is a direct product of the Thatcherite
revolution. Any government would eventually have had to tackle
unproductive or loss-making industries, and manufacturing as a share of
GDP has collapsed in all wealthy economies. Thatcher simply got the
blame; it would have been more damaging to keep zombie firms alive, and
in the absence of the Thatcherite
would have ended up with a far smaller economy and even less of a
factory base. It is preposterous to claim that she actually enjoyed
shutting factories or mines, or that she hated industry. Of course she didn’t; but there was never any genuine choice between preserving unviable
mines or low-skilled manufacturing jobs, or growing the financial and
professional services sector of the economy. The former would have
vanished anyway; the latter would have ended up being provided abroad.
is equally wrong to claim that her reforms were the root cause of the
present financial crisis. Most of her changes still make sense today,
and are incorrectly blamed for problems that have nothing to do with
her, but were caused by a pre-Thatcherite
philosophy that took hold many years after she left office. She
was right to slash income tax, to repeal capital controls and to shake
up the City of London with Big Bang. Most of her reforms to retail
banking, including allowing banks and building societies to compete with
one another, were spot-on.
There were some bad changes, however, though not the ones usually cited: still-high inflation made the ultra-safe saving banks unviable,
especially after the EU forced the UK to introduce retail deposit
insurance in 1979; there was a counter-productive move away from
individual responsibility in retail financial services; and the UK
signed up to the Basel Accords in 1990, a flawed international system to
regulate banks that triggered all sorts of dangerous unintended
behaviour and ensured financial institutions retained far too little
reserves. In all cases, however, these were changes that didn’t really follow her basic philosophy.
There is no way that Thatcher should have preserved in aspic the
antiquated financial services industry that prevailed until the
mid-1980s. The City’s old partnerships didn’t
stand a chance; they would have been wiped away within a few years by
meritocratic, hard-working global competitors with vast balance sheets.
Thanks to Big Bang, the new players ended up being based in London,
rather than elsewhere, contributing greatly to the Exchequer.
UK’s private sector actually suffered from too little debt in the 1970s
and 1980s: it was too hard to obtain a mortgage. A revolution was
desperately needed and Thatcher duly delivered, with Big Bang, combined
with mass, popular privatisations helping to fuel an extraordinary
performance by the stock markets. Of course, the pendulum eventually
swung too far the other way, and we ended up with a demented credit
bubble, but that was caused primarily by the
application to financial services, many years after she left office, of
the very same pernicious philosophy that she had rejected for the rest
of the economy.
was about choice, individual responsibility and independence from the
state, not the politicised, artificially pump-primed markets we ended up
with by the
mid-2000s. She hated bail-outs, government subsidies
and nationalisations; and would have looked on in horror at the gradual
socialisation of losses and privatisation of profit in the financial
services industry in the 15 years running up to the crisis.
Starting with the rescue of the LTCM
fund in 1998 in New York, regulators decided that no large financial
institution could ever fail. Alan Greenspan saw himself as an
economist-king, manipulating interest rates to bolster financial markets
and ensure perpetual growth, and triggering a giant
bubble that burst twice. This was corporatism, not genuine capitalism.
the new order, including Gordon Brown’s late, unlamented Financial
Services Authority, banks were disciplined neither by the free market
the authorities were there as a backstop, so there was no chance of
going bust nor by regulators, who allowed risk to build up unchecked.
Greed was no longer balanced out by fear; moral hazard had replaced
prudence. Thatcher, the grocer’s daughter and keen student of F.A Hayek, would have despaired.
A genuinely Thatcherite
government in the 2000s is unlikely to have tolerated the explosion in
the money supply and house price madness that Brown allowed, not least
because Lord Lawson made a similar mistake in the late 1980s when he was
Chancellor, triggering an earlier, disastrous house price bubble and
bust. The parallels between the two episodes are
striking but bizarrely uncommented upon.
So it is silly to blame Thatcher for today’s problems.