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The main purpose of the Thatcher government was to sort out Britain's failing economy. But even here, conviction was tempered by realism. Why, after all these years, is letter delivery still in state hands?

Like it is in the US?

And does Boles seriously think that when prioritising what needed to be done in the 80s that the Post Office should have topped Thatcher's "hit list"?

Why did the tax burden not fall to US levels under Thatcher's leadership?

It started from a much higher base for starters.

It's a little rich of Boles to complain about Cameron being misrepresented when he persistently misrepresents both Thatcher and Harris's article.

The point Harris makes about business is not the one Boles responds to.

Use of selective quotation actually mean Harris's point about healthcare is reinforced rather than rebutted.

As for the tax point, if Harris isn't right, then the likes of Boles should think seriously about how documents like "Built to Last" phrase their proposals, because it does convey the message Harris responded to by making tax cuts appear a barrier to stability.

Boles may be right that Cameron understands how Britain has changed, but he shows no real desire to change it or understanding of how that be achieved. And if he does, he hasn't shared it with anyone.

When oh when are we going to stop droning on about Thatcher?

You don't see the Labour party going on about Harold Wilson - and I bet they won't be talking about Blair in this way in twenty years time - even if Cameron humps Brown in 2009.

You don't see the Labour party going on about Harold Wilson

Probably because his time as PM was a failure...

and I bet they won't be talking about Blair in this way in twenty years time

Probably because his policies and actions are at variance with many in his party. He wins elections, but they don't like him.

Didn't anybody watch Tory Tory Tory teo nights ago?
Thatcher was a woman of her time, solving the problems of her time. She grasped the nettle and set the country free but it required such cruel determination and to be frank, a little heartlessness. But she and her cabinet did it and for that we thank them.

What we must not do however, is continue to believe that Thatcherism is universally applicable. You don't keep giving people the same sour medicine. Move on.

Blair first realised how to follow up Thatcherism and now Cameron has got it too.

After a harsh and brutal period, people want compassion and stability. They need time to get their lives back on track and to realise that it was all for the best.

There are any number of fights we could pick, but you don't pick them until you are certain, deep down, that the electorate want you to pick them.

The only comparison that should ever be drawn between Thatcher and anyone else is that of whether they have have correctly identified the problems of their day and the solutions to them.

I've never quite understood where "Thatcherism" links with grammar schools. Regardless of whether they are good or not, evidently the huge grammar school building programme in the eighties passed me right by...

It always seems to me, that people like to pick out bits of Thatcherism to suit their own agenda.

One thing I don't understand is why David Cameron says we must accept and like Britain as it is today. Surely unless we want to change it, there is nothing to oppose. Unless we can show clearly in what way we are going to be different, then why should more people want to vote for us?

"I've never quite understood where "Thatcherism" links with grammar schools. Regardless of whether they are good or not, evidently the huge grammar school building programme in the eighties passed me right by..."

Very true. I'm not 100% sure but I think Thatcher opposed massively reintroducing grammars by state diktat on the basis that it was a form of socialism, dividing people up for particular roles in society. However, she didn't do much to bring about a consumer driven system (out of which grammar schools would have emerged naturally) that would be more in keeping with her ideology.

"One thing I don't understand is why David Cameron says we must accept and like Britain as it is today."

This is something I also fail to understand.


http://www.civitas.org.uk/data/recordedCrimePer100.htm


Would anyone now say that installing Mugabe or adopting the Scarman report or bringing in the Anglo-Irish agreement are things we should be proud of?


And Nicholas Boles is putting an entirely erroneous interpretation on David Cameron's remarks about big business.

By saying that we should accept and love Britain as it is today I think what David Cameron is trying to get across is that for many Conservatives they are still fighting the battles of the 80's/90's when we were last in government. That while the country has moved on in so many ways our mindset has not. That we should accept Britain has changed dramatically since we werre last in power and that we must accept that it has changed and be prepared to deal with the issues which are more relevant to today's world. With regard to loving Britain as it is, I think he is trying to say, instead of just picking out the negative and bad things about our country that we should try and emphasis the more positive and good things. This does not mean that we should not face up to and deal with all the problems that beset us. We must accept Britain as it is today and be a party looking and going forward and not looking and living in its past glories.

I remember Boles well from Oxford in the mid-1980's. A leading light in a tight-knit very wealthy well-connected clique who seemed to have little in common and even less interest in their less wealthy, less well-connected peers. As the French would say, "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose". Entirely typical that in the one breath he stresses social cohesion and in the other he says, in effect, that those who want high-quality health care and education must pay twice....just like he and his gilded clique can afford to do.

As for Cameron's belief that we must accept Britain as it is, he has certainly been living by his beliefs in the last week. He has comprehensively failed to hold Labour to account over sleaze because to do so would require him to muck out his own Augean Stables....something he is not prepared to do.

One thing I don't understand is why David Cameron says we must accept and like Britain as it is today.

Because it's the punters that have made contemporary Britain what it is today, not politicians, and doing so basically means telling voters to suck eggs, which isn't an electorally smart strategy. The US Democrats, and more spectactularly, the Australian Labor Party, keep losing because they do precisely that.

sorry, I meant NOT doing so (insert NOT).

It really is worth reading Boles's article in full. For example, he makes the specific point on grammar schools. Could someone with an online Prospect subscription not post it?

Sean Fear - agreed on all points. But what Boles was saying was that Thatcher was pragmatic/left wing on these issues (which she was) not that she was right. I will be there the day her cortege enters Westminster Abbey because she was a great PM but, unlike some of today's soi disant Thatcherites I remember her sell outs as well as her successes. Of these, The AIA was the most destructive to the nation's moral integrity and Scarman the most damaging to the fabric of our society in the long term.

All of this about Mrs Thatcher may be true but where does it get us? Mrs T made many hopeless decisions but she had a sense of what needed to be done and where she was going. A sense moreover which was distinct from that of the left and the Ted Heath Tendency. You do not need to be a "true believer" to detect no such sense of direction in Boles and Cameron. All they want is power and if that involves consigning this country to de facto centre-left government for the foreseeable future, they do not see that as a problem.

Michael McGowan says of Cameron and his supporters: "All they want is power and if that involves consigning this country to de facto centre-left government for the foreseeable future, they do not see that as a problem."

The last three leaders of the Tory Party refused to compromise their Conservative attitudes - and we ended up with just such a 'centre-left government' I'd rather compromise and gain power to do good, albeit circumscribed by promises made to the electorate, than play right into Gordon Brown's sweaty hands by trumpetting the same tunes that turned off the swing voters and antagonised the BBC.

Once we are in power there will be nothing to stop us removing the institutional biases of the aforementioned BBC. There will be nothing to stop us responding to new crises in an authentically Conservative manner. There will be nothing to stop us calling referenda on issues - like crime -where we are at odds with the liberal establishment.

Those who cannot compromise to win power are like children. Politics is too serious to be left to poseurs.

So what if David Cameron has rejected Thatcherism?

Thatcherism was the right idea for its time but the world has changed so much since then and everybody else has moved on, so why oh why can't the Conservative Party bring itself to do the same and stop this obsession with using Thatcher as a frame of reference for every little thing the Conservative leader does?

In case Tory T hadn't noticed, politics is already dominated by poseurs. If I felt that the Tory Party would seek power to do good, then I might even think about voting for them. As it is, I expect them to limit their ambitions to perpetuating and bedding down the failures of the Labour Party. They have run away for years from the time-consuming hard graft of building and selling a real alternative to the dogmas of the left.

I know of no great leader who hasn't made mistakes; what makes them great is that taken in the round they achieve more than they lose. Mrs Thatcher was one of the few who successfully changed the world.

But looking back and treating her actions (and those of her disciples) as holy writ (not "what would Jesus have done" but "what would Thatcher have done") does not help us address the problems of the world she changed.
For one example we need to address the effects of her policies on Local Government & local taxation.

But perhaps most importantly we need to recognise that its time to look forward not look to some hazy misremembered high summer of conservatism.

Look at the poll results on this site: neck and neck with Labour. Look at Labour: failing NHS, failing education, failing civil liberties, increasing taxes, honours for cash - the Tories should be 10% ahead. Cameron has seriously misread the electorate: they don't want more of what they've been getting since 1997 - Cameron has opted for the New Labour approach just as it's going out of fashion - what's next, loon pants?. Unfortunately constructive opposition=no opposition. "Embarrassing" Blair by passing a (non)education bill is a non-event if you lose the programming vote at the same time. Why should I vote Conservative if I'm going to get the same as I've had for the past 8 years? The limp response of Osborne on TV to the budget together with Letwin's perennially awful wet appearances on radio and TV says it all. I left the party when Michael Howard decided to back ID cards in "principle". I see no reason to return.

You don't see the Labour party going on about Harold Wilson - and I bet they won't be talking about Blair in this way in twenty years time - even if Cameron humps Brown in 2009.

Thank you for that one - your choice of language means that particular mental image will be with me all evening now...
not pleasant!

DVA: So what if David Cameron has rejected Thatcherism?

Thatcherism was the right idea for the time but the world has changed so much since then and everybody else has moved on...

I quite agree - the only refernces I have ever received to Thatcher from the electorate divide roughly in two:

Either - "I'm not voting for you, you're Maggie Thatcher's lot..."

or - "I'll only vote for you if you bring Maggie back"

Thatcher was absolutely right for her time, and delivered an economic and hence social change that the country was crying out for at that point. However, you can't deliver that level of revolutionary change without becoming a divisive figure.

Cameron has done exactly the right thing in breaking free from that era - we need to be seen as the party that is talking about the future, not harking back to a now irrelevant past.

I fear that we are due for another period of Butskellism. No matter how right we think we are, the populace, at least on economic issues, is not as right-wing as we would like.

I knew Nick Boles too...perfectly ok and intelligent bloke but like Cameron, Letwin et al. a member of a tiny upper-class clique.

All this talk of modernisation, to end up being governed by the aristocracy again!

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