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Sunday, 25 June 2017

Implausible and Impossible Prime Ministers

It remains unfashionable, especially in Tory circles, to suggest that the financial crash of 2007-8 was an inevitable outcome of 'Thatcherism'; but it was. It is obvious, in all but tightly Tory circles, to recognise the Grenfell Tower disaster as an outcome of 'Thatcherism'. The stubborn stupidity of the leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council is typical of the Thatcherite brood, three generations on from the real thing.

The parenthetic use of the lady's name is to emphasise that, in my view, she did not know what she was doing. Thanks to Sir Keith Joseph she was one of the first politicians to be introduced to the ideas that were just becoming significant in Economics. This was in the middle nineteen-seventies, when she became leader of the Conservative party amid the chaos that followed the bizarre misapplication of Keynes's theories by the self-styled 'Neo-Keynesians' who set up the inflationary chaos that make the economy unmanageable and the state virtually ungovernable by 1975. The new theory of 'rational markets' that has now become the impenetrable dogma of the Econocracy [as explained in earlier blogs] was the intellectual justification for the rush to deregulation, denationalisation and diminution of government which became central to her politics. That there was a powerful and developing academic community supporting her actions was enough for the Iron Lady, who was not herself an intellectual giant. She had tremendous qualities of drive, determination and sheer willpower, which she imposed on a largely-uncomprehending and spectacularly supine Cabinet.

Deregulation and cheeseparing in government, assisted by a cynical recognition among people like many of the Tories of Kensington that the largely-migrant population of the tower blocks were not keen to attract the interest of the authorities, are the direct causes of the Grenfell tragedy. Thus it can be seen as a direct outcome of the Thatcherite implementation of the daft dogma that also gave us the crash and the systematic weakening of the bonds of British society through the implementation of Osbornian 'austerity' in combination with the mania for 'deregulation' and cheapness in public services and amenities.

This disaster has come on Mrs May's watch, and her failure to comprehend it has been seen by the entire nation. The at-least-equally comprehensive failure by the Borough Council has been less prominently noticed by the media because of the ability to blame the government, and - above all - its head. Even if Mrs May displayed any comprehension of the risks that attach to Brexit, her failure for several days to face up to the Grenfell Tower situation has shown her unfit for office. As this tragedy has even driven the Brexit talks off the front pages for several days it has made it ever more inevitable that the intellectual and empathic resources in Downing Street are not up to scratch.

So now the search is on for a new Prime Minister. In Tory minds, it has to be a Tory: the party dare not face an election. Boris, as the papers say in setting him aside as 'too risky', "is Boris". Philip Hammond, a dull fish if ever there was one, seems to be emerging as the favourite; but he could turn out OK.

Anthony Eden was seen as a golden boy in the nineteen-thirties, and was Conservative 'heir apparent' to Churchill from 1940 for over a dozen years before he finally became a disastrous Prime Minister who was carted off to the Caribbean after a 'breakdown'. The Earl of Home was almost competent, when the nation faced  Macmillan's choice of a successor. John Major was constantly harassed; but he won a general election convincingly and was later chosen chosen by the royal family to serve as Trustee for the inheritance of Princess Diana's sons: probably the biggest vote of confidence a Prime Minister can get. Major was a success; May is a failure.For four decades Thatcher been seen [at least, on her own side] as a success: how bizarre is that? We are just beginning to realise.

So whether the Tories next opt for Hammond or Gove or Rudd or Johnson [or any of the others who are mentioned in today's papers], the fitness of that person for the office will only become apparent in the event.

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