Parables for Socialists 10
Paddy Dollard reported from the 1985 Tory Party conference.
[During the great miners strike of 1984-5, the Labour Party leaders threw their weight against the miners. Party leader, Neil Kinnock (who has now, in the natural course of these things, become Lord Kinnock) wind-bagged and waffled platitudes and generalities against violence. He did not denounce the police for breaking miners’ heads or for acting like soldiers of occupation in some of the mining villages. He focused most of his fire against the Labour left. When the Militant Tendency (Now the Socialist Party and Socialist Appeal) who led the Liverpool Council, behaved idiotically, sending a fleet of taxis around Liverpool with redundancy notices for the Council's workers, Kinock seized the chance and denunced them — and the serious Labour Party left — for 'playing politics with people's livelihoods'. The honest left wing M P, Eric Heffer, stormed off the platform in protest at one of Kinnock's speeches. Ian MacGregor was Chairman of the National Coal Board, and leader of their side in the biggest industrial battle in Britain for 60 years.]
THEY SAID she was past it. The polls say her party can't win the next election. Newspapers that have fawned on her for years have openly speculated about how long Mrs. Thatcher could continue before the party replaced her.
But they have all been proved wrong. Margaret Thatcher grew by a head at this year's Tory party conference.
In an astounding speech which led right wing Tory Party Chair Norman Tebbit to storm off the platform in protest, she turned on the 'fascist' right wing of her own party and tore them apart. She stood up for the decent caring Tory rank and file in the shires and thereby gave them the courage to stand up for themselves.
Mrs. Thatcher has emerged as a new woman. She's still tough but Maggie now has a new tender and caring ingredient to her persona.
The Tebbit-MacGregor faction of the Tory Party tried to move a composite motion proposing that the jailed miners should be left to the normal review procedures of the courts, that the sacked miners should remain sacked, and that the illegal action taken by the government to penalise local councils should be left unpunished and uncorrected, its victims unrecompensed.
Stung to the quick by the sheer injustice of it all, Mrs. Thatcher, who has long been thought to be a prisoner of the Tebbit-MacGregor faction, rose in magnificent form and met them head on. They hadn't a chance.
She bitterly denounced the "divisive and disruptive" class justice of the MacGregor-Tebbit Tendency—what she memorably described as "the Trotskyist-Toryism of tough guy Tebbit" and its vote-losing advocates of a class struggle doctrine alien to the Conservative Party
She called them "the mindless, money-mad neo-Marxist militant monetarists on the fringe of this great party", "these MacGregorite gorgons of a never-before-seen Conservatism, vicious of visage, vile, vindictive and violent, comatose of conscience. A Conservatism faced with electoral elimination if it does not change".
The wonderful phrases rang on and on and on in a great torrent. Wllie Whitelaw, in the Chair, interrupted Mrs. Thatcher's speech to describe her as a "historic masterpiece". He said she was in with a chance for a Nobel Prize, if not for peace then for literature.
She rounded on those who have illegally penaised councils and told them to stop breaking the law. She told the hard right wing law-and order brigade not to be stupid: it was right-wing policy that had created the riots of mainly young black people in Tottenham and Brixton.
The gist of what she said was this:
"What kind of people do you think we Conservatives are? What kind of a party do you think this party is—the once great party, which has shaped the Britain we grew up in and gave us everything we have had in life.
"Some of you think this party is a party of the class struggle! " she said, glaring at National Coal Board Chairman and leader of the drive to smash the National Union of Mineworkers, lan MacGregor, who sat near the exit at the back of the hall, looking shifty and cowardly at the same time.
"Well you are WR-O-NG! Of course we know that class struggle sometimes breaks out, and we recognise the class struggle as a fact of life.
"But the true democratic Tory never foments, stimulates, prosecutes or fights the class struggle. We believe — she teased out the syllables of the word for emphasis — in one na-tion—pa-ssion-ate-ly".
Ignoring the angry chorus of "Liar! liar!" from the nasty trash-novelist spiv Jeffrey Archer, a large section of the audience rose to its feet at this point, led by the Director-General of the CBI. Some of them spat at those who didn't rise. Scuffles broke out.
Central to everything Mrs. Thatcher said was the need to win the next election. "I have a v-i-s-ion", she said, inspired and inspiring.
Denouncing the politics, which led to the savage police violence against picketing miners and the waste of the inner cities, she astonished delegates by the sheer breadth and audacity of her non-partisanship and statesmanship. She talked bitterly, glaring at people in the hall, of the casualties of Tory Party policy “they are to be found among the people whose jobs and services have been lost and social services beaten down.
“Elections are won in years, not weeks. Do you think people will so easily forget what has been done to them in the last six years?
“They wont easily forgive or forget the Tebbit Tsrotskyists whose politics over six years have led to the grotesque chaos of Tottenham and Brixton.
Decent bedrock people of the Tory Party, she said, don’t want to play politics with people’s homes and jobs.
“We must win the next election. Some of you think that’s class treachery, huh?, she sneered like Humphrey Bogard, raising herself to her maximum height in a moving way that made you forget how small she really is.
“Some of you think that this party is no longer the party of Churchill and Gaitskell and Macmillan and er, dare I say it, Mr. Chairman, of Edward Heath. But let me say this to you: There are some of us left in this once-great party who will fight and fight and fight again to save the party we love.
"Tebbit and MacGregor want to punish criminal miners? Then prosecute the police too! Dismiss the Chief Constables! Make a full investigation of their tactics! A free pardon for jailed miners!" shouted Mrs. Thatcher, as half the Tory conference rose to applaud her. She knew how to talk their language.
"And what about the sacked miners?" asked Mrs Thatcher. "The overwhelming majority of those sacked committed no crime except that they had the guts to fight back against industrial autocracy and tyranny backed up on the picket line by the bully-boy tactics of a semi-militarised national police force which our government organised and put at the service of MacGregor.
"Only think, Mr. Chairman what a falling-off was there in that single act of creating a national police force, what a grotesque departure was that from all that our party has worked for over 3000 years of unbroken British history.
"Those miners were fighting back against nationally-organised brutality deployed wholesale to back up alien, American gangster style methods of industrial relations. They were fighting for industrial democracy. Yes, Mr. Chairman, for de-mocra-cy. Resisting the brutal destruction of mining communities and the economic devastation of whole areas of our wonderful country by an autocratic power over which they had no control Mr. Chairman, those miners and their wives were exercising their God-given inalienable rights of free-born British men and women to resist tyranny.
"To resist", she said with a pause. "To resist the lawless economic tyranny of a MacGregor over the miners even if that tyranny is backed up by the forms of legality which, to its eternal disgrace, this democratic party of ours gives to industrial dictatorship.
"You say the law should be impartial and that the law has spoken already and cannot be contradicted? Those who get the worst of the law in the strike should suffer the forfeit?
"But that is to deeply undermine the rule of law by branding it irretrievably as class law. It is not to defend the idea of impartial law—it is to destroy the belief of large parts of out population in the existence of impartial law and in the ideal of impartial law. She paused and turned to Douglas Hurd, the Humphrey Bogard sneer in place again. "Where have you been lately, Hurd? Dixon of Dock Green is dead. Everyone knows that the police lie through their teeth in court, routinely".
Part of the conference shuffled uneasily, and there were a few shouts of "Shame" and "Pinko liberal".
"You want this Tory government to pick up the tab for MacGregor and the Chief Constables" she said, "to endorse crying injustice, to turn ourselves into fawning curs around brutal class warriors. Well, this democratic party of ours has more self-respect than that.
Her face became cold with indignation. "Too many people in this party think that the Tory Party is a bosses' party and I want to tell them they have got the wrong idea entirely— the wrong idea entirely", she repeated for emphasis.
"There must be no Tory class warriors. Even if we are being battered into the ground we will go down rather than fight back.
"That's always been the Tory way: that's what is so unforgivable about the Chief Constables. They wouldn't let the miners stop the scabs. They fought back using all the necessary physical power of the police and ignoring the law when expedient".
Thatcher's ovation was long and stormy, though many delegates went home that evening bewildered. A few muttered, dazed: "Is this the Tory Party, our Tory Party? What party does she think she is in?"
The newspapers the following morning announced that Mrs. Thatcher had been committed a hospital by Dennis Thatcher, suffering from "profound nervous exhaustion".
Socialist Organiser 247, 10-10-85