Was David Cameron’s proposed reshuffle of Ian Duncan Smith his Thatcher moment of hesitation from 1982 (Thatcher’s role in plan to dismantle welfare state revealed, 28 December)? Sadly, he isn’t as strong a leader. Not to say Margaret Thatcher would not have liked to have abolished the welfare state (including the NHS), but she couldn’t have foreseen that a young man, then aged only 16, would preside with, if we are to believe it, a Thatcher-like trepidation over its dismantling 30 years later. Duncan Smith, who became MP for Chingford in 1992, has waited 20 years for the public mood to swing in favour of benefit cuts. The full story of the NHS being destroyed by stealth and privatisation, under the public radar, will have to wait another 30 years.
Dr Graham Ullathorne
• Why no surprise at the revelation that Thatcher did believe there is no such thing as society, despite subsequent denials (Editorial, 28 December) and that she was only constrained from taking more active steps to demolish the welfare state by the concerns of her cabinet about its electoral popularity. As it is, she did introduce the purchase/provider split in the NHS which began its creeping privatisation. Also, it seems to have been forgotten that Thatcher’s deregulation of the City led inexorably to the banking meltdown of recent years largely responsible for our current economic woes. A friend, who is also a senior political figure of the centre left, recently repeated his view that Thatcher was a great PM. “Great” as in someone who largely achieved her political goals. By this logic, any of history’s despots could be described , in the North Korean sense, as great leaders. State funeral? Pah!
South Petherton, Somerset
• The 1982 Treasury paper planning the destruction of the welfare state may appear to be almost “a foundation document”, but what Naomi Klein calls the Chicago School “return to uncontaminated capitalism” was being worked on long before that.
The 1947 Mont Pelerin Society set out to arrange that “business should be left alone to govern the world” and all the “evils” of a post-war attempt at a civilised society destroyed. Hayek and Friedman may not have anticipated the monstrous consequences of their plan, but the inheritors of it in Wall Street and the City of London know what they are but do not care.
Harry Shutt concludes his search for possibilities for a post-capitalist era with his description of these corporate diehards as “the perverted few who, like Hitler in his bunker in 1945, are prepared to bring down the world on top of themselves for the sake of prolonging their power to the bitter end”.
Your editorial ends by stressing the importance of finding a frame for an argument and making it again and again. Well Shutt, like Ha-Joon Chang and others, offers that frame for an argument. Let’s make it again and again.
• I was a bandsman in Gibraltar with the 1st Battalion Staffordshire Regiment at the time of the Falklands war. There was no doubt among any of the battalion members assembled in the gymnasium of Lathbury Barracks on that day in early April 1982 that Thatcher was indeed worried about Gibraltar (Report, 28 December). “To lose one colony is bad enough, to lose another would be unthinkable,” were the words the CO quoted from a letter, purportedly from the PM. The threat, while genuine we were told, was believed to come not from the Spanish government but from a “mad general” (the CO’s words, possibly the PM’s). The following weeks saw us involved in increased military-type behaviour at the expense of ceremonial duties. This meant exchanging our instruments for weapons we had no idea how to use. Although our combat role was officially as stretcher-bearers, we were positioned on the flat roof on top of the barracks’ admin buildings, ostensibly as a last line of defence. I can think only that there was an unspoken assumption that, should the enemy have to deal with the fearless forces of the regimental band, the colony would already have been lost.
Dr Martin Parker
Associate professor, College of Arts, University of Bahrain
• In the months leading up to the Falklands conflict, it was well known that UK nationals working or resident in Argentina and the Falklands were arriving back in the UK, as “trouble was brewing”. Indeed, some were distant family members, and family members of work colleagues, who I was not even aware were in those places. Now we find Thatcher only knew of the potential problems two days in advance? Where was that gem of information from? Well, are we surprised it was from Thatcher herself? Did we not have any intelligence services? Thatcher played that card to boost her fading popularity.