Thatcher And Sons

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Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs
If the test of any revolution is how enduring it proves to be,then, as Jenkins sees it, the Thatcherite revolution has been a spectacular success. The British columnist calls former Prime Minister John Major, current Prime Minister Tony Blair, and likely future Prime Minister Gordon Brown Margaret Thatcher's "sons" and argues that they have embraced her two revolutions. The first was economic, a matter of freeing the British economy through tax cuts, privatization, and labor-market liberalization. The second consisted of the centralization of power in the hands of the government and the prime minister personally. On both counts, Jenkins says in this thoroughly researched and interesting study, Thatcher's "sons" have stayed the course. It is hard to deny Thatcher's influence on her successors -- especially the equally pro-U.S., pro-free-market Blair, who ruthlessly confronted opponents of reform within his party just as Thatcher did in hers. But as Jenkins himself would no doubt acknowledge, the family-lineage thesis overlooks some real differences among the four, not least in terms of personality, attitudes toward Europe, and policies on regional devolution (Blair gave more power to authorities in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and London than Thatcher ever would have). Jenkins' argument that a third revolution is now needed -- to strengthen local government in Britain -- is likely to be a tough sell. After waiting a decade to come to power, a future Prime Minister Brown is unlikely to want to relinquish it.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780713995954
  • Publisher: Penguin UK
  • Publication date: 10/31/2006
  • Pages: 320

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2008

    Useful study of Thatcherism's damaging effects

    Simon Jenkins, past editor of The Times and the Evening Standard, has written a fascinating book on Thatcherism which, he observes, is not a style of leadership but a political direction. He claims that Blair and Brown are its `willing prisoners¿. Thatcher attacked all workers and all professions ¿ doctors, nurses, teachers, judges, steelworkers, police and miners. She stripped local government and the civil service of their independence and democracy. Since 1990 we have suffered Thatcherism without Thatcher. Jenkins shows how Major and Blair continued Thatcher¿s policies across the board. He calls Blair `Thatcher¿s most devoted follower¿, but he makes a very strong case that Brown is even more so. His Chapter 17, `Gordon Brown Thatcherite¿, shows how Brown has mortgaged the government¿s current and capital accounts to balance the books and has sold forward contracts to private firms to supply services through his PFIs and PPPs. The government borrows dear now, workers pay dearer later. Thus Brown shifted investment in public institutions `off the books¿, hidden from the public borrowing total, a technique that he copied from his banker friends like Gavyn Davies of Goldman Sachs. The Office of National Statistics now classifies 60% of PFIs as off-balance-sheet. Britain¿s gross off-balance-sheet public debt was £110 billion by 2003. Brown has imposed on us not just stealth taxes, but stealth debts too. By 2005, Brown had forced the NHS to borrow £6 billion for PFI schemes, with another £11 billion to come. Less than 30% of the touted increased `health spending¿ goes to health care. 20% of hospital budgets go to servicing bank loans, far outweighing any promised compensatory `efficiency gains¿. Most of the rest pays for the last decade¿s 60% increase in support and administrative staff, so it goes straight through the NHS and out the other side to private subcontractor firms. Jenkins claims that Thatcher conducted two `revolutions¿ - freeing capital and strengthening the state - two aims which he sees as contradictory. But in fact she launched a single counter-revolution, strengthening capitalism¿s power, in order to defeat trade unions and their sources of strength in manufacturing industry.

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