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Let’s hope Cameron and Osborne read and heed Heseltine’s lesson in The Times

Posted on 23 August 2011 | 9:08am

Michael Heseltine has personal wealth, and a lifestyle, that is far removed from the vast bulk of people living in Britain’s inner cities, let alone those who took part in the riots. He spends his working life flitting in the back of a car between a beautiful home in Belgravia, and an even more beautiful home in the English countryside, complete with a remarkable garden that is his true pride and joy, dropping in and out of the Lords, his businesses, and the little office he has for the work he is doing on regional investment for the government.

So on one level, he has all the qualifications needed for an ‘out of touch’ stamp to be plastered all over his forehead. But though a Tory to the root of every hair on his head, he is one of those rare Tories who not only feels a sense of responsibility for the deprived, but also thinks about how and why they live the lives they do. I genuinely feel that with David Cameron, George Osborne and some of the other well-heeled members of the Cabinet, they not only lack any understanding of the lives of millions of people they now govern for, but that they also lack the wherewithal to begin such understanding, and that they don’t make much effort to develop it.

When you are from their kind of backgrounds, living their kinds of lives, I think they need to make that effort. For much of his career, Heseltine has done so, and it shows. He is still a Tory rather than a genuine progressive, but he has thought deeply about the kind of issues that lead to the kind of riots we saw recently.

His article in The Times today is worth reading, not least by his fellow Tories. It is written subtly and politiely – as Margaret Thatcher knows, he was always good at code. But there is a clear warning to Cameron not to overdo the Broken Britain stuff, and a clear plea for the current government to do more to address the deprivation that inevitably has a role in social disorder. But above all, it is a plea to turn the localism slogan into policies that live up to it.

Much in his article is an echo of that written by Tony Blair at the weekend, in that he sees the problem as one caused by a minority of dysfctional families cut off from mainstream values and mores, that these families are exceptions not norms. They share too a belief in the importance of tackling the underlying issues area by area, street by street, if need be family by family.

It cannot be done by will alone. It cannot be done by Whitehall and Westminster alone. It needs, as Heseltine says, localism to be converted from slogan to practice. He also rightly notes – in relation to what he calls the mistake of the abolition of Regional Development Authorities – that in some areas decisions taken by the government run counter to their stated objectives.

So much of this is about leadership. He concludes his article with a reference to the report he wrote on the riots thirty years ago. ‘My report noted that problems festered in the inner cities because there were no local leaders to take charge. The problem is the same today.’

For all their talk of localism, the government are taking power and resources away from local government when, as Heseltine says, they should be going in the opposite direction. I know Cameron has a lot going on at the moment. But I hope he finds time to get behind the paywall and read it.

  • Anonymous

    Michael Heseltine is Welsh. There is a much greater tradition of social solidarity in Wales than in England.

    • Ehtch

      Hezza needs to do one of these BBC “Who Do You Think You Are” things on telly. It could be quite interesting.

  • Michael Heseltine does seem to have this appreciation of the
    way the deprived live their lives. I don’t know where that comes from but it
    does appear to be genuine.


    With Cameron and particularly Osborne, I don’t see this
    connect to the common man. I don’t believe it is possible for Cameron and
    Osborne to gain this understanding because it comes from mixing with different
    types of people as you grow through childhood and adolescence. It is like
    learning a language as a child, living in a foreign country. You can learn a
    language from books as you get older but you can never have that inner
    understanding of the real meaning that comes from native language learning. The
    unfortunate thing, for the governance of the country, is that Cameron and
    Osborne can never know what they are misunderstanding, although in Osborne’s
    case he appears to relish it.

  • John Hutchinson

    Thanks for that summary and review. I don’t pay for a subscription to The Times and I wouldn’t have been able to get even the gist of the article.

  • ambrosian

    I’m always worried by round numbers. So when I’m told that 120,000 dysfunctional families are at the root of the problem I’m very suspicious. If it were 119, 573 families, that would at least mean that someone had identified and counted them and put them on a database (although that would be an alarming thought in itself). It would also mean that someone had defined the criteria for being labelled ‘dysfunctional’.

    What does ‘dysfunctional’ mean in this context? Dysfunctionality in families occurs across the social spectrum and one person’s dysfunctionality is another person’s eccentricity. Is it OK to be ‘dysfunctional’ so long as you are not doing anything illegal?

    At the moment, two mothers of young children have left their kids in the care of relatives or nannies while they spend three weeks on prime-time TV, smoking and swearing and discussing their sex lives. One is a working class pop star. The other is the public school educated wife of the Speaker. I make no judgment of either of them and neither are likely to trouble the benefits system or the law, although one is a former drug user and the other lives in a Palace at taxpayers’ expense.

    My problem with the ‘small minority of dysfunctional families’ argument is that it simplistically heaps all the blame on an underclass within an underclass and yet again enables the ruling class to conveniently ignore other factors such as unemployment, gross inequality and social deprivation.

  • Richard

    Do you regret that Frank Field was not listened to by New Labour when he was appointed to “think the unthinkable”, Al?
    The truth is that with his dismissal went any pretention that you wanted anything other than to cling to power and be with your new middle class celebrity and pop star friends, and you totally ignored the “Have Nots”.
    For you now to criticise the well educated, and yes, rich, in the condems, who are highlighting the problems at least, is amazing.
    If you take the new found wealth of Bliar, Mandy and Two Jags, they represent “two fingers” to the public.

    “The working class can kiss my a***, I’ve got the foreman’s job at last.”

    Your admiration of Hezza is lush. When in power what did he do for social deprivation?

    • MicheleB

      Oh gawd, here we go again with that narrow prescriptive summary of who is allowed to believe in Labour’s policies without being poor ….  which  some numpties think is a pre-requisite.

      Just who do you mean by ‘the “Have Nots”‘ Richard and WTH do you mean by the ‘well educated’ in the ConDems?  Do you simply mean expensively-educated?   LOL.

      I think the ‘well’-ness of someone’s education, no matter where gained, is the outcome, the class (as in quality) of the product and I see no class (as in quality) in Cameron, Osbo or Clegg (the latter used to have a whimsical kind of class but it’s disappeared as if in to the ether).  I don’t see class in arrogance and I see the latter in abundance in the hypocritical about-turns that LibDems made in order to become Cam’s/Osbo’s fags.

      TB, on the other hand, has it in abundance.  GB too, his near-silence for the past year shows incredible self-control …. not for him the jeering from the sidelines that we witnessed from Cameron (at its worst when BabyP died …. or just as opportunistic when a coincidental interruption dropped ‘saved the world** *****’ in to his lap).

      You’re so funny with your spilled envy about Labour people’s ‘£8m houses, pop star friends’ etc. You really do not understand about belief in equality do you?   Its multi-directional, it means people can have material wealth but still believe in quality of provision for all.  You know nada about what people do with the wealth you hear about and WTH should you?  Should they give one (of anything) about what you and your like think?

      Well educated?  Has it not sunk in yet that Cameron is so thick and full of self-belief that he really thought Coulson was loyal … he didn’t realise he was being had, he didn’t think NI would DARE to cheat on him in-house.  Has the penny finally dropped today? 
      Well educated?  It requires intelligence first.

  • MicheleB

    I also have a non-grudging admiration for MH, he realised pdq that things can’t/shouldn’t be imposed by simple top-slicing, you have to take people with you and earned some respect in Liverpool, not an easy thing to do.

    Coincidentally I was puzzled by a post in yesterday’s thread and have mulled about what might even have been a throwaway tit4tat comment …..  ‘Labour’s own quick fixes’. 

    I’m not wearing rose-tinted but I really don’t remember that being the MO under Labour.

    Changes did happen with planning, right from reading hours being implemented during their first year, school buildings were improved, teaching assistants were allowed (and trained).

    The NHS was tackled but not by fell-swoop, challenges were measured before they were started. 

    It’s about production-planning and there has been none of that in the past year, perhaps it’s simply down to none of the Govt having experience of making anything, no appreciation of scheduling, have never had the pleasure of seeing a plan come together smoothly because of control of detail and oh!!!! prioritising.

  • Ehtch

    Always liked Hezza. Not only because he is a Swansea lad, whose family made their wealth from coal trading. I think some of welsh philosophy of life has actually rubbed off on the young old lad, and I have seen it many times on him over the years. As I said, I like the ol’ fella, he has something – what is it? it is ephemeral maybe…

  • Yonks

    Being a ‘scouse’, I am well aware of just what Heseltine achieved as the honorary ‘Minister for Merseyside’ during his time in the Department of the Environment. He completely changed the way things were developed in Liverpool and was directly responsible for an investment which in turn led to large EU funds being made available to the whole area.
    Alastair is right, Cameron would do well to listen to his advice simply due to his experiences. However, Alastair would also improve his argument if only he would stop claiming ‘all Tories bad, all Labour good’. For goodness sake, we have the perfect example of the last PM being totally out of touch with that ‘bigoted’ woman affair.

  • The contrast between the 1980s Thatcher government in which Heseltine was a key figure is huge and disturbing. 

    The plans for Thatcher’s trade unions reforms were drawn up and defended by economists of great intelligence and compassion and were underpinned by pragmatic economics, deep insight into the failures of business management in the UK which had cause the unions to develop the systems and processes they had and a strong committment to massive reform in the management of UK industry which has fundamentally changed the relationship between management and workers.

    Norman Tebbit has issued similar guarded warnings to this government.
    Thatcher led Murdoch…..  She had a clear vision. 

  • simon

    I agree with Yonks’s criticism of the ‘all Tories bad – all Labour good’ approach ; AC was on TV not long ago saying, again “I hate the Tories – always have and always will’. Yet he’s apparently friendly with David Davis, for one, and (so I read) even used to share gossipy phone calls with the late extreme right-winger Alan Clark. Maybe he hates toryism, but presumably he doesn’t/didn’t ‘ hate ‘ those two ?  I still like Tony Blair, even though I never voted for him.

  • Ehtch

    Hezza – a video released by Liverpool friends on my last birthday, when I ahem! turned 49 old man. I’ll dedicate it to you, to remind you on your own nights out going between Swansea nightclubs when young, or NOT! : )))

  • Sarah Dodds

    Of all the hours and hours of debate and print I listened to and  read about the riots, the comments of John McDonnell in the link above ring truest for me.
    We are indeed  “a society of looters.”
    On a large and a small scale.
    I know of a London man who was indignant in his condemnation of the rioters. He is an “I am not racist but…” type of a right winger. Can’t take scroungers of any description. Not a member of the BNP, but you know where his heart is. We all know the sort.
    After listening to his comments, I was left reflecting on his own discussion with me some years ago, about how he  threw buckets of water over his own bed to be able to claim a bit extra on his insurance after a pipe burst.
    But he doesn’t like scroungers. Or looters. Or thieves.
    Somethings are just fine, as long as your skin colour and social class match the accepted ones.
    It is the hypocrisy I can’t stand.
    “A society of looters” indeed. It is just that some have learnt which type of looting is socially acceptable.

  • Ehtch

    “Break the ace of hearts, you play too much”.
    Th Hz bit as hearts is a reference to me as a 1980’s eletronic technician, underapid, but it might be my imagination…

  • S.Khan

    ‘broken’ or ‘dysfunctional’ –a sense of alienation or ‘lack of inclusiveness’ appears to be there within the matured-immigrant-communitie/s, at this moment.(may happen with others overtime). Policies are less responsible while ‘mind-sets’ are. Who will bell the cat? The onus is on the son-of-the-soil, i am afraid. Don’t we appreciate the US mindset about immigrants mutating into Barack Obama(immigrant-President)?

  • Ehtch

    well said – anyone smell rotten wood?

    Brilliant post, Sarah.

  • Yonks

    I used the phrase ‘quick fix’ partially as a throwaway but if you want a specific, here goes from Frank Field in 2006 after being asked by TB to review welfare reform proposals:

    Field – who was forced to step down as welfare reform minister in 1998 when his proposals were blocked – says the latest compromise has “everything to do with getting the government through the next seven days and little to do with securing a lasting settlement”.I’m sure you’ll find other evidence if you look.

    Just one other point, how many of the previous Labour government had participated in ‘production-planning’ in a commercial enterprise? Brown’s first ‘quick fix’ was to abolish tax relief on pension funds, thereby consigning them to closure for all future generations of pensioners. Great for the exchequer in the short term, terrible in the medium to long term.

  • Gilliebc

    I’m glad you mentioned Frank Field in your post today Richard.  Your post yesterday jogged my memory on Frank Field.  FF did exactly what he was asked to do, i.e. “think the unthinkable” and promptly got the sack for doing just that!  Maybe that’s just one of the regrets that TB has when he was said to have spoken to Cameron about not getting on with changes and things, or words to that effect, earlier into his Premiership.

    As for Hezza, I don’t think he stood much of a chance of being able to make any significant changes whilst you know who was PM.  Just a thought.

  • Gilliebc

    I don’t dislike Hezza either Ehtch.  There has always been something real and genuine about him, I think.  A complete contrast to Cameron and Osborne with their inherited wealth.  Incidentally Ehtch, whatever it is that Hezza has it certainly is not ephemeral!

  • Gilliebc

    Yonks, I like and agree with your first paragraph and nearly gave you a “like” but changed my mind as I read your second para.

    I really don’t think AC has ever claimed that “all Tories bad, all Labour good”  In fact his blog post today alone, doesn’t seem to bear that out.

  • Gilliebc

    “The contrast between the 1980s Thatcher gov……………”
    and what Rebecca?   i.e. The contrast between what exactly?

    Glad that you mentioned Norman (Lord) Tebbit.  He has written several very good blog posts this year on the NHS and Libya, openly disagreeing with this ToryLed Government’s policies and actions on the two aforementioned subjects respectively.  Not that this blinkered gov. will take any notice of what Lord T says or writes. 

    If the LibDems had any shred of decency left, which we all know they haven’t, they would pull out of this coalition gov. and trigger a general election asap.  Before Cameron and Osbourne can do any more damage than they already have.

  • MicheleB

    I’m not sure how you think a quote from Frank Field becomes YOUR example of anyone quickly fixing anything ….. I’m an admirer of FF in some ways but he can be a little wasp-ish, a little sermonising and his reaction to his research not being greeted with open arms came over a little sour grapes-y at the time.  Still does.

    I’m also not sure if I inferred that anyone in Labour had participated in actual production planning BUT whether they had or not they obviously used its methods. 
    THIS lot think it’s all about abracadabra, we want it so it’ll happen and if we just wave this wand …… we’ll get applause.

    I happen to have benefitted from the doubled tax-relief on pensions contributions but I always knew it was unfair.  It also proved itself unaffordable and it was quite right that it was stopped.  Double tax relief ending does NOT equate to stoppage.

    The Govt that set up those plans was also responsible for endowment mortgages, not to mention 18% interest rates, not to mention 90k repossessions per month for a period in the early 90s.  What scheme and who paid for what?

    Do you really want to indulge in titting for tatting ad infinitum Yonks?  I can match you point for point if you really do.  The point IS that Labour did plan, Labour did bring things in gradually when routes/means had been prepared, Labour did consult with experts ……. lastly, Labour did not take a commercial spy in to its political midst. 

  • MicheleB

    BTW it was Jose that made the ‘quick fixes’ ref in yesterday’s thread, not yourself (or not one that I saw / absorbed).

    You have posted here about AC having an ‘all Tories bad, all Labour good’ MO.  I’m not being a toady but I really don’t see that, it doesn’t do anyone any good to be that silly or prejudiced or see the world in black or white (so stop doing that yourself fgs).

  • Anonymous

    It’s always good to set one Tory against another, but when Michael Heseltine is held up as a possible model, things must be pretty bad.

    Someone said that the Lib Dems’ senior figures in government are disconnected from the rest of their party – they are a clique who are profoundly unrepresentative of the majority of Lib Dems, and this is the rank-and-file Lib Dem dilemma.  Seems plausible. On a macro level, the Conservatives are worse – completely disconnected from almost anyone they would claim to govern.  This must be why the country feels as if in the grip of a coup (not a positive, Arab spring-style coup, either).

  • Ehtch

    Hezza? Westland? Worked for Smiths-Newmark, New Addington with Westland in the early 1990’s on new RAF Sea King’s search and rescue (SAR) flight control system, back and for, off pilot, for extra pair of eyes, sea state filter up and down and shit, flir forward looking infa red shit too, and many other tricky stuff. Glad to hear it is saving lives.

  • Ehtch

    SAR Westland Sea King going out far into oceans to save, in music, I think,

  • Janete

    I think the idea was lifted from G Brown (who identified 110,000 families) perhaps they changed the figure so we wouldn’t make the connection.

    Of more interest is how the £400m programme will be funded. A good letter to the Guardian (17/8/11 A Franco) identified some relevant details:

    – local authorities to contribute towards the gov’s £490m deficit reduction
    -The City of London contributes £30,000 or £3.13 per head of the working-
      age population.
    – Salford contributes £2.59m, or £16.81 per head
    – largest contribution from Haringey, of £3.84m, or £24.20 per head.

    All in it together?

  • Dave Simons

    Could it be that, contrary to what politicians from MacMillan to Major have assured us, and also contrary to what many sociologists and supposedly left-leaning historians like Arthur Marwick have explained in great analytical detail, Britain remains a class society? If it was a class society once (Middle Ages, Victorian era), I would like to know when it ceased to be a class society. Or is the term ‘class’ a meaningless term altogether? One of the best illustrations I ever heard about class was the image of iron filings clustering round the two poles of a magnet. The magnet expresses the fundamental built-in Marxist polarity at the heart of capitalism, Capital and Labour. We are the iron filings. Most of us are divided between the poles – we may have to sell our labour power to survive but we may also be property owners and have ISAs or even shares in companies. The Rupert Murdochs cluster round the pole of Capital. Maybe Arthur Scargill was about as close as a trade unionist gets to staying close to the pole of Labour. But this is a static model – in reality things move and change all the time, and there is continuous shifting of position amongst the iron filings. The left-winger who ‘sells out’ receives far more publicity than the Tory who moves left, but that reflects the balance of power. And of course we’re all in it together in the sense that we’re all up to our necks in class prejudice of some kind – I grew up on a council estate but I was always told to avoid the ‘riff-raff’ on nearby ‘sink estates’.
    Thanks for the John McDonnell link, Sarah. One law for them and another law for us?

  • Ehtch

    I said ephemeral, Gilliebc, due to tory politics whipped, makes him at times follow the party line, and I know most times he doesn’t like it. You know, having to say black when it is actually white at press soundbites. I know he is not actually ephemeral, behind closed doors…

  • Ehtch

    Good article here on Hezza, mentioning him having a right stropp over the Westland affair, reminding us in 2000. A classic article from The Guardian,

  • Rebecca Hanson

    “The contrast between what exactly?”

    The contrast between a government with a sense of purpose and duty grounded in experience and one which hasn’t.
    I used to type papers for my dad who was an economic adviser to that Conservative government.  I’ll never forget Norman Tebbit’s importance at this time not least because I was using an early spell checker which transformed him into ‘Normal Teabag’ with startling frequency.  Dad and his contemporaries treated monetarism and the breaking of union power as necessary bounded polices to be used in moderation and with regret. Such insight seems to have been totally lost.  While influencing policy, they were also pushing for managerial reform, setting up schools of management, researching and promoting profit sharing and so on.   

    The reality which has horrified me about this government is that there are no such people behind its policies.  Their policies have been developed by ‘expert think tanks’ grounded neither in academia nor in reality.  At consultations I have to deal with MPs who actually think this is a virtue!  They really believe their own spin that the professions they are making policy for and the academics who have studied their domains are self interested and should be ignored.  They are VANDALS.

  • Stephen Blythe

    That kind of tory will never understand any motivations other than the utterly selfish, Michele, you’re wasting your time on him.

  • ambrosian

    Or maybe the number of dysfunctional families has increased in the past two years and amazingly did so by precisely 10,000?!

    Yes, I saw the Guardian letter you refer to. Those figures have a greater ring of truth to them with those pleasingly uneven numbers of £3.13 and £16.81.

  • Rebecca Hanson

    Hi Gillie, I replied straight away but my reply didn’t appear so I’ll try again. 

    So sorry for my mistake.  I meant the contrast between the Thatcher government and this current government.

    My dad was on of the many respected academics who advised on economic policy during the Thatcher government.  He and his contemporaries saw monetarism and the breaking of the militant Marxist stranglehold on the unions as being essential for the avoidance of economic catastrophe at that point in time.  The deeply understood that the strength of the unions lay in collosal failures in management and were rapidly setting up schools of management, systems of profit-sharing and promoting policy which would drive improvements in labour relations and so on.

    Like it or hate it Thather’s policies were understood and supported by deeply intelligent people.  Murdoch supported her, not the other way round.

    This government has developed its policies through groups which are completely separate from reality, academics and professions who represent the area being legislated for.  Many of the policies being pushed through by this government are sheer vandalism with no deeper purpose.

  • mark patrick norris

    Calm down ear it’s only a long commercial vehicle’s 45 ton iron curtain going to put this to screen as we hold hour cc’s as we are the sea shore that’s our seagulls.Who wants to liar as we carry the on in witch we take hold of the war as we drove cc’s (C. S. Lewis)“Billy Ocean” private members billRed lion is switched on Robert Mugabe has had his fun played around with out the ICC to tie him down till George Osborne (oz) kings mi6 need’s funding  and we will stay until the flames have gone garden power levers catch up with meWhen the going gets tough when the dole gets stuff straight flip (oz) as the 44 silver President spiritually stole from e.. When the gold gets tough cos we have no more puddles in the house, and our dog has no desire to play with UGO DOGO Osborne can u re pub once more mountain can you govern me judge me as I fly these cc’s
    mark patrick norris

  • mark patrick norris

    Removing the Stake from D.W.PAs we turn the page with good’s fort-tune with Rothschild rear range with long vehicle in mind.Elvis Jobseekers don’t need conversation they need action it should be a cake walk.David Bowie Come on George Osborn put on your red shoes and walk the blues.Lets Line Dance.Supreme Bones Barry WhiteLet it play on on and on something of the what Knight Templar Michael Heseltine and Michael Howard something of the night long right right write till the STAKE is gone.“O lord these are the policy of the sea shore””I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues”No Storm any New Dawn Government minister in every jobcentre to pull jobseeker to one side and ask relevant questions what what can do …… Job seeker my say for my Housing Benefit C/TPension and a £100 pw I could Road Sweep Remove Chewing Gum and more……
    James MorrisonAs I’ve been out in a long and the Flexible Deal comes crashing down now we can start fixing it up when there is no one to turn the volume down Pension of I.D.S   as we take a Chain and bill it round has we hold the act of right as we Cain and take it to David and fix the car bonnet as it comes star chamber we are the real black and blue eyes its never dole when we cam and rod as we drive this pillar 13 off as we Calm the word of  Cain shape through David true to the gospels  Florence I.D.S his days are over as we flush him down the kitchen cabinet sink can you feel your cc coming……… as we hold polemark patrick norrisns594090c15 links road tooting

  • MicheleB

    AC was up a mountain Rebecca 🙂

  • Thestevec

    Spelling mistake on last line of paragraph three; ‘led’, not ‘lead’.  You wrote ‘lead’ as in the element, not the past tense of ‘leading’.

  • Rebecca Hanson

    Grrr, sorry, haven’t got the hang of how this system works yet.  

  • Teresa

    Dave I live on a large council estate where quite a lot of the council houses have been bought, now you’ve got some people but not all, who have bought their council houses actually looking down on people who haven’t, I find it hard to believe. One neighbour actually called the woman next door to her council scum because she hadn’t bought her council house, even though we all live in the same area, it’s like a new kind of snobbery, I find it astonishing.

  • ZintinW4

    I wish we would stop talking about ‘Broken Britain’ and instead focus on the ‘Bankrupt Coalition’. Cameron and Obnoxious Osborne have the audacity to bander phrases around at Labour like ‘deficit deniers’ when in practice the coalitions policy is one dimensional, and denies any possibility that there can be an alternative to their slash and burn tactics. Worse still all that they are doing seems to have the express intention of making those with the greatest need live in the greatest fear. So we can persecute disabled people, denying them the social welfare support they need; we can demonise people without work because they are the cause of our problems – never mind the stagnant economic policy that is delivering zero growth. Yet the same Government wants to abolish the 50% tax rate because it is not ‘efficient’. That’s not ‘broken’ that is at best corrupt if not simply wicked.

    There is much to be proud of in the UK, but our biggest shame has to be that we as a Party aloud these people back into Government and we have yet to final that language that takes these mean spirited and self-interested amateurs apart.

  • Dave Simons

    ‘Like it or hate it Thatcher’s policies were understood and supported by deeply intelligent people.’

    Economic catastrophe wasn’t avoided by these policies – there was a return to 1930s-style mass unemployment with all its attendant effects of increase in crime, drug-taking, riots, looting and chronically broken societies. Some of the earliest casualties were the steelworkers, whose trade unions did not have much of a record of strikes but were therefore seen by Thatcher’s bigoted henchmen as a soft target.
    I suspect the ‘respected academics’ that you mention were people who felt a bit uneasy about – dare we say – people below them in the social scale discovering that they had the power to move things and change their lives for the better via the trade union militancy that developed during the 1970s in the aftermath of the student revolt of the late 1960s. It wasn’t good news for British capitalism, and these ‘deeply intelligent’ academics knew on which side their bread was buttered. When you talk about ‘respected’ academics you need to say respected by who? Did the Socialist Workers’ Party respect them? Or the TUC for that matter? So they set up schools of management, systems of profit-sharing and policies to improve ‘labour relations’ did they? Someone needs to take these people to one side and tell them that what they probably call ‘ordinary people’ do not like being patronised.
    I agree that there was some social irresponsibility attached to the wielding of union power, and that made it easier for people like Nick Ridley and Thatcher to attack everything the unions stood for. But unions developed for real reasons – like the social irresponsibility of the capitalist class, and we’ve now got that back in shedloads, as I think a lot of deeply intelligent and respected academics would have to agree.
    I certainly agree with your general point that the present government is a relatively shallow off-breed of the Thatcher government.

  • Dave Simons

    Isn’t ‘Hezza’ a bit of a self-publicist though? Whether he’s swinging the mace in the House of Commons, wearing a flak jacket and leading the army against the Quakers at Molesworth or strutting about like Bo Diddley at the Tory Conference – isn’t there a degree of narcissism and egoism that would even challenge Griff Rhys-Jones? I’m sorry but I can’t go along with all this ‘Nicer Brand of Tory’ stuff applied to Heseltine – he wasn’t so nice when he announced the pit closures in 1992. Nor was he real and genuine when he said he couldn’t envisage a situation in which Margaret Thatcher would not continue as Prime Minister, and all the time he was plotting like mad to take her place. As for Liverpool in 1981 – chuck ’em a few crumbs of comfort and that’ll keep ’em quiet. For a generation. He has about as much sympathy for Liverpudlians as Boris Johnson.

  • Blimey, and here was me thinking my dad was just a man who spent his early life in industry, was horrified by the ominous structural issues he encountered and was deeply concerned about improving them so left industry to be a very lowly paid academic. 

    He was a man who cared very deeply about people and led a simple and disciplined Christian life.  He and others were concerned that Britain was on the precipice of a Soviet block style economic collapse and felt that very tough decisions were needed to avoid that. 

    We did see it you know. No life of privilege for us.  I went to one of the worst schools in the country.  All the shops were shut down or barricaded.  All my friends always seemed to be walking the family Rottweiler or Alsation.  There was destruction, arson and vandalism everywhere.  A complete sense of hopelessness.  Dad was called on to explain policy issues on the radio or telly and we had to deal with the reality that the consequences of that for me were being kicked to bits and spat on in the school yard. 

    Norman Tebbitt was on telly a couple of months ago talking about strikes (I think it was after the public sector pensions strike) and he talked about the difference between what was reported about negotiations and what was actually going on.  Behind the scenes progress was made because those experts did understand the situation.  Close up and personal they were not the out of touch don’t-care-less people they were perceived to be. 

    If you want to ‘take one of them aside’ you should. It’s time you understood things a little better. If you can’t find one get in touch.

    When I ‘take aside’ many of the current breed of Conservatives they delight in telling me that they are writing policies designed to please the electorate without consulting either those professionals with experience in the area for which they are creating policy or the academics who have studied the field and seem to wallow in their profound ignorance as being some kind of virtue.  And that’s it – there’s no-one else to go to to talk about their policies in education who can actually coherently justify them. Just lots of people who think they’re great until they actually think about them.

  • Olli Issakainen

    There has been a failure of economic strategy.
    Globalisation is not working for everybody – only for the elite.
    In Britain, David Cameron´s social experiment has also gone wrong. Cutting public spending can, of course, lead to riots.
    Mr Cameron´s idea of “Broken Britain” appears to have originated from IDS´s think tank the Centre for Social Justice.
    The Economist has proved that the concept is false.
    But the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. We are not all in this together. In 2010 bankers paid themselves £14bn in bonuses!
    George Osborne has made a bad misjudgement. He believed that by keeping interest rates artificially low and making huge cuts private sector would provide the recovery.
    This has not happened. To believe in such a thing is only possible if one is blinded by ideology.
    Mr Osborne believes in neoliberalism. He is using neoliberal tools. But neoliberalism collapsed in 2008, and is not based on any sound theoretical or empirical evidence.
    The markets are not self-regulating!
    Have we experienced a collapse in moral values? Are Mr Cameron and the Mail right?
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau claimed that men were born good and only behaved badly if corrupted by authority. Liberal intelligentsia with soft policies appears to believe this.
    But to do nothing is not the answer, Tory right.
    The assurances of the postwar social contract have gone. Living standards are not going to go up in the future.
    As a new global crisis looms, we need bold solutions.
    Free markets have not produced equality of opportunity as promised.
    It seems that capitalist economy cannot support socialist welfare state.
    We need structural reform of the entire financial system. We need to tax the rich.
    We need a NEW MACROECONOMIC MODEL which benefits all. We need prosperity WITHOUT GROWTH. We need more government intervention.
    We need stable economy to avoid financial and economic collapse.
    Meanwhile, we need “hard Keynesianism” to solve the current problems.

    Ps. If we continue with neoliberalism, capitalism will probably collapse. Italy will cause a crash in Europe. I do personally believe that we are heading for a totalitarian system with single world currency.  

  • Janete

    ‘Britain remains a class society’

    It seems to me Dave that belittling your neighbour, in order to make yourself feel better, is a fairly fundamental aspect of human behaviour, and is probably present in all societies. If this behaviour is more common in Britain, it may be because we still legitimise it in some way rather than challenge it whenever it arises.
    The ‘kick the cat’ syndrome can shift from one group to another over time in line with public discourse, but at its heart is a willingness to criticise/demonise various groups according to what is considered widely acceptable.

    For some time the last acceptable form of group criticism in Britain has been targeted at the white working class. The BBC almost gave a collective sigh of relief when riots began belatedly in Salford and Manchester as it is considered safe for them to demonise white youths from sink estates. Of course what this does to the majority of decent young people growing up in these areas is ignored.

  • MicheleB

    Hope I’m not duplicating ….. glitchy connection

    Might seem off topic but it’s very on as the Tory MP in this programme
    is an acceptable example of humanity 🙂

    I thought I was dreaming when flicking around and switched in to this and saw four people in fancy dress talking politics and books!  Their choices all seemed worth more than a beach read, especially the first one reviewed.

  • Gilliebc

    You make some good and accurate points there Dave.  None of which I could or would disagree with.  Even as I wrote that post I had Hezza v the miners at the back of my mind, but inexplicably choose to ignore it at the time!   I think it could be fair to say that after the Blair gov. and New Labour it’s become difficult now on some issues to distinguish right from left.  Perhaps it would be good if at this time Ed M were to take the party back to it’s roots and go further to the left again?  To win the next general election all Labour need to do is:  Promise the people a referendum on getting this country out of the doomed European Union and call a halt to any more immigrants into this country.  That seems to be what the majority of people are looking for a government to do.  If Labour could and were allowed to do that, then they would get back in with a huge majority.

    Re: Immigrants just in case some people get the wrong idea. As a Christian and human being I am not rascist, never have been and never will be.  But I feel that this country has already done way more than it’s fair share on that score.  We are only a small country physically and enough already!

  • Gilliebc

    Teresa, what you have to bear in mind is that most people are idiots!
    A sad fact, but how else can their childish, selfish and oneupmanship behavior be explained?

  • Dave Simons

    What you’ve described so well in paragraph 3 is exactly what I witnessed in a South Yorkshire pit village – AFTER the end of the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike.Where there had been near-total solidarity during the strike and a community spirit before the strike, there was now a broken society. Every garden gate I passed had a picture of a rottweiler or alsation, with the caption: ‘I LIVE HERE’. This was a result of the ‘tough decisions’ which were taken, not to avoid an economic collapse as happened nearly a decade later in the Soviet bloc, but to shift the balance of power away from organised labour towards organised capital. This had been clearly planned by Nick Ridley and others in the late 1970s, as recorded in ‘The Economist’ during 1978. The tough decision-makers won – and now we’ve had an economic collapse, though we’d better not call it that as we might frighten off the investors.

  • MicheleB

    Shouldn’t your ID maybe have a capital S and possibly a capital C and even a couple of underscores or spaces?

    Heysoooos, so driven !

  • Ehtch

    Let’s talk about sport, that is all tort,
    Spa Belgium today, I truelly feel,
    will be sight and spectacles,
    kept in their case, weather permitting,

    Spa truelly and glorious,
    most probably weather abound,
    tyres not so slick,
    as Jimmy Clark found.

  • Rebecca Hanson

    And what I described was how it was in 1975-83.  The strikes, the vandalism, the arson, the endless class war.  The disintegration of our communities had wider causes than the end of mining as a mass industry.  In the 20th Century it was also caused by war, poverty, the clearing of the slums, flawed community planning and many other factors.

    As I said, if you want to talk to the people who were involved about what was actually going on, get in touch (I’m easy to find on linkedin too).  When ever major policies are going through lots of people will have their own take on them.  It’s important to look past that to the heart of things.  To be honest Dave I think you’re choosing easy target opponents to suit your purpose.

    At the time very few people were thinking intelligently and holistically about the UK economy.  Most still believed that the way to protect workers on the front line was to do so at the expense of business.  Changing that attitude was essential.  The polarisation of wealth which has also occurred is unacceptable and needs to be addressed, but it is ludicrous to say that that polarisation was the intention of people like my dad.  What a repulsive idea. 

  • Ehtch

    I hated doing A levels in my school – I was good looking and intelligent, and felt like pondlife. After my successful o levels, I should have moved on, anywhere. Teachers could’nt cope and talk to me, even though I was passive. My friend died a couple of years later due to came to be described as being too thin, Carla, brain block on what she done even now even – what can can you do with such people, especially our teachers then. Pond life! you know what it is, I am still brainblocked. Ok, remembered, anorexia. Broke my heart, but the teachers, did they give a fuck? I do not know.

  • MicheleB

    There are probably even people now that have inherited their parents’ bought council house, had bought their own and are now renting out one of them to council tenants!

    My brother had a colleague who still lived in a large flat at South Bank, naturally maintained and repaired for decades (by one of the poorest boroughs in London), whose family had grown up and left.  He bought it for £45k a year before the Tate Modern project started and sold it for nearly half a million when it opened.  Not bad eh?  I hope I’d have been able to resist such a possibility!

    The yatter (nod to Y) about people on benefits living in properties they couldn’t afford even if working says more about grasping landlords than about the claimants.  My son and DiL were renting a 3-bedroomed house  for 15m or so before taking on their present mortgage.  Early on in their moving/notice arrangements he advised the owner about a work colleague who’d like to move in the next day; she chose instead to let it to an 18yr old with a baby, at a 50% higher rent on a 3yr lease.

    The girl probably has no idea she’s being used.

  • Teresa

    It is sad Gilliebc, why should anyone care if someone lives in a bought house or not, instead of caring about the things that really do matter in life.

  • Gilliebc

    “I hated doing A levels in my school – I was good looking and intelligent”

    Ehtch, you are sounding more interesting all the time 🙂

    Sorry if that sounds a bit shallow!  But your posts are much better when you are sober!  Though I know you have a lot to contend with at this point in your life! 

    As for teachers they mostly fall into three categories imo.  The dedicated and inspring ones, the cruel, sarcastic and sadistic ones and the inept and useless ones.  I was fortunate enough to have more of the former ones i.e. the dedicated and inspiring teachers and they more than compensated for the other less desirable teachers.  It is the luck of the draw I guess.
    It shouldn’t be that way, but I don’t think it’s quite so bad nowadays.

  • Kapwoman

    I’m a mother of two children of 11 and 17, I’m not particularly worldly-wise or au-fiat with politics. Who can advise me who I tell my children who to trust or aspire to be?
    A Politician? – well, nope – members of all parties have seemingly been ‘looting’ the public purse for years. A Banker then? – again no, despite the mess they have caused still feel they are ‘worth’ massive bonuses. Be a Royal – well you may be good for tourism but you will live a very rich and comfortable life but so far removed from everyone. A Policeman then? – again there are issues as they are unable to uphold the law within their own ranks. A Lawyer/Solicitor – not comfortable with this one as again it’s more about the profit than the clients. It is worrying when those in positions such as these do not have the trust or (dare I use that word) respect of the majority.

    It may be simplistic but, I will advise my kids to look to those who are genuine – who seek to give rather than take, who do not wish for money or fame – but have decent and basic morals – and to not look to the “must have” society.

  • Dave Simons

    I always find your analyses interesting, but the case you make is not helped by apocalyptic forecasts at the end. People have been talking about the collapse of capitalism for the last two centuries, but it’s still with us – despite 1929 and 2008 – and it has a tendency to buy out or nullify any alternatives. Likewise I take the optimistic view that we had enough experience of totalitarian dystopias in the last century to make us very wary of heading for another one.  We already live under the dictatorship of ‘Das Kapital’, but that’s true no matter how many individual currencies you have, or what form of political system you have.

  • Dave Simons

    Thank you for the links to your dad’s books and to your own report. By the time I look them up this particular blog topic will be history, but I’d welcome an ongoing discussion and have your contact address. I’m particularly interested in how a man who led a simple and disciplined Christian life responded to the policies of what I think was the most un-Christian government of the twentieth century, an assessment with which a former Bishop of Durham would have agreed. Thatcher’s ethics in action  were not those of St Francis but ‘Blessed are the Rich’, ‘Blessed are the Warmongers’ and ‘Blessed are the Tough’, and as we all remember, when the tough get going the going gets tough!

  • Dave, when the floods hit Cockermouth in 2009 the effects were horrific.  Most people were gone, the shops were shut, everything was dank, broken and dirty.  We couldn’t get anywhere because the bridges were gone.  We couldn’t start rebuilding because it was such a long dark winter and everything was frozen.  It was living hell.  What people did look to do was to make plans to ensure it would never happen again. 

    The ‘experts’ came and said we couldn’t afford to protect against such a flood.  We just had to accept that such things happened.  How could we accept that when it was living hell – everyone was losing weight, suffering from depression, just stuck, businesses destroyed, lives works gone.

    Two years on their comments make more sense.  For most people things are better or okay now.  Often better in ways they wouldn’t have known.  When industries employment and communities collapse the consequences take much longer to heal.  We should of course also learn from the mistakes make within the bigger picture, of which there we many.

    When we are breaking we often can’t accept any conclusion which deems such suffering as being necessary.  We can and should revisit our conclusions years on with a mind which expects the best from those who took the decisions we couldn’t accept at the time.

    We are changed by suffering.  I’ve spent my career working with children like the children I knew when I was 10.  The ones who took their pain out on me.  I found I’d learned how to understand that pain, accept it and to help them find the best in themselves in the midst of it.

  • Ehtch

    we didn’t have a full-time school nurse for feck sake to spot “things”. That is why I turn down all school wotsit invites reunion shit since – in case I bump into “certain” old teachers there. But all this was ’78-’80 when the Thatch came in, and things were right up in the air, and when my school was still a state Grammar School. Went comprehensive system in about ’84. Bad move, very bad move..

  • “We need a NEW MACROECONOMIC MODEL which benefits all.”Yes.
    “Meanwhile, we need “hard Keynesianism” to solve the current problems”
    Isiah Berlin got it right when he warned against universal theories.

    What we need is astute, connected and prudent governance.                                      Where it’s efficient and effective to spend more given our best estimate for the future cost of money we should do so.
    Wherever we can cut back in efficient and effective ways, we should do so.  Let’s start with Ofsted.

    The main problem we’ve got is that this government are making random (generally bad) decisions because they don’t properly understand the reality around them and are ignoring proper professional consultation.

    So we also need to look again at the way those in policy making decisions consult, ensuring they are better informed about the the reasons for the status quo and the nature of the dynamics which are challenging that status quo.  

  • MicheleB

    I’m loving all the programmes at the mo that are celebrating lovely recovered boyblokes

    This is for Ehtch, a manboy at the end claims a bit of the geographic North Pole as (or for the ?) Welsh

  • Dave Simons

    I know someone who lives just outside Cockermouth and yes I agree about the effects of the flooding. Was that a response to my Bishop of Durham post or the previous one?

  • Dave Simons

    Thank you for this post – you sound like a kindred spirit!

  • It was a follow up to my earlier response Dave, but yes, feel free to get in touch and let’s talk more.  Dad’s still around, so if you have questions I can’t answer I can ask him.

  • Gilliebc

    Kapwoman, you answered your own question!

    Your final paragraph is good advice imo.

  • Gilliebc

    “I do personally believe that we are heading for a totalitarian system with single world currency”

    So do I Olli.  As do many others also!  This is not happening by accident either.  It has become so blindingly obvious in the last few years.  I fail to understand why anyone would still have any doubts on this issue.

  • Ehtch

    Ach, I’m doing alright. I am just whinging. But many thanks for the reply. It is well known that teaching quality took a dip in my school around then, with so many of the older experienced staff had come to retirement age and left, with many new graduate teachers coming in, who knew their stuff but were missing the experience of the human factor, if you get what I mean.

  • Ehtch

    Furthermore. many of my teachers retired then, male but also female, served in the arned forces in WWII. Male ones obviously saw things and did things they wish they hadn’t and didn’t. Even the lay preacher at the C of E Church I went to when young went though North Africa, but was sent up through Palestine rather than Itally cross the Med, and it was a life changing moment for him visiting the Holy Land. He loved the Muslim people there, and their appreciation of old Christian values and visitors. But then some nimbnuts decided to set up Israel….

  • Gilliebc

    “But then some nimbnuts decided to set up Israel….”

    Ehtch, if you’re saying that this was a bad idea, then I completely agree.
    imo it was a barking-mad idea that has caused nothing but more trouble.
    I am not anti-semitic but I am certainly not a zionist either.  If someone suggested now for example that gipsys/travellers or a religious group or sect should get a country of their own they would be rightly ridiculed for such a daft idea.  I acknowledge that the Jewish people have had a rough time down through history! to put it mildly.  I’m not entirely sure why tbh.
    And another thing, the number of Jewish People serving in the American government/administration is way out of proportion to the number of Jews in the population of that country!  In other words a lot of people in positions of power in the US are Jews!  What’s that all about, I wonder?

    I am aware that this is a touchy subject for some and I don’t want to cause offence, so I think I’ll leave it there for now at least 🙂
    Actually a final thought, the fact that there is now a law which means this subject cannot be properly discussed is just wrong.  I think the black people around the world have had a far worse time of it than the Jews ever had.  But they have never had the political clout to rectify their ill-treatment and persecution down through the years in the same way that the Jews have had.  There is something wrong and out of kilter here.

  • MicheleB

    It’s not very genuine to assume there must have been collusion of all of a group for the sins/greed of a few of their members (or even the lies about some of them).

    ….. ‘members of all parties have seemingly been ‘looting’ the public purse for years’ allows for the fact that not all members were at it but not for the fact that we need more that won’t stoop so low.  Re bankers I think collective (subtle) collusion is more widespread and deemed more acceptable; there are ranks that aren’t receiving the mammoth bonus sums of the ‘stars’ but they do have access to revolting perks such as repossessed homes before they go to auction.  I doubt there are many as driven as KM herself, as well as generations of her ancestors, to ‘achieve’  the ambition she has but I reckon that despite his undoubted privileges Harry is genuinely interested in how the other half (vast majority) really live.  Within the Police there seem to be a few rotten apples but a vast majority that are carrying on working honestly despite the media and the public’s constant grouping of them as if they’re clones and this is one sector where, apparently, ‘the public’ choose to swallow jounalists’ assertions (something I find not exactly hilarious).

    Within all groups there are more very good apples than rotten ones.

    Cheer up 🙂

  • MicheleB

    Working in the trade that I do I have worked with many Jewish people who have all been more than happy to be of the diaspora and I’m very proud of knowing many that have signed the online petiition against the IDF’s persecution of the Palestinians.

    I’m constantly dumbfounded by those that deny the absolute comparison / absolute parallel of the wall around the Gaza Strip and the coralling in the Warsaw Ghetto; in fact a ten foot wall and blockade of the coast is far more punishing than the fence itself was. 

    It’s worth remembering though that many Orthodox Jews in Israel also resent the Zionist incomers and the breaking down of the mixed community they were part of till ’47 and often demonstrate against the IDF. 

  • Ehtch

    maybe my post that didn’t appear might have been too sharp and barbed – AHEM!

    There “might” have been a promotion by western powers at the end of WWII to set up Israel, due to have an insider in the region as a country to help protect from the coming commie infiltration in various parts of the World, but also for the oil wealth coming to be found in that part of the Wolrld also.

    Is that better Alastair?

  • Ehtch

    Mo is one of my great Palestiniane friends – seem to bump into him everywhere, maybe because his welsh intelligent wife works for museums and such in Wales. A top bloke, a top Palestinian, who I have asked to him about the israeli question, and he simply answers, don’t ask, anyway, where can I start.

  • MicheleB

    I find that things that haven’t arrived on-site yet often do later, AC’s away on holiday after all!

    It must be an unenviable situation to have expectations and duties placed upon one at birth – if not by parents then by the rest of any ‘community’.  I think some of my cousins have had that burden more than my family unit put on me.

    I’m very grateful to a Jewish boss that, frankly, I was being obsequious to about the situation in Israel, late on during the West’s anti-Arafat era.  He was happy to be a western Jewish man and to separate the religion from the territorial scrapping.going on there and absolutely secure about opining that it was all about land (or Land?).  I suppose he was saying ‘stuff your wrong-headness’ …… LOL

    What’s very sad is that so many people that are happy to live in the west do still feel duty-bound (forced) to support what happens in the mid-east, even though the period of US needing a local-eye on oil traffic is long-past.

  • Rebecca Hanson

    I’m trying to work out whether Gove is deeply self interested or just stupid over in the ‘Free Schools Resource Group’ on Linkedin.  Any comments welcome.

  • Ehtch

    Love that would SAR flight control aircraft systems people, advanced, would come to live in the Gower part of Swansea- they would love it there, and develope sea battling saving helicopter flight control systems, mountains too, to deal with those downdraughts up hills, before the pilot senses them.

    Imagination is all that it takes.

  • Ehtch

    Put feelers out on youtube for a one of these flight simulator videos to be done on a Westland Seaking driving flying out into bouncincing swelling oceans, off Britain, to save, and had a reply, and is going to do it. He/she will let me know, but he/she says it will take a couple of months, at least. And oh yes, he/she agrees with me that the above Will Gregory/Alison Goldfrapp music is simply perfect for it.

    I will let you know when he lets me know.