Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Willful Ignorance?

"I'm having a drink to it right now."
"It's a marvellous day", declared David Hopper yesterday, in an extraordinary display of bad manners and spite. "I'm absolutely delighted."

For the cigar-puffing general secretary of the Durham Miners' Association, the late Baroness Thatcher "perpetrated more evil in the north-east than anyone before or since."

"It isn't just about the coal mines. She set out to destroy unions. She decimated the industry, she destroyed our communities.”

A damning legacy, to be sure, if we we could confirm the veracity of Comrade Hopper's charges.

But do they stand up to scrutiny?

This PDF from the 'Durham in Time' website provides us with a helpful timeline of pit closures in the region, from 1950 all the way to 1993.  Surprisingly, given the strength of the prevailing narrative, it does not reveal a great 1980s holocaust of the Durham mines.  

Instead, it reveals that Margaret Thatcher closed a mere 15 mines 
— while Labour's Harold Wilson shut down 58.

Durham is not an exceptional case.  In fact, the Labour governments of the '60s and '70s closed down a substantially greater number of mines than Margaret Thatcher ever did, and put tens of thousands more miners out of work.

Indeed, they would have done more, but the Cabinet feared the electoral consequences.  Labour chose, in the words of one senior figure, "political sanity over economic madness".  The really dirty work, then as now, would be left for the Conservatives.

Was Harold Wilson's death marked by callous, vindictive jeering and lawless street parties, with the BBC taking every available opportunity to describe his disastrous, revolutionary premierships as "divisive"?

No.

We should not really wonder at this apparent cognitive dissonance, however.  It finds an almost exact parallel in the legend of "Thatcher the Milk Snatcher".  This is used as a rod for Conservative backs to this daydespite the fact that it was Labour which began the process of "snatching" free school milk in 1968 — and from more pupils than the then late Baroness ever did, too.

We should instead wonder that the Left has made such an excellent job of conquering the past, with the Right acquiescing to be robed in the mantle of perpetual villainy with no more than a sigh of resignation.

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