‘We’re all Thatcherites now’? Sorry Dave, we’re not

Going by a new poll from YouGov, the proposition that we are "all Thatcherites now" appears flawed: some of the central tenets of Thatcherism are deeply unpopular with the public.

Margaret Thatcher is gone but Thatcherism, it is said, lives on. Yesterday David Cameron even went so far as to say that we are “all Thatcherites now”.

It’s not only David Cameron who thinks so, either. The Thatcherite consensus has been imbibed by almost all mainstream politicians; the lady herself famously said that her greatest achievement was the invention of Tony Blair and New Labour (somewhat unfairly in my opinion, considering it was New Labour who introduced measures such as the minimum wage, unthinkable under Thatcher).

Going by a new poll from YouGov, however, the proposition that we are “all Thatcherites now” appears flawed: some of the central tenets of Thatcherism are deeply unpopular with the public.

Over half (61 per cent) of those questioned said major public utilities are best run by the public sector compared to 26 per cent who said they are best run by private companies. And of the famous Thatcherite mantra that there is “no such thing as society”, a majority (59 per cent) and most Tories (54 per cent) answered that the government should be responsible for dealing with social problems, while 29 per cent said responsibility was down to individuals, families and volunteers.

The public also don’t view Thatcher’s hallmark Right-to-Buy policy in as glowing a light as political commentators are apt to suggest. 49 per cent said social housing tenants should not have the right to buy their homes, compared to 42 per cent who said they should.

Additionally, the monetarist emphasis on price control favoured by Thatcher was viewed as less important than a number of ideas traditionally associated with social democracy, such as stable employment. 41 per cent said keeping down prices, inflation and government borrowing is of key importance, but 49 per cent said the government should protect jobs, provide full employment and spending power to consumers as a priority.

The left shouldn’t get too smug, though. On unilateral nuclear disarmament, business regulation and the trade unions the public do appear to have swallowed the Thatcherite medicine. Over half of those questioned (52 per cent) said a business’s profits were a sign of good management compared to 32 percent who believed high profits were a sign of exploitation.

The trade unions also appear not to have shaken off the poor image they were saddled with by the end of the Thatcher years. 45 per cent say stronger trade unions would be bad for Britain compared to 34 per cent who say they would be good for the country.

In conclusion, we are not all Thatcherites now, and while some of the central tenets of Thatcherism still resonate strongly with the public, others are begging to be challenged – something those criticising Ed Miliband this week appear not to have noticed.

 

 

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7 Responses to “‘We’re all Thatcherites now’? Sorry Dave, we’re not”

  1. Charlie_Mansell

    This illustrates two things:

    1. The framing of the question is important http://www.frameworksinstitute.org/assets/files/PDF/FramingPublicIssuesfinal.pdf

    2. That Thatcher accentuated some trends which were already there, but failed to get her whole ideology accepted. If she couldn’t do it, then those on the left of politics need to recognise there will be some areas of public policy we would face challenges over, such as crime and immigration.

    The polling tends to show Thatcher is admired for personal qualities around ‘strong leadership’ and this tends to resonate with relatively apolitcal C2 cultural traditionalist voters.http://www.sciencewise-erc.org.uk/cms/assets/Uploads/Publications/Consultation-and-communicationsReport.pdf It’s interesting to note that the person this segment of voters most see reflecting this style of leadership is Nigel Farage. This is why we cannot underestimate UKIP’s longevity with a high polling figure over the coming years, with 15% of them being former Labour voters. Political messaging against UKIP should go beyond their inconsistent policies to expose their ‘leadership weaknesses’ too.

  2. Ash

    Just to note that although it was Thatcher who ultimately took on the unions (in her own inimitable style), it was widely felt even before Heath came to power that there was a need to reform the law in this area. The Labour White Paper ‘In Place of Strife’ proposed measures such as requiring unions to conduct a ballot before taking strike action in 1969. So it’s hardly surprising that what’s been branded here as a ‘Thatcherite’ view of unions continues to command relatively wide support; and it may well be misleading to suggest that this support reflects a shift in opinion that came about during the Thatcher years. It’s at least as plausible that Thatcher was reacting to, and/or taking advantage of, a long-standing perception that the unions (or perhaps union leaders specifically, as distinct from members) were too powerful.

  3. Ash

    Just to note that although it was Thatcher who ultimately took on the unions (in her own inimitable style), it was widely felt even before Heath came to power that there was a need to reform the law in this area. The Labour White Paper ‘In Place of Strife’ proposed measures such as requiring unions to conduct a ballot before taking strike action in 1969. So it’s hardly surprising that what’s been branded here as a ‘Thatcherite’ view of unions continues to command relatively wide support; and it may well be misleading to suggest that this support reflects a shift in opinion that came about during the Thatcher years. It’s at least as plausible that Thatcher was reacting to, and/or taking advantage of, a long-standing perception that the unions (or perhaps union leaders specifically, as distinct from members) were too powerful.

  4. Ash

    Just to note that although it was Thatcher who ultimately took on the unions (in her own inimitable style), it was widely felt even before Heath came to power that there was a need to reform the law in this area. The Labour White Paper ‘In Place of Strife’ proposed measures such as requiring unions to conduct a ballot before taking strike action in 1969. So it’s hardly surprising that what’s been branded here as a ‘Thatcherite’ view of unions continues to command relatively wide support; and it may well be misleading to suggest that this support reflects a shift in opinion that came about during the Thatcher years. It’s at least as plausible that Thatcher was reacting to, and/or taking advantage of, a long-standing perception that the unions (or perhaps union leaders specifically, as distinct from members) were too powerful.

  5. oli

    I wonder if the 49% who said social housing tenants should not have the right to buy their homes are the middle-classes who think that the working class are getting things for’free’ while they have (in their mind) worked their arses off to buy their house

  6. Rob

    Wasnt it mandleson who said we are all thatcherites now.

  7. rp783

    I agree that we the people aren’t all Thatcherites. But maybe Cameron meant “we the politicians” are all Thatcherites. As you pointed out yourself, Thatcher influenced the direction that Blair took. Now, even today, I am sadly unaware of any Labour plan to renationalise the utilities, despite their privatisation being very unpopular, as you point out. Let’s all respond to the Labour policy consultation, though, and try to persuade the party to undo this Thatcherite disaster. But I’m not yet optimistic, given that even the railways so far lack a commitment from Labour to renationalisation.

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