Riots: were they Mrs Thatcher’s fault or not?
First Reaction: IDS blames Mrs T’s ‘unfinished business’ - others just blame Mrs T
Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has linked the "social crisis" which spawned this month's riots to the Thatcher government in the Spectator. Under Margaret Thatcher, he said, the Conservative government "freed up the markets", but "missed the next bit". This resulted in "a sort of mid-20th Century society, many locked away in welfarism, and a 21st Century economy."
But Smith fell short of blaming Thatcher. Instead, he said what was still needed was social and welfare reform. Thatcher knew this, but "never got there", and neither have her successors of either party.
Whatever Smith might stay, others have been quicker to point the finger at Thatcher. In the San Francisco Chronicle Pankaj Mishra said that if Tony Blair and David Cameron have both been called the "sons of Thatcher", the rioters can be called her grandchildren.
It was Thatcher, he says, who proclaimed "there is no such thing as society" and set about privatising public assets, weakening unions and decimating many public services that tended to Britain's disadvantaged. The result of her radical socio-economic engineering is "some of the world's highest levels of inequality". Her policies fragmented the old working class and created a new underclass of "the unemployed and unemployable".
What's more, those policies created a "grab what you can, winner takes all" attitude, said Polly Toynbee in the Guardian. This "amoral creed" has reigned unquestioned since Margaret Thatcher. Combine it with a small state, a smaller police force and diminished social programmes, and there's "more potential for anarchy".
Oh please, says Brendan O'Neill on spiked.com. Saying the rioters are just like people rushing for Ikea sale items, and simply a violent expression of the capitalist ethos, just "demonises material aspiration".
The nihilistic destructiveness of the rioters is not a result of communities broken down by market forces, but ones that have been "artificially propped up by welfare". It's not Thatcher's culture of individualism and competition that has caused the riots, but rather "the welfare state's decommissioning of those things" - the erosion of working people's social networks and self-respect. ·
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