Thatcher's Legacy Is a War of Attrition Between Self Interest and Common Good

Thatcher's real legacy is that self-interest has become the driving force, socially and economically, for everyone regardless of whether they are on the left, the right or that irritating bit in the middle.

The tributes and tirades following the death of Margaret Thatcher are a dispiriting reminder of how little has changed in the 25 years since the Best-Prime-Minister-Ever/Worst-Leader-In-History was in office.

Thatcher's real legacy is that self-interest has become the driving force, socially and economically, for everyone regardless of whether they are on the left, the right or that irritating bit in the middle.

There is a widespread sense of entitlement throughout our society. Whether it's foreign holidays or free healthcare, people feel that they should be able to get what they want and are aghast at anyone who tries to stop them.

Across the board there is also an unwillingness to compromise. The social and mainstream media sites are crawling with keyboard warriors, outraged at the cosy catastrophes of consumer capitalism, yet only to happy to take all the good things it has brought them. And let's be honest, it has brought us all a lot of good things. Like those who take to the airwaves to have their say, invariably armed with some of the facts, they are usually very good at explaining what's wrong - 'Reviewers' - but far less cogent when it comes to recommending any practical solutions - 'Creatives'.

It is easy for the army of Reviewers to take to the moral high-ground if energy prices rise, corporation tax is avoided, or public spending is cut, and shout their indignation via one of the myriad of media channels at their disposal. Creatives are far fewer in number and seldom heard. And woe betide any Creative who suggests that progress in either direction could be made through compromise by - say - limiting access to Sky TV, denying consumers the right to a mobile phone upgrade or by introducing a tax on sugar.

Me? I'd half corporation tax and double public spending. (That last sentence should annoy and please everyone in equal measure, but I really would).

If we are happy to live with the contradictions of our society - and most of us are - then we must also accept that we are complicit in the continuation of its problems. the result is we choose to consider every issue insolation, never the bigger picture, and are invited to do so by the media. On cue, we boo and hiss when fuel bills increase, but cheer when plans to build nuclear power stations or wind farms are canned, never stopping to consider that the two might be connected.

Thatcher herself was comfortable with contradictions. After all, it was under her aegis that the notional benefits culture, which her party is now so flamboyantly claiming to address, was actually established. Let's remember that, "put them on benefits", was famously her response to home secretary Willie Whitelaw, when he asked what she proposed he should to with the all these people she was putting out of work.

Likewise the Baroness's self-proclaimed heir David Cameron is forever telling us that debt is a bad thing, but was it not Margaret herself who encouraged us all to get into debt, in order that we might, one day, 'enjoy' ownership of a large illiquid asset with four walls and a roof?

The idea that debt is intrinsically a bad thing is, to put it bluntly, b*llocks. All that matters is your ability to service the debt. When I was a 21-year-old student back in the day, I had a £200 overdraft, but it might have been £2,000,000 for all the chance I had of paying it back. Ten years later, I had taken out a mortgage and owed the bank an actual fortune, but I also had a decent job, could afford the repayments and was immeasurably better off as a result. I've run several companies and the more successful each one became, the greater its fixed costs - or debt - increased.

Surely the lack of progress that's been made towards a happier society is the real issue, not whether to give her a state funeral. (She won't be having one, but if it concerns you then why not do what I plan to do and take no notice).

Anyone thinking about entering government would do well to remember that essentially, the UK public only wants two things: a Scandinavian-style welfare and benefits system and a US-style taxation system. That's all. Deliver on both of those and you'll be in office forever.

Project Sunshine: How The Sun Can Help Science to Fuel and Feed The World by Steve McKevitt and Tony Ryan is published by Icon Books, priced £16.99.

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