Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

They Really Should Have Known Better; TOON AND COUNTRY

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

They Really Should Have Known Better; TOON AND COUNTRY

Article excerpt


MY comradely columnists Gutteridge and Hann - and, for that matter, Call-Me-Dave Cameron writing in this very spot yesterday - have had their say; today, I shall have mine.

It was more than free market economics that Margaret Thatcher got wrong, although that list of mistakes is long: Demutualisation of building societies broke the link between the ability to obtain a mortgage and the ability to pay for one; privatisation of great state utilities offered cheap shares and the prospect of quick, easy profits to a naive public; sales of council house expanded the home-owning Conservat-ocracy at the expense of affordable housing and sensible economy.

As a result, a burgeoning get-rich-quick middle class ("property and shares are a sure thing") gobbled up the promises of unsecured loans that filled every mailbox and shouted from every cash machine screen, thanks to reduced controls on bank lending. She was right about one thing: truly, there almost was "no such thing as society" after Thatchernomics reigned supreme.

And, sadly, first Blair and now Brown have done little to unhitch the galloping horses of the apocalypse let loose in that era of greed.

That is how we got where we are today.

We're staring down the barrels of unemployment, inflation, bankruptcy and homes repossessions, while figures from both major political parties - in company with snouts-in-the-trough biggies from my own precious media world - sup champagne and caviar and talk of cosy deals aboard a Russian oily-garch's floating palace somewhere off Corfu.

But you needed to be on the bus that twice a week carries us Far Northumbrians down via Wooler and Morpeth to the shops and bright lights of Big City Newcastle to realise that something else sermonized by St Margaret of the Blessed Falklands was even further off the mark.

"Any man who rides a bus . . . after the age of 30," she once announced smugly, "can count himself a failure in life". …

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