Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Quote of the day

Gerry Hassan:
How often do you still hear: Thatcherism shut down Scotland, closed our industries, and hated us? It was and is wrong, delusional and harmful. One version of Thatcherism is an emotional and political crutch to tell us a comforting story of what happened in recent times. It is helpful sometimes to have a bogeyman and to imagine the world has monsters in it.
Quite courageous for Hassan to stand up to the unthinking, reflexive consensus on this one


kensei said...

If Scotland became a more pluralist place, it had very little to do with Thatcher, except maybe in response to her policies that attacked the vulnerable and different.

I notice Germany still has a manufacturing economy. The UK was fairly sick in 1979, but the idea that TYhatcherism was the only option is a big lie repeated too many times. And The Big Bang led directly to um, the current Big Mess.

In any case, it just highlights the disempowering and destruction nature of having your decisions taken by someone else, with scant consideration of your position. Whatever else, the Repuiblic aren't blaming the Brits for their current problems. They aren't even blaming Europe.

The Aberdonian said...

True about Germany. One of the legacies of Thatcherism was a narrowing of the economic base (i.e. de-industrialisation) and economic centralisation around the south-east of England.

(The old Western) Germany avoided this and and in the old West the economy is reliant on a number of diverse economic centres. Frankfurt for finance and air transport, Essen-Dortmund-Dusseldorf region for the main but not exculsively major industrial hub, shipping and shipping services in Bremen and Hamburg etc not to mention Bavaria's brewing industry etc (Edinburgh had 18 major breweries in 1960 and now there is only one - it was not as if people stopped drinking).

Harsh reality was that the UK got drunk on Empire and when the Empire (and the captive markets and captive resources that went with it) went, a very bad hangover set in - and some parts are still suffering.

Recently in Scotland the German Consul General relected in his official speech to mark 20 years of reunification that Germany was still the top economy in Europe despite the pains of reuinifaction.

He reflected one of the reasons for continued success was localism - the use of all resouces throughout Germany's regions to be build an economy on diverse sectors. He also mentioned that a central philosophy as the belief that continuous improvement of products and services would bring around profits, not the other way round. (Tell that to the short-termist City boys!)

He of course acknowledged that not all was rosey in the garden but compared maybe to some places---

O'Neill said...

The German manufacturing advantage over the UK didn't being when Thatcher took over, to say the UK was "fairly" sick in 1979 is putting it mildly.

I'm reading Hassan's argument as meaning that Thatcher or not, certain industries were doomed in the UK and specifically in Scotland probably from the end of the empire onwards. To blame her then for the decline and eventual removal of the UK's industrial base, whilst convenient, is surely missing the point.

Another Euro-giant France took the opposite road to the UK and to this day deadbeat industries and whole sectors (eg agriculture) are kept alive by the state at the expense of its medium term economic future- is that how we would have ended up in the UK if Thatcherism had been replaced instead by a soft-socialism? Would we have been in any better a position than today?

Germany has several advantages that the UK will never have, its geographical position right in the heart of Europe for one. The fact that its workforce decided not on the suicidal strike tendency beloved of their UK counterparts in the 60s and 70s. But the fact that we don't have their central philosophy "that continuous improvement of products and services would bring around profits, not the other way round" is that solely the fault of Thatcherism or Conservatism or are there other factors at work there?

The Aberdonian said...

I have no doubt that some industries would have died. However there was no managed decline like the Japanese have in their so-called "Sunset Industries" strategy.

You hit on another point that the German Consul made in his speech. He said also that co-operation between workers and employers was very important and contrasted with other societies. To a degree this was no doubt helped I guess by the German system of industrial unions rather than craft unions - i.e. you are a member of a member of the steelworkers union whether you are an accountant at a steel mill or at the furnace face in the mill which made industrial negotiations easier for employers.

In the UK of course employers had to deal with multiple unions as well as having a confrontational culture between the two sides in the UK.

A regular complaint about the decline of British industry was a lack of investment in the decades before Thatcher by the company owners and the money men to make them competitive in the big wide world. Instead they continued to trough from the imperial barrel till it went dry and the captive markets went their own way, stuck up their tariff barriers against us and went to speak (in a post-imperial peak) to nice Messrs Brezchnev and Mao for economic advice.

You touch on France. France suffered much the same post-imperial hangover. A French aquaintance of mine (shows how long he lived in Scotland) talked about the post-imperial ports of his native Britanny now awash with the unemployed. He said these places "were full of neds".