Letter to South China Morning Post: [407 words]:
Keith McNab is "filled with horror" that a Thatcherite might become CEO of Hong Kong. ("City does not need divisive Thatcher clone", Letters, 3 February)
I am an Australian who spent three years in Britain in the seventies. I remember the three-day work week, the chaos of incessant strikes: before she became PM. Please allow me to defend the "Iron Lady".
First, McNab says she was the "worst… prime minister in the last 100 years".
Fact: Not true. In 2004 the most extensive survey of UK prime ministers rated Thatcher fourth most effective after Attlee, Churchill and Lloyd George.
Second, he says her policies led to "mass unemployment". Fact: her shake-up led to immediate unemployment, but employment quickly returned to normal. Those employed were in better jobs than mining coal. McNab ignores the union stranglehold, the high unemployment (15%) and the crippling inflation (25%) before her tenure.
Third, he claims that selling off council housing led to a "social housing crisis". Fact: the sale of council houses to tenants ("the Right to Buy"), had been Labor Party policy. Thatcher liked and accelerated it. It was highly popular. Michael Heseltine said "no single piece of legislation has enabled the transfer of so much capital wealth from the state to the people." Yes, not enough new housing was built to replace that sold. But that was due to the Labor Party blocking the use of sale proceeds to build more public housing. Thatcher had wanted more built.
Fourth: the Poll Tax. I agree this was an own goal. It was a clear misjudgement by Maggie which she quickly corrected. It doesn't detract from her legacy.
Finally: McNab calls for a HK leader that can "unite the people". This may seem inarguable. But it's part of human nature that division is the norm. (Mao Tse-tung: "one divides into two"). That's why we have Conservative-Labor, Republican-Democrat, Liberal-Labour, man-woman, dog-cat, yin-yang, and so on. A call for "unity" sounds uncontroversial; but it's impossible. A common criticism of our government is that they're paralysed by trying, through various "consultations", to work for "unity".
Thatcher carried the following quote from President Lincoln in her handbag:
· You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.· You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.· You cannot help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer.
I would certainly be happy with a CEO of ours that hewed to those principles. Just as she did.
9 Siena One, Discovery Bay,
9308 0799City does not need divisive Thatcher clone
Mark Peaker wants to see Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor or John Tsang Chun-wah govern Hong Kong with the passion of Margaret Thatcher, and describes her as the UK's greatest post-war leader ("Thatcher took a broken UK and fixed it", January 20).
Such an outlandish statement cannot go unanswered. Thatcher is regularly voted as either the worst or the most-hated prime minister of the last 100 years and she divided the nation as never before nor since.
Her economic policies cost two million jobs and resulted in mass unemployment. Her housing policies, including selling off council houses, precipitated a social housing crisis from which the UK has never recovered. Her introduction of the poll tax resulted in some of the worst rioting ever seen in England. It was withdrawn by the next Conservative prime minister after Thatcher was forced out by her own party.
The idea that Hong Kong should have a leader in the style of Thatcher fills me with horror. More than anything, Hong Kong needs a leader who will unite the people, not divide them in the way that Thatcher did in the UK.
Keith McNab, Sai Kung