Handbags and Handshakes

thatcher-graffiti-428x570By Mike Small

The idea that £15 million is to be raised for a Thatcher Museum is a perverse one when the whole of Britain today is a memorial to Thatcherism and her vindictive ideology. With Allan Massie smelling blood in the air and worrying about “harrying the great estates” we seem to be hovering somewhere between Downtown and the Wolf of Wall Street.

‘Wolf Street’ as the exposé today informs us that HSBC helped their wealthiest clients hide money and evade taxes on an industrial scale.

It’s just the latest in a series of ‘exposés’ about the banking industry, an unchanging rota of stories about endemic corruption and wholesale theft from the public to the private realm that we’ve now become completely inured to.

HSBC was led during the period covered in the files released today by Stephen (now Lord) Green – who served as the global bank’s chief executive, then group chairman until 2010. The amount of money involved relates to accounts holding almost $120bn (£78bn) of assets and 7000 British clients. Not only did HMRC take no action against HSBC’s mass tax dodging, but David Cameron made Green a government minister. Worse still, the man who did the deal that gave HSBC immunity went from HMRC to work for HSBC according to the Tax Research UK.

This at a time when 40% of British families are reported to be ‘too poor to play a part in society’.

We shouldn’t pretend that this is anything other than standard banking practice not some kid of weird aberration. The fact that he was made a Lord shows you the buckle that fastens the new rich to the old order.

Not all of the rich is exempt from the law.

The fear in the air amongst the Dukes and Viscounts is palpable, even if the modern-day bankers and numinous Robber-Barons have little to worry from regulation or even (at the most basic level) being required to abide by tax law.

You can hide money but you can’t hide land.

Certainly the poor 10th Duke of Buccleuch is rattled. He’s spoken of his “absolute dismay” about the SNP’s land reform plans:

“I can understand people who have a deep-down visceral dislike of others who own large amounts of land. All I can do is try to make a case for our stewardship of it as being good and responsive to the best interests of the community. There always been an umbilical cord almost linking these great houses with the land around them. Within a generation or two it will become increasingly difficult to look after them.”

Would it be unhelpfully obvious to note that umbilical cord’s serve a useful function, then need to be severed?

His neighbour in the borders, rugby-corresepondent and Daily Mail writer Allan Massie, explained that “lack of respect for property rights is characteristic of all socialist regimes” and that “It is private spite dressed up as public interest.”

He seems to have confused Nicola Sturgeon with Nicolae Ceaușescu.

This is Downtown Britain, signposted ‘Welcome to Yesterday’.

IRON-LADY-ONLINE-PURSE-ART-03The idea that this enshrined privilege is some kind of guarantor of good management or ‘stewardship’ of employment in the area has no foundation in fact and ties us to a feudal set of relations. It’s part of Memorial Britain, a bizarre backward-facing dump where the aristocracy still rule cocooned in Barbour, mini-celebrities like Spencer and Co. in their ‘structured reality’ tv shows.

The myth that Thatcher was a radical reforming PM overseeing some kind of populist shake-down is shattered by the enduring institutions of the British aristocracy.

Though she was deeply unpopular at the end the Thatcher Museum of Handbags is a sign that she is resurrected in death, her ideas having become mainstream even if she is vilified in pockets of  British society. David Cameron said yesterday he was:  “Delighted that young people will be able to come to the Thatcher Centre and learn about her achievements, and ensure her legacy lives on.”

It does.

Today, a besieged elite rules under fire from allegations of extreme decadence and moral collapse, hiding behind a veneer or secrecy and snooping.

Her Home Secretary, Leon Brittan was buried in an unmarked grave.

It’s a country breaking (or broken) into five parts where the politics of the far-right has been allowed to fester into the mainstream. Tebbit’s Cricket Test is still in play.

Even Labour’s meek attempts to protest about the deluge of cash sloshing about the Super Rich and exiting  Britain are testimony to Thatcher’s legacy.

Not just Britain’s business leaders but ex-Blairite ministers like Alan Milburn and Alan Hutton have been turning on Ed Miliband and Andy Burnham for even their most modest attempts to halt NHS ‘reform’.

Seamus Milne reports that ‘Hutton has glided through the revolving doors from defence to the nuclear industry’ – while Milburn has as ‘made a fortune out of private health companies moving into the NHS‘.

He’s worked as a consultant to Bridgepoint Capital, a venture capital firm which has been heavily involved in financing private health care companies moving into the NHS, including Alliance Medical, Match Group, Medica and the Robinia Care Group, as well as Pepsi and Lloyds Pharmacy.

He’s on the Labour leader Ed Miliband’s strategy team for the next general election.

What else should be in the Thatcher Museum?

The values of compassion could form a special exhibit with the effects of mass unemployment, the growth of obscene wealth and perhaps a tableaux of closed industries and broken communities forming the entrance before being welcomed by a wax effigy of Tony Blair, the oleaginous heir apparent.

The ideas of a mixed economy, where public and private ownership would be considered where most appropriate, that’s certainly a museum piece now, along with the welfare state and the publicly owned NHS, affordable housing and free education in England.

Values and the institutions that upheld them could be on display with each floor in a descending catacombs dedicated to  a different part of British public life, destroyed, sold off or given away, starting with BP (1979), then followed with British Aerospace (1981), British Telecom ( 1985), British Gas (1987), Water (1989), British Steel and Rail (1984) and on and on.

The great myth of Thatcherism and the 1980s as a populist cultural revolution that allowed thrusting go-getting types to get on and blew away the musty established order is a captivating one, but completely untrue.
Clubbable Britain is still centred around London as the epicentre of elite power and enshrined wealth.  This is about ‘ultra privilege’.
Per head, there are more so-called ultra-high net-worth individuals (UHNWI) in London than anywhere else on the planet. ‘Ultras’ are defined as people with $30m (£21m) or more in assets apart from their main home. Estate agents Knight Frank recently reported that 4,224 “Ultra” families were living in London, with the number expected to reach 5,000 by 2024.
The attraction we’re told is ‘not just London’s history, nightlife or its convenient time zone; it is Britain’s lax tax regime.’
Luckily as the world’s oligarchs and playboys of the 1% gather, old-order bodies like Debrett’s can keep them on the straight-and-narrow. No need for any tricky etiquette faux-pas with them on the case. For those not clear on how to do the most simple tasks, like shaking hands, they are ready.
index22Debrette’s Code has it laid out:
“Handshakes are brief, and should preferably be accompanied with direct eye contact. Do not complicate the greeting with other forms of touching – hands on the back, double-handed handshakes etc. Britain is still a comparatively non-tactile society.”
Our political leaders have become corporate spokesmen of this non-tactile society disfigured by inequality but celebratory and unapologetic in its bourgeois splendour.
Not that this is purely a Thatcherite legacy or a British-only phenomenon.
As Danny Dorling has noted:
“In spring this year, Oxfam revealed that some 85 of the world’s richest people now had as much wealth as the poorest half of all humanity. A few weeks later, Forbes magazine updated that estimate to just 67 people. Then, within days, they corrected that estimate on their website to 66 people, so fast was the wealth of the multi-billionaires rising in the world during early 2014. “
The Thatcher museum should be a compulsory must-see school trip for all British kids.
It will explain how this bloated decadent society emerged through the veneration of greed and the cultivation of scorn. Where the seeds of UKIP’s anti-European xenophobia were first sown and where the germ of the idea to ‘outsource’ £1 billion of NHS contracts, as announced last month, has its origins. It is indeed ‘private spite dressed up as public interest.”


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34 replies

  1. Great Post. I think everyone need to visit and learn something from her

  2. Great article. Just learned something new

  3. Jim Murphy is planning a Blair Museum.

  4. She didn’t make Britain great, she just sold most of it to companies based in europe. She was a polarising figure in the UK. Some loved her, the rest wouldn’t piss on her to put her out if she was on fire. For the majority of Scots, she will always be “that woman”.

    For me growing up in the 70’s and 80’s – I despised the very ground she walked on.

    That they keep trying to get folk to give this fly blown corpse a sloppy kiss, doesn’t surprise me. It makes me angry. But what the likes of Cameron have done to the UK, makes me angrier.

    Team Evil made us pay for a museum for their false idol? Typical – more reason to keep not voting for them.

    I await the new concern troll we have to come tell us that it wasn’t that bad.

  5. One think you missed out was that David Cameron’s father was a very senior manager at HSBC and was supposedly in charge of off shore operations.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2133064/David-Camerons-family-fortune-tax-dodging-offshore-investment-funds.html

    There are yards of connection with HSBC and David Cameron’s family.

  6. The museum should contain a wax effigy of Thatcher (spit) dressed as Dick Turpin, or a reverse Robin Hood; stealing from the poor and giving to the rich.

    • No, changed my mind, it should never be built.

    • Wasn’t it fun to see Lord Green scuttling down the road like a scally rogue-trader, pursued by the BBC Horizon reporter? How do people like that get into positions of power?
      Yes, I agree that Thatcherism is continuing today with a vengeance, where people with unmerited wealth end up owning everything to add to their unspendable piles like the misers of yore. The trouble is that many of them end up in positions of power to enable them to divert even more of the country’s wealth in their direction.
      It seems that tax-evasion is a noble activity, punishable by a slap on the wrist if the tax is repaid. To me, this crime is embezzlement and should carry a jail sentence.
      Yes, this is the opposite of the Robin Hood effect. They rob the poor to enrich the already rich. Take the example of poverty wages augmenting dividends to shareholders being subsidised by our taxes by way of working tax credit, or the selling off cheaply to the cash-rich of nationalised industries that the public has maintained for years. I don’t remember receiving a penny for my share of Royal Mail – or any of the other privatisations for that matter. Then there is the rip-off o PPP and PFI, where the public purse pays out for an eternity to wealthy consortia for the building of schools and hospitals.
      All the unionist parties maintain that we need the rich in this country for investment and, by the trickle-down effect, we will all be rich. It hasn’t happened in the 76 years I’ve been on the planet.
      I notice that the BBC has gone extremely quiet on the subject of Swiss HSBC and Lord Green since the initial Horizon report. BBC Radio Scotland said not a word on GMS the morning after. Has word come down from the Westminster village that some of its citizens could be mentioned?
      Maybe they’ll realise that, if too much is taken out of the economy, nobody will have money to spend and their shareholdings will be worthless.

  7. If the Duke of Buccleuch is so great at managing his estate and thinks no-one could do better he can consider applying for the post if he is forced to sell either because of legislation related to community rights to buy or through the break-up into smaller units. It hardly smacks of envy when one is trying to right the ‘mistakes’ of history but it certainly smacks of greed when the aristocracy wish to hold on to what their ancestors got by either sucking up to monarchy or by less than ethical means (see the book The poor have no lawyers for plenty of examples) rather than putting the land they hold title to to the best use possible (and that in most cases isn’t grouse moors and hunting estates). It also seems a bit rich (sorry about the pun) when those bleating about possible future legislation often have their wealth in overseas tax havens rather than contributing towards the society they are (ostensibly) a part of.

  8. Why visit and embellish that creature to our future generations. We shall tell them the way it was and the damage that she and her kind poured over ordinairy peoples lives. We must write the history NOT them.

  9. At a time when public services are cash-strapped and actual cultural and community centres like museums and libraries are under threat of closure, I can’t think of many things that would represent the arrogance of our Etonian overlords than Cameron’s waving through of £15m of public money on this.

    There’s a quite frankly disturbing oedipal complex amongst this lot, and a sarcophagus to their dear old mater is an inevitable last wish ahead of their ejection from government.

  10. Indeed, and labour continued the tax dodging tradition where Gordon would ‘magic’ away investigations by HMRC on tax avoidance by large companies. It was about making the right phone call.

  11. It’s a snip at £15 million. We need something to remind future legislators how not to do it. Show the miners’ strike, the nasty underhand dealings surrounding privatisation, the fact that two-thirds of the British population didn’t want the things she was doing, the huge rise in inequality, the trashing of rent control and sell-off of social housing and more and more besides…..

  12. “I’m back… and you knew I was coming. On my way here I passed a cinema with the sign ‘The Mummy Returns’.”
    ― Margaret Thatcher
    Chilling words, except it’s not a cinema but a museum to honour the beast ….

  13. Reblogged this on julie ann thomason and commented:
    You couldn’t make it up. we’re all in it together in austerity Britain yet David Cameron & Co have found £15 million from the public purse to build a museum in honour of Margaret thatcher, Informative article and comments well worth taking a look as well.

  14. Thatcher belonged in a museum from day one.
    The myth that she was proposing revolutionary new policies to inflict on the UK turned out to be just more Victorian English “values” where the rich get richer and the poor….well…who cares!
    Thanks Mike…great article.

  15. The SNP would be making Thatcher proud by handing £625,000 per industrial wind turbine to rich landowners for doing nothing whilst producing next to nothing. All part of Labours other £1.3 Trillion we don’t hear a thing about in the news or on this website for some reason. The ROC subsidy figure being around ten times that amount to import the highly wasteful 25% efficient fuel poverty inducing (8% of £1400 per household bill annual stealth tax, higher than the poll tax? Certain to last a whole lot longer) to overseas energy firms, all while we could end the madness by using hydrogen created using Glasgow University’s methods, or from 2% of the Sahara using solar to provide for 7 billion (possibly a combo of both) whilst desalinating water there to grow crops and feed those in more serious poverty. Give us a write up Mike, go on, or are you a secret Thatcherite?

  16. Yes it should be built. In Dracula’s Castle with all the other fuckin’ vampires.

  17. The woman was pig ignorant. She said: The problem with socialism is that it runs out of other people’s money…. She seemed to fail to understand that we live in a system of fractional reserve banking, when money is conjured up out of nothing… Or maybe she deliberately failed to understand?

  18. Its odd that we focus on the individual, Thatcher, but ignore the whole connected system that brought about privatisation and, of course, ‘Big Bang’ in 1986. World capital, through this financial concordate tied the aging and creaking financial institutions of London into the New York and Tokyo stock exchanges. This was the driver, and the banks and finance companies – the wiggits – albeit well renumerated wiggets – drove the economic and social transformation of Britain and the rest of the world forward, in there terms. ‘Thatcherism’ encapsulates, in essense, the movement from industrial to financial capital, globalisation and the welcoming in of a debt based society, core to neo-liberalism given the power dynamics it introduces, so we all find ourselves working for the banks. Thatcher was a tool, she was not the architect nor engineer of this transformation.

    • Totally agree, Thatcher was a mere tool, as was Blair/Brown and as is Cameron. Could an iScotland re-build its engineering and industrial base and be less dependent on the finance & service sectors? There have been decades of decline in Scotland’s manufacturing base. Could we reverse this? How might a political agenda for the reconstruction of Scotland’s manufacturing look?

  19. Aye, Thatchers Britain! I was one of tens of thousands of Scottish building tradesmen who during the early 1980’s took one of the many regular Saturday morning coaches to work long-term in building sites on the continent. The Scottish building trade collapsed due to Thatcher’s policies and never really recovered. Hard to get a decent tradesman now. De-industrialisation affected a lot more than steel, mines and shipyards. Lots of skilled people left Scotland and many never came back. Outmigration is the union’s main 300 year legacy and Thatcher continued that process; Scotland’s population today should be around 10m, almost double what it actually is. That’s the real price of union – a decimated population and a dissolved nation.

  20. The BEST article I have read in Scotland in many a year. Absolutely spot on Mike.
    Pity there are still so many people in politics in Scotland who are so damned stupid they are on the Right of politics and talk of their fear of the Left while GB is being robbed blind daily by these cretins. Corruption is corruption whoever is doing it. Keep writing this type of expose and wake more and more people from their slumber!

  21. My anger re Thatcher I nurse and keep it warm by remembering the thousands killed in the Falklands fiasco. With supreme cynicism she went to war to win an election: pre FW 21% behind, post war 20% ahead, while sacrificing lives for her war-party victory. Let us never forget!

  22. “Britain is still centred around London as the epicentre of…enshrined wealth….per head, there are more so-called ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNIs), in London than anywhere else on the planet”.

    This is true. But if we include all high net worth individuals (HNIs rather than just UHNIs)), we find that there are more in Edinburgh per head of population than anywhere else in the UK including London, with Scotland as a whole predicted to outstrip London and the South East by 2020.

    In short, if a relatively small number of billionaire oligarchs based in London are excluded, it seems that Scotland and not London is “the epicentre of…enshrined wealth”.

  23. Who seriously gives a toss what the dule of Buccleuch thinks, his predecessors feared the reds under the beds and thought, pre-war, that Hitler would save their estates. Why o why people look up to the likes of clapped-out aristocrats like Buccleuch, is a mystery.

    He has half the Borders for no other reason than being the descendant of a court prostitute.

  24. All land was stolen at some point. A man backed by either an army or a lawyer simply stated “this is mine”

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