Archives for posts with tag: politics

Sermon on Zoom for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity, 12th July 2020

Isaiah 55.10–13

Romans 8.1–11

Matthew 13.1–9,18–23

Maybe there is something a little bit superfluous about preaching a sermon about Jesus preaching a sermon. You couldn’t really improve on the message of his Parable of the Sower. Everybody who has had anything at all to do with Christianity has surely heard that one, and they remember it.

And it is certainly a good and encouraging message: pay attention, make sure you take things to heart, don’t be put off by distractions. Distractions: I think the expression is ‘displacement activities’ – you know, when you are a student, instead of writing your essays, you sharpen all your pencils – which is rather like the people who fall away in Jesus’s story.

Don’t be a fair weather Christian. Don’t give your soul to Jesus too lightly; you know, don’t come out to the front at a Billy Graham meeting, or maybe even get confirmed and have a big party afterwards – don’t do all that, if after all, you’re going to find that it is all a bit inconvenient, so you don’t bother much afterwards.

I’ve been reading a very interesting book called ‘Climate Crisis, the Challenge to the Church’, by David Rhodes. (ISBN 978 1 83858 081 0). It’s a different take on our Christian belief, in many ways.

When I was reading the book, this very parable, the Parable of the Sower, came to my mind. In his book, David Rhodes is putting forward the idea that Jesus, whatever else he was, was a revolutionary. A lot of the famous sayings of Jesus are consistent with this. You know, ‘The last shall be first’; ‘Blessed are the poor’ (poor in spirit, actually, but still poor); ‘He hath sent the rich away empty’; you know, the opposite of conventional wisdom. You could indeed say there is quite a lot of quite revolutionary stuff. Not so much spiritual, as subversive.

This parable could be a training session, a training session for his revolutionary followers. I’m sure that a lot of us have attended those sort of courses, (even though we’re not revolutionaries); but at work, you know, training you how to do various bits of your job more effectively.

A lot of those training sessions talk the same sort of language that Jesus used in his parables. None better than the Parable of the Sower. It’s no good just parroting things and doing nothing about them; no point not having any staying power; no point not resisting distracting temptations. That works for a middle manager just as much as for one of Jesus’ followers on the beach. Or for revolutionaries.

When I first wrote this sermon, my example of this sort of training session was a Labour Party canvassing course for young activists run by Momentum; and the temptation, the distraction, that I imagined at this point was that the Young Conservatives might have had prettier girls. But of course I couldn’t possibly say anything like that in a sermon, could I?

In politics, you must keep on sticking faithfully to the party message: and eventually you will be rewarded; you will become prime minister. Or, in following Jesus’ example, if you persevere, there will be salvation. Or, is it really, revolution?

Well, you can take the parable of the sower as revolutionary training, or on another level it can be perfectly OK in Sunday school or, indeed, after the Sunday roast, when Dad mutters something about what a nice service it was and how he couldn’t quite remember everything that the vicar said in his sermon, but that it did make a lot of sense at the time. Parable of the Sower; spot-on.

You might want to do a little bit of reading around today, because there are some other lovely Bible lessons in the lectionary for this Sunday. One of them in particular I just want to mention to you for comparison with the Parable of the Sower, to give you something to discuss over your roast beef – or your midnight feast in Australia or brunch in Canada or the United States. We are a very widely separated congregation!

The other lesson which I want to mention for comparison is the epistle today, which is from St Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 8. The passage is at the beginning of the chapter. ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ St Paul makes a big contrast between the Jewish law, the Ten Commandments, the law of Moses, and the law of the spirit, making a distinction between the flesh and the spirit. Paul says, ’But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. …But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life …’ Romans chapter 8, verses 1 to 11, if you want to look it up this afternoon.

In this book which I am reading, David Rhodes makes the point that, although St Paul was amazingly influential in spreading Christianity, stopping it being just a narrow Jewish sect, and becoming a worldwide religion instead, so that Saint Paul was called the apostle to the Gentiles – the apostle to us, in fact (at least those of us who are not Jewish as well as Christian) – and although in fact some of St Paul’s letters are the earliest documents in the New Testament, written before the Gospels, only 30 or 40 years after Jesus’s death – even so, St Paul never once tells us what Jesus said, what he preached and taught. There are none of Jesus’ sayings, none of his famous parables, in St Paul’s letters.

Instead St Paul has this much more cerebral, much more philosophical approach, maybe in order to get the non-Jewish world to accept Jesus and become Christian. He had to bring Christianity within the tradition of ancient philosophy, the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle and Cicero, in order to give it intellectual respectability, rather than sticking with homely sayings to gaggles of unsophisticated people crowding round a guy on the beach or floating in a boat just offshore, as Jesus was, when he told them the Parable of the Sower.

But which of these two passages do you remember? Do you remember St Matthew’s Gospel, the Parable of the Sower, or Romans 8? You are all good churchgoers, so if you read ‘There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’, it will probably ring a bell with you. But I’ll bet that it doesn’t ring as loud a bell as the Parable of the Sower. So, let’s take a moment for reflection. What do you think? Are you fired up by the revolutionary message of the Sower? Or would you rather stick with some armchair philosophy with St Paul? Which is the more powerful message?

Even so, although you know the Parable of the Sower pretty well, is it actually working like an ear-worm, so that what was ‘sown on good soil bears fruit and yields in one case a hundredfold, in another 60 and in another 30’? Does it make you do things? Does it make you not just sign up to petitions online; not just click on YouTube?

I do wonder why St Paul didn’t quote any of Jesus’ sayings, even the straightforward ones like this one. Could it be that they were what we would call “too political”? Too risky? Who is right? It’s dangerous stuff. But it is stuff that we must think about. Is it time for something revolutionary?

Well, as you digest that thought, maybe it won’t be too long before we get back into church, and then before too long I hope we will be able to sing a hymn or two again. I couldn’t resist mentioning to you that the Old Testament lesson prescribed for today is another lovely one. It is Isaiah chapter 55:

For you shall go out in joy,

   and be led back in peace;

the mountains and the hills before you

   shall burst into song,

   and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands …

Did you sing that as a hymn at school? I certainly did. On YouTube I’m sure you’ll be able to find a link to a good choir singing it, so you can sing along too, maybe in the bath – but remember! – first you’ll need a bit of Jesus’ revolutionary training.

For you shall go out in joy,

   and be led back in peace …

and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands …

imageSermon for Evensong on the 15th Sunday after Trinity, 8th September 2013

John 5:30-47 – ‘The works that the Father has given me to complete, … testify … that the Father has sent me.’

Last week I had a few days’ holiday in Italy, in one of Palladio’s villas, outside Vicenza. You’ll be relieved to know that I will spare you my holiday stories – and you’ll be even more relieved that you won’t have to soldier through the 383 pictures that I took. No lantern slides here at St Mary’s!

What I do want to mention is something strange which happened last week, which actually happened to all of us; it was on the news, not just in Italy. But it struck me perhaps more than it would otherwise have done, because I was getting the news each morning by downloading my English newspaper on to my iPad; it was my only source of news, as I wasn’t listening to the radio or watching the TV – indeed the Villa Saraceno didn’t have a TV.

I’d flown out on Tuesday and I stayed through till Saturday afternoon. When I set out, the situation in Syria was very bleak – as indeed it is today. The new development then was the dreadful use of chemical weapons, most likely by the Assad regime, and the way in which the USA and our own government were shaping up to react. ‘Assad must be punished’ was the line. There was a perception that the United Nations was deadlocked, and that it was unlikely that there would ever be a resolution from the United Nations permitting military action against the Assad regime.

So the government proposed a motion in the House of Commons which would lead on, if it were passed, to a further motion which would authorise British forces to attack Syria.

I should pause at that point, before everybody in church walks out, and say that nearly everything one can say, in this context, is capable of more than one interpretation: so I should say that all that this is describing is my perception, and I’m quite prepared for somebody to tell me that my perception, for example of the precise meaning and intention of the motion which was proposed to the House of Commons, is not exactly accurate. The important thing, from the point of view of this sermon, is what it looked like to me, and on that I can be a reliable guide.

So on Wednesday and Thursday, my friends and I in the Villa spent the days against a background where we felt that it was highly likely that within days there would be military action against Syria by British and American forces. Indeed there was evidence of a major military force in the Mediterranean – American warships, British Typhoon jets and so on – all being assembled.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up on Friday morning, switched on my iPad and downloaded the newspaper. I saw on the front page a headline to the effect that the motion in the House of Commons had been defeated – convincingly defeated. The Prime Minister had said, ‘I get it’ and had assured everybody that there was no longer any question that Britain would become involved in warlike activity in Syria.

I have to tell you that I have not recently read the front page of a newspaper and had such a feeling of excitement and surprise as I did when I read the front page of the paper as it appeared on my iPad last Friday morning. I quickly pulled on my dressing gown and went out into the breakfast room, where my friends were already gathering for breakfast.
The friends I was with are Americans, so there was perhaps an added poignancy about the situation. I told them what had happened. The interesting thing was that they were not upset. We all expressed a great feeling of relief and joy that our parliament had not done the conventional thing and supported the Prime Minister’s motion. As the day unfolded, we did make an effort to look at the BBC website, and we saw that there were already people saying that the special relationship with the United States was over, that Britain had forfeited its position in the world, that Mr Cameron had been inept in the way he had prepared the motion, and so on and so forth.

But we did not feel any worse. Neither side, neither the American friends nor I as a Brit. Rightly or wrongly, we felt that something greater was at work. Indeed, we dared to think that perhaps the Holy Spirit was at work here. Everybody acknowledged that what was going on in Syria – what continues to go on – is truly dreadful, that something must be done to stop the suffering and the killing.

But we also really doubted whether more warlike activity was going to produce the peace and security that Syria so badly needs. Can you really change the mind of a brutal leader by launching a cruise missile at him and killing some of his people – probably together with some other people as well, who are not involved? What would the consequences of a major attack by ourselves and the Americans be likely to be? Somehow this message had got through to enough of the MPs in Parliament for them not to accept the proposal, and to vote for peace instead.

In so doing they were definitely doing something unconventional. They were breaking a lot of the conventional rules of so-called good government. If a government threatens against another government, ‘If you do this, then we will do that’, and they do this, then conventional wisdom says that you have to do that in response. But we didn’t. Somehow the MPs perceived a higher force, a greater principle, than just the narrow question of the conventions of the English constitution.

I think you can look at our story from St John’s gospel in much the same way, and I think from it one can gain some real encouragement that what has happened in relation to Syria so far is a glimmer of hope, and it shows the Holy Spirit at work, it shows God at work.

If you read the whole of chapter 5 in St John’s gospel, before the passage which we had as our second lesson, the background is that Jesus healed a sick man at the Pool of Bethesda who had been ill for 38 years, lying by the pool but unable to get into the healing water: and Jesus did it on the Sabbath day. The Jews went after Jesus, saying that he was wrong to heal people on the Sabbath. Jesus answered them, ‘My father is still working, and I also am working’. He was working – just as I think God is working in relation to the rather unconventional position taken by Parliament in relation to Syria.

God is working. The Jews were even more incensed, because they thought that Jesus was blaspheming in referring to God as his own father. It never occurred to them that He was in fact God. Jesus gives an explanation to them. ‘I can do nothing on my own. I seek to do not my own will, but the will of him who sent me,‘ and so on, contrasting the witness of John the Baptist with the witness of Jesus’ heavenly Father at the moment when Jesus was baptised: you will remember, a voice from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved’, (Luke 3:22).

This passage was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. It begins, ‘Now in Jerusalem, by the Sheep Gate, there is a pool, called in Hebrew, Bethesda’. That would imply that when John was writing this, Jerusalem was still intact. So it means that this account was written no more than 30 years or so after Jesus‘ death. It is authentic – but what it described was extraordinary. It broke the rules. Jesus did the sort of things that no-one had ever seen before.

But nevertheless He did them. As Jesus said, ‘The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me’. This is much greater authority than the law of Moses, than the tradition of the Jews.

Well I don’t know whether it’s completely fanciful, but I am hearing echoes in my mind of the situation last week. Unheard of for Parliament in effect to disobey the government of the day in a context where foreign affairs were concerned and there was the imminent prospect of major warlike activity. If the Prime Minister says ‘War’ then the parliamentary convention is that Parliament supports him. But they didn’t; they didn’t, because they perceived something higher.

Maybe not many of them would acknowledge that it was the Holy Spirit at work, but it might explain my reaction, when I saw that newspaper headline, first thing in the morning in Italy; the strange warmth I felt. My heart lurched. Something very special had begun to happen.

Of course God moves in very mysterious ways. The poor Syrians are still fighting. The G20 summit did not produce any agreement between the various great powers. But nevertheless America and Britain are now looking much more carefully at whether the use of force is a complete solution, or whether there might be a better alternative that does not involve more death and destruction.

On the one hand, the law, the law of Moses. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Punishment, the punishment to fit the crime, perhaps. On the other hand, a recognition that two wrongs don’t make a right, that what is needed is not more violence and force.

I believe that what happened last week showed a glimmer of hope. It may not have followed the rules, just as Jesus didn’t follow the rules in Bethesda – but it showed that God is working.

There are several key features of Thatcherism. They include the following.

Doctrinaire adherence to monetarist economic theory:
A belief that ‘public’ is bad, and ‘private’ is good:
A belief that ‘there is no such thing as society’:
Military adventurism.


When the Conservative Party led by Margaret Thatcher won the 1979 election, it followed a time of economic crisis – a loan from the International Monetary Fund in 1976, devaluation of the pound and interest rates around 15%. The ‘winter of discontent’ of 1978/9 saw the worst industrial unrest in Britain since the General Strike of 1926.

Thatcher decided that a particular economic theory, ‘monetarism’, propounded by Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and Alan Walters, was the only possible solution. It was ‘supply side’ regulation. If the amount of money was reduced, prices (and inflation) would drop. She said that ‘There is no alternative’ (‘TINA’). The economy was regulated according to various ‘money supply’ figures ‘M1, M2,’ etc.

The effect of this policy was to reduce the size of the economy, and in particular to destroy much of Britain’s manufacturing industry. Margaret Thatcher was willing to see thousands put out of work rather than modify her application of monetarist theory. Unemployment reached 3 million in 1980.

Just as Edward Heath, the previous Conservative prime minister, had inflicted huge economic damage through his imposition of a ‘3 day week’ in 1973 in the face of a miners’ strike, saying that ‘there was no alternative’ because there were ‘insufficient coal stocks to fuel the power stations’ – a claim which turned out not to be true – so Margaret Thatcher’s claim that ‘there is no alternative’ to monetarism was open to challenge, but she was still willing to sacrifice many people’s livelihoods for the sake of her economic dogma.

In fact, far from its being beyond doubt that her theory was right, in March 1981 The Times published a letter from 364 economists saying ‘there is no basis in economic theory …. for the government’s present [monetarist] policies’. For many ordinary people, whose livelihoods had been ruined by these policies, it created lasting distrust in politicians that a government could ignore the fact that there was principled disagreement among those best qualified to judge the wisdom or otherwise of what the government was dogmatically insisting on doing – and that the government preferred to stick to its questionable dogma rather than to maintain stable employment for the majority of the population.

Thatcherist economic policies, for example the abolition on restrictions affecting share dealings (the ‘Big Bang’, or deregulation of the stock market in 1986), harmed manufacturing industry and benefitted services such as banking, insurance and other ‘City’ businesses. This meant that for those without the necessary professional qualifications to work in the service sector, i.e. the vast majority, who worked in factories, employment became much more uncertain and the expectation of a single career for life disappeared. Of a working population only a tiny minority work in the favoured service sector. Apprenticeships have drastically reduced in number. All this has militated against social cohesion, and resulted in serious riots in Liverpool in 1981. People no longer had the ‘wartime spirit’ of working together for the good of the country as a whole.

It is noteworthy that David Cameron is again pursuing classically Thatcherist deflationary economic policies and justifying them by asserting that ‘there is no alternative’. Just as in the early 1980s, public spending of all types is being sharply reduced, and a recession made worse thereby. However, to the contrary, public investment, for example in major infrastructure projects, has been a powerful instrument in reviving economies in recession, for example under President Roosevelt in the USA in the 1930s, when a major road-building programme was undertaken, which created jobs and built useful assets conducive to economic growth – i.e. better roads. By eschewing such public investment, Thatcherist economic policies are still damaging the British economy, and putting many people out of work. There have again been riots.

Margaret Thatcher had never studied economics (she studied Chemistry at Oxford, and subsequently read for the Bar), and she failed to perceive some very important differences between British business practice and, for example business practice in Germany and Japan, with the result that British manufacturing has become less competitive. Industrial loans in Britain typically mature, i.e. have to be repaid or re-financed, over a much shorter period than loans in Germany or Japan, where the repayment period is much longer – typically seven years as against three. British manufacturers are rarely led by managing directors who are engineers, whereas German or Japanese manufacturers usually are. In consequence there is more emphasis on developing and perfecting better products than in the UK, where accountants rule. It is not accidental that most cars bought in the UK are produced by German or Japanese companies, and that although British car factories are producing large numbers of cars, they are not designed here, and the manufacturers are not British companies. Thatcherism has fatally weakened British manufacturing companies.

Public bad – private good

Margaret Thatcher, as a child of a successful shopkeeper, became successful, in the sense that she became prime minister rather than the successor in title to her father’s business, through hard work and application, she believed. She never acknowledged that she had received any public benefit. Her father sent her to a fee-paying, private school, and she did not win a scholarship at Oxford. Although in reality she owed a very considerable debt to her father for the privileged start in life which she received, she developed a strong belief that a person’s success or failure depends above all on their own efforts – every person is the author or their own success or failure, according to her.

This led to her despising public investment. She is reported to have said that, if one is on a bus after the age of 26, it is a sign of failure! (Interview on Thames TV in 1976). She despised universities, because she believed that they fostered belief in socialism (irrespective which subject one studied). Similarly she saw no merit in museums or theatres, and she almost never used trains.

Monetarism involved a belief in markets as measures of value. Things were only worth what someone was willing to pay for them. If something could not be bought, it had – according to Margaret Thatcher – no value. This reinforced her antagonism towards the arts, pure academic activity and research.

Her private good/public bad analysis was nowhere more clearly shown than in her policy to sell off council houses. She restricted funding to local councils so severely that they had to raise money by selling off their assets – of which the biggest was their stock of council houses. She forced councils, by various means, to sell their stock of houses at an undervalue, and offered subsidised loans to tenants in order to facilitate their purchases.

She believed that it was ‘better’ for people to own their own houses rather than to rent them. Houses were ‘better’ under private ownership. Of course in turning former council tenants into property owners, she had a gerrymandering objective, to manufacture Conservative voters. She was never censured for this although her close friend and supporter, Dame Shirley Porter, was ‘surcharged’ (in effect, fined) £27 million for a similar gerrymandering policy in the London Borough of Westminster in 2004. The sell-off of council houses, coupled with a policy which forbade councils from reinvesting the proceeds in replacement new houses, was to change the economic outlook for working-class people radically.

When council housing was readily available, people could undertake relatively menial jobs, and accept relatively low pay, and still enjoy a decent standard of living. Council houses were well built according to the so-called Parker-Morris standards, which laid down, for example, minimum sizes for rooms. By contrast, private developments were not subject to the same requirements. By being a council tenant, a worker was to some extent protected from the vagaries of the economic market, whereas once the same person had bought their council house, they were exposed to market forces such as interest rate rises. In order to enjoy the same standard of living, they needed bigger salaries – which employers were not willing or able to pay. The result was ever more unemployment.

The idea that only markets are reliable indicators of value was – and is – central to Thatcherism. Although she herself shied away from introducing marketisation into the National Health Service, her successors, such as Andrew Lansley in the Cameron government, have embraced the ideas of competition between hospitals and other ‘suppliers’ of medical ‘services’ for ‘customers’. This completely contradicts the founders’ idea that the NHS should be a source of treatment and healing for sick people irrespective of cost – and that the cost should be met out of taxation.

The likely outcome of this is to make the NHS more like the American health system – available, and very good, provided that the patient has private resources, in wealth or insurance coverage (itself often prohibitively expensive), to pay for the treatment. In the USA, poor people suffer and die, simply because they are too poor to pay for medical treatment. This is the likely outcome of Thatcherist policy in relation to the NHS.

‘No such thing as Society’

Margaret Thatcher used this phrase in an interview with a journalist from the magazine ‘Woman’s Own’ in 1987, following her third election victory. She believed that individuals could determine their own success or failure, perhaps by working hard. In 1981, her follower Norman Tebbit told unemployed people that his father had tackled being unemployed by ‘getting on his bike’ and seeking out employment. She had no understanding that the majority of working people have very little economic autonomy: far from being able to get on their bikes, metaphorically speaking, they have no bikes to ride, and little of the knowledge or mental ability to do so. They do not have the cushion of capital savings to fall back on which her policy calls for. Tebbit’s saying was, in effect, a cruel taunt.

Thatcher and her followers believed that, if someone was out of work, it was their own fault – they had lost their job because they had not worked hard enough, or they had gone on strike for better conditions. It was not understood that many places of work closed as a direct result of Thatcher’s economic dogma, the policy of restricting money supply, and through that, of restricting investment. The employees were thrown out of work without regard for their diligence or abilities. Although Margaret Thatcher may have thought that her policies were designed to promote self-reliance, in many people they produced only despair and cynicism.

Thatcher saw the protection which trades unions gave to their members, in the ultimate by striking, simply as an impediment to economic growth. She did not value job security for the mass of people, and therefore she passed a number of laws which restricted the ability of the trades unions to take industrial action in order to protect their members’ employment rights. The most damaging of these, the Employment Act 1980, outlawed ‘secondary action’; in other words, a union could strike only in furtherance of a trade dispute in which it (its members) were directly involved.

The result has been a decline in union membership and the perception among employers that the UK offers workers the least protection against loss of employment of any European country. Recently the Cameron government commissioned a report from Adrian Beecroft, an entrepreneur and Conservative Party donor, which recommended that employment protection regulation should be watered down so that the UK would emulate the USA, where employers can hire and fire at will. There is no evidence that reducing job security even further would in any way promote economic growth. In the strongest European economy, Germany, unions are represented on the supervising boards of companies and employment is strongly protected.

Where, as a result of their being able to exercise leverage despite the removal of much of their power, unions can maintain a credible threat of industrial action, as the RMT Union under Bob Crow does, its members enjoy much better rates of pay and job security than similarly-qualified people in industries where there is no powerful union to protect them. Thatcherists forget that there are many more potential victims – workers – than employers. Union power benefits society rather than the other way round, as Thatcherists would have us believe.

Thatcher’s nostrum that ‘There is no such thing as society’ has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In removing statutory protections and emasculating collective organisations who could stand up to those who threatened the security of ordinary workers, Thatcherism has further weakened the bonds of society. The emphasis is on individual success: there is no real concern for the weak, the poor, the ill and the old. Again, the change from the caring society enjoyed during the 1939-45 war and its aftermath is striking, and disastrous.

Military Adventurism

Margaret Thatcher’s electoral fortunes were waning badly in 1982. She embraced the Falklands campaign despite the following:

British foreign policy over the Falklands towards Argentina had for several years been directed towards negotiating handing over sovereignty, but leasing back the islands in a similar way to what had happened between Britain and China over the New Territories in Hong Kong in 1898. The ‘polar research’ ship (effectively, a warship) HMS ENDURANCE was to be scrapped under Thatcher’s cuts in public expenditure. The Argentine government could be excused for misreading the signs, and drawing the conclusion that Britain cared little for the Falklands.

Having decided that it was a matter of principle that the Argentine invasion was to to be contested, just as in other spheres Thatcher was willing to risk people’s livelihoods for the sake of a dogma, here she was willing even to risk lives. Every ship which went to the Falklands was hit by Argentine bombs. By luck, all passed through the hulls of the target ships and, their fuses having been set incorrectly, exploded harmlessly on the sea bed. The BELGRANO was effectively a sitting duck which was turning away from the Royal Navy – but Margaret Thatcher personally ordered her to be sunk, with the loss of hundreds of lives. Thatcher relied on the bravery and military expertise of the British forces to draw the public’s attention away from the disastrous effects of her economic policies, and give her a war leader’s halo.

This has had a terrible effect. Thatcher’s successors, Blair and Brown, and now Cameron, believe in military might as an instrument of policy. Countless Iraqis were slaughtered through Blair’s willingness to adopt GW Bush’s doctrine of a ‘war on terror’, even despite the lack of any UN mandate. Britain went to war against Iraq in breach of international law – but in the mind of the Thatcherists, this did not matter, so long as the war was ‘successful’.

Similar bloody logic has applied in Afghanistan. Originally our forces were committed as peacekeepers, and the mission was sanctioned by a vote in the UN. We were assured by a government minister that there would be no need for bloodshed and that our troops would be home soon. That was in 2002, and hundreds of British troops have been killed and maimed since. The government puts out the line that our military activity is allowing the development of settled government and education for women – that, in the face of hundreds of years of history, Afghans can be persuaded to change their beliefs by the use of force.

The war in Afghanistan is useful for the Cameron, Thatcherist, government, in distracting attention from the dire economic situation at home, which their dogma is making worse. There are parallels with Thatcher in 1982. The sight of the British Paralympians, missing limbs as a result of being hurt in Afghanistan, was appalling. These brave people had been maimed in a completely futile cause – but the Thatcherists do not care, preferring to stick to spurious dogma about ‘achievement’ in Afghanistan.

Now as our troops are finally being pulled out, the US Ambassador to NATO, Mr Daalder, has argued that the money saved should not be put towards relieving the hardship caused by economic failure, but to more spending on arms. Thatcherist orthodoxy is that ‘might is right’.


Thatcher and her successors destroyed the post-war consensus between the haves and the have-nots. She destroyed the idea that the strong had a duty to protect the weak in society. Her analysis of the parable of the Good Samaritan was that the Samaritan was only able to be charitable because he was rich. The obscenity of this is breathtaking, but the damage goes very deep. Uncritical acceptance of Thatcher’s TINA has become so ingrained that few perceive how repellent her morality was. As a result, our society has no stable basis any more. The guiding principle, set by the market, is dog-eat-dog.