The old saw that one shouldn’t speak ill of the recently dead cannot possibly apply to controversial figures in public life. It certainly didn’t apply to President Hugo Chavez who predeceased Margaret Thatcher amidst a blizzard of abuse.
The main reason it must not preclude entering the lists amidst a wave of hagiographic sycophantic tosh of the kind that has engulfed Britain these last hours is that otherwise the hagiographers will have the field to themselves.
Every controversial divisive deadly thing that Thatcher did will be placed in soft focus, bathed in a rose-coloured light, and provide a first draft of history that will be, simply, wrong.
As is now well-known, I refused to do that today on the demise of a wicked woman who tore apart what remained good about my country, and set an agenda which has been followed, more or less, by all of her successors. I certainly wasn’t prepared to leave the obituaries to those who profited from her rule or those who have aped her ever since.
So here is my own memory of Thatcher and what she did in her time on this earth.
On one of my first political demonstrations – against the Conservative government of Edward Heath (1970-74) the slogan of the day was “Margaret Thatcher- Milk snatcher”. It was the first but not the last time I spat out her name in distaste.
Before Thatcher, every primary school pupil received 1/3 of a pint of milk every morning. For some it was the difference between breakfast and no breakfast. I was sometimes one of those. I grew up in a brief period of social democracy in Britain, being dosed by the state with free cod-liver oil, orange juice and malt to build up my strength. Having been born in a slum tenement into a one-room attic in an Irish immigrant area, I needed all of that and more. And like millions I got it, until Thatcher took it away.
She became the Conservative leader after Heath’s two electoral defeats in 1974 and his subsequent resignation.
She was a new type of Tory leader, entirely lacking in anything resembling “noblesse oblige”. She was nasty, brutish and short of the class previously thought obligatory in Britain amongst leaders of the ruling elite. She was vulgar, money-worshipping, and blasphemous. She believed the important part of the Biblical story of the “Good Samaritan” was not that he refused to pass by the suffering on the other side of the road but that he had “loadsamoney”.
In the infamous sermon on the Mound in Edinburgh addressing the Church of Scotland she opined that there was “no such thing as society”…”only individuals”
As the Labour leader Neil Kinnock, in one of his better efforts, retorted: “No such thing as society? Only individuals? No such thing as honouring other people’s parents? No such thing as cherishing other people’s children? No such thing as us and always? Just ME and NOW? ME and NOW?”
She was the living embodiment of Marx’s prediction that under capitalism “all that is solid will melt into air… all that is sacred will be profaned”
Upon her election as prime minister (with just 40% of the vote, her position ensured by the treacherous defection from the Labour cause of the rats now squirming on the Liberal-Democrat ship) she set about “transforming” Britain allright. She privatised Britain’s key industries, enriching her friends, and robbing the public of their birthright. When she took over “Financial Services” represented 3% of the British economy; when she left office it was 40%.
She destroyed the coal industry, the steel, car, bus and motor-cycle manufacturing, truck and bus-making, ship-building and print-industry, the railway workshops… she destroyed more than a third of Britain’s manufacturing capacity, significantly more than Hitler’s Luftwaffe ever achieved.
She did this not just because she prefered the spivs and gamblers in the city -they were her kind of people. But because above all, she hated trades unionism, and was determined to destroy it.
I was a leading member of the Scottish Labour Party at the time she came into office, and a full-time Labour organiser. Scotland was to become an industrial wasteland in the first years of her rule.
I was also, from 1973, a member of the then Transport and General Workers Union, one of her key targets – especially our Docks section.
Importantly, for me, I was an honorary member of the National Union of Mineworkers too.
In all of these capacities I was a front-line short-sword fighter in the rearguard action against Thatcherism.
I fought her at Bathgate, at Linwood, when she was sacking the automotive industry. I fought her at Wapping – every Saturday night when she destroyed the Print workers on behalf of her friend, the organised crime firm owner, Rupert Murdoch. I fought every day of the Miners strike when she destroyed the Miners Union and the communities they represented. I fought her at Timex in Dundee at Massey Ferguson in Kilmarnock, and at the aluminium smelter in Invergordon.
I fought against her poll tax – imposed first in Scotland – as a refusenik of the most iniquitous tax in Britain since mediaeval times, the tax which ended in flames – literally – whilst I was on the platform at Trafalgar Square. And which finally produced her political demise.
And I toured – as a political activist – the desolation in Britain’s post-industrial distressed areas which she left behind. The City of London – deregulated by her – boomed whilst the coalfields and steel areas sank into penury. I saw the rusted factories the flooded mines the idle shipyards and the devilish results of millions of newly and enforced idle hands.
I faced her in parliament from 1987 as well, on these and other issues.
You see it wasn’t just Britain that Thatcher made bleed.
Her withdrawal of political status from Irish republican prisoners and her brutal, securocratic, militarisation of the situation in the north led to much additional suffering in Ireland.
State collusion in the murder of Catholics became endemic during her rule. And ten young men were starved to death for the restoration of political status, before our eyes in her dungeons. She finally died on the anniversary of their leader, Bobby Sands, being elected to parliament as he lay on his death-bed.
During the Falklands War, she sent hundreds of young Argentinian conscripts to a watery grave when she shot the Argentine warship the Belgrano in the back – as it was speeding away from the conflict. She mercilessly exploited the sacrifice of them, and our own soldiers sailors and airmen, to save her own political skin. A lot of brave men had to leave their guts on Goose Green to keep Thatcher in power.
She pushed her alter ego – the semi-imbecilic US president Ronald Reagan – into Cold War fanaticism and burgeoning expenditure on more and more terrifying weapons – many of them stationed on our soil.
She pushed his successor George Bush Sen into the first Iraq War.
I was there, I saw her lips move, when she described Nelson Mandela as a “common terrorist”.
She continued to recognise the genocidal and deposed Pol Pot regime in Cambodia – insisting that Pol Pot was the real and recognised leader of the Cambodians, even as they counted his victims in millions.
And she was the author of the policy of military, political, diplomatic and media support of the Afghan obscurantists who became the Taliban and Al Qaeda. She even produced them on the platform of the Tory Party conference, hailing them as “freedom-fighters”.
I was one of the last men standing in parliament opposing this immoral policy of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”.
On the eve of the triumph of these “freedom Fighters” I told Thatcher to her face; “You have opened the gates for the barbarians….and a long dark night will now descend upon the people of Afghanistan”. I never said a truer word.
I hated Margaret Thatcher for what seems like all my life. I hated her more than I hated anyone – until the mass murderer Tony Blair came along.
It would have been utter hypocrisy for me to have remained silent about her crimes today whilst the political class – including New Labour – poured honeyed words, lies actually, over her blood-spattered record.
I could not do it. I believe I spoke for millions. The wicked witch is dead. Tramp the dirt down.
George Galloway MP
House of Commons
Design by Gayatri
[COPY RIGHT RED MOLUCCA]
To the best of my knowledge I have never met Babar Ahmad, but I know his father well. Like his local MP, Sadiq Khan now a prominent New Labour frontbench spokesman, I have always been convinced of his innocence on the charges trumped up against him in the United States. And even more convinced that if he did commit any such crimes he must be tried before a jury on them in the country the crimes were allegedly commited in. His own country, Great Britain.
It is simply bamboozling that the British state could think one of its own nationals not worth prosecuting for alleged crimes, yet be prepared to imprison him for eight long years then extradite him on the Banana Republic terms of our one sided treaty, to the US instead.
Worse than bamboozling, it is a mark of shame upon our country.
Like most of the current crimes being carried out by the Cameron gang, this one can be traced back to the Blair-New Labour years.
It was David Blunkett, Tony Blair’s then Home Secretary, who secretly, behind parliament’s back concluded an extradition treaty with the US that Vanuatu would have turned up its nose at.
In short, Washington need not show a scintilla of evidence to extradite our citizens whilst we would find it harder to climb through the eye of a needle than to succesfully extradite one of their citizens to the UK.
Babar Ahmad is certainly not the first and will not be the last victim of this treaty.
Previous victims though are not Muslims, not facing bogus “terrorism” related charges, not likely to face Guantanamo style prison arrangements, and not likely to be banged up for the rest of their naturals as enemy aliens in the infamous US prison system. Most are not black.
Not that Babar Ahmad is even accused of involvement in terrorism of course, merely that he may (he denies it and I believe him) have, that most nebulous of terms, “glorified” it via a web-site.
His long calvary has not of course been confined to eight years, untried, in sundry UK prisons. The Metropolitan Police have already had to pay him a vast sum in compensation for the horrific torture he suffered at their hands when they dragged him from his bed, his petrified wife lying beside him, and savagely beat and mistreated him, insulted his religion, resulting in injuries more often seen in torture victims abroad.
Will Babar Ahmad receive a fair trial in the United States? If you believe that, you will believe anything.
Will Britain ever expunge this this stain from its hands? To paraphrase Shakespeare “all the perfumes of Arabia will not out that damned spot”.
| George |