Thatcher and Consensus

Among the massive commentary that is flowing around the legacy of Margaret Thatcher what interests me most was not just her disinterest in building consensus but that it was anathema to her. ?Maybe it was part of the time as some have suggested – there were plenty of things to oppose – or that she relished conflict. ?As Anne Perkins of?The Guardian notes today: ?It is a paradox of her period in office that, while seeking to limit the scope of government, she introduced a style of command and control, top-down, centralised authority that strengthened it and has proved hard for her successors to resist. It has leaked into the way political parties are managed, so that they struggle to regenerate a spirit of local activism. Some of the most valuable institutions of civil society from the churches to the trade unions have been scarred by her attacks on collective enterprise in the public esteem.? To me, this question is still in the air. ?We assume a democratic society must be participatory but there are many examples in the US which show that we are willing to tolerate the contrary. ?Gerrymandering voting districts, elections determined by corporate funds and secrets PACs, and attempts to suppress the minority vote are accepted as part of the reality of political life. ?The Thatcherite top-down centralized “command and control” undermines the concept of an accountable electorate. ?If we can’t get our act together at the national level, perhaps it’s time to refocus on what “a spirit of local activism” could mean for the renewed life of our communities. ?Consensus matters more than ever.

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