‘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.



Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.