What we are witnessing today at the funeral of Margaret Thatcher is the cementing of the Thatcher myth - especially among those too young to remember what really happened.
I keep thinking of the friends (now gone) who sacrificed so much in the 80's working to defend freedom, fairness and democracy and how they would feel today when so many young people believe the myth and don't know what really happened back then.
For example, the myth that the national debt halved under Thatcher. It didn't. It more than tripled during her years as prime minister:
(1978 £169 Billion)
1979 £199 Billion
1980 £233 Billion
1981 £256 Billion
1982 £281 Billion
1983 £307 Billion
1984 £329 Billion
1985 £361 Billion
1986 £389 Billion
1987 £428 Billion
1988 £478 Billion
1989 £525 Billion
1990 £570 Billion
(Source: Office of National Statistics)
The national debt per £1 of GDP did stabilise during her term, but this is equivalent to taking on a bigger mortgage because you are earning more. Its not the sort of financial propriety that today's Daily Mail commenter would have the country aspire to.
Then there is the idea, popular with many of my younger friends, that Mrs Thatcher was tough on people claiming benefits. Far from it, she created the benefit culture by deciding that full employment was impossible, working out how much it would cost to have three million people on the dole and taxing low and middle earners for the privilege. Then when numbers started to go beyond four million and the public got edgy she started "massaging" the figures by moving people to incapacity and other sickness benefits.
On Europe she took us further into the European Union, by joining the European exchange rate mechanism, and committed us to a path which would ultimately lead to increased immigration from Eastern Europe.
The way that truth is being defined these days is so different to twenty years ago. Its frightening.
How has this happened?
I can see a number of reasons:
- People no longer seek out the truth, they rely on mass media and opinions on social media.
- Peer pressure to conform with a general opinion which seems to be current amongst a lot of young people that unions are bad, people on benefits are "swinging the lead" and immigrants are taking our jobs. This is especially true on Facebook and other social media.
- The concentration by politicians of the left with campaigning rather than education.
- Lack of trust in politics to deliver change, regardless of what change you might like to see.
Lets stand up for the truth and democracy and assign myths to history.