Margaret Thatcher’s legacy – a nationalist viewpoint

Margaret Thatcher in Jerusalem, meeting former Stern Gang commander Yitzhak Shamir, Prime Minister of Israel, in 1986

Margaret Thatcher’s death on 8th April 2013 produced hours of media analysis and contrasting reactions, typified by her virtual state funeral on the one hand, and angry protests on the other.

Yet few bothered to examine one particular aspect of her political legacy. When Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative Party in February 1975, and especially when she took over as Prime Minister in May 1979, many assumed a significant shift to the right, especially on immigration. Whereas the Conservatives had largely accepted the creation of Britain’s multiracial society – with the British Nationality Act of 1948 and the arrival of the first boatload of immigrants aboard the Empire Windrush during the same year – Mrs Thatcher was seen as linked to the wing of the party that had backed Enoch Powell’s belated rebellion against multiracialism in 1968.

Enoch Powell was sacked from the Conservative shadow cabinet in 1968 for warning against britain’s racial transformation. Margaret Thatcher refused to back him and kept her job.

Party leader Edward Heath sacked Powell from the Conservative shadow cabinet for his famous speech predicting that mass non-white immigration would lead to “rivers of blood” on Britain’s streets. Mrs Thatcher had only joined the shadow cabinet the previous year, and prudently remained loyal to the leadership, but she was increasingly seen as linked to the Powellites, on both economic policy and race.  Eventually she was to promote two of Powell’s most prominent younger supporters – Nicholas Ridley and John Biffen – to her cabinets.

In the 1975 leadership race Mrs Thatcher was clearly the candidate of the party’s right-wing. Moreover her colleagues were increasingly concerned by the strong electoral showing of the National Front, some of whose results at the October 1974 general election had been very impressive (in an era which was far more dominated by the major parties than today’s politics). These general election results included 7.6% in the East London constituency of Bethnal Green & Bow; 9.4% in nearby Hackney South & Shoreditch; 7.8% in Newham South; 8.3% in Tottenham; 8.0% in Wood Green; and 6.0% in Leicester East.

During 1976 and 1977, despite the new “right-wing” Tory leader and despite its own internal problems, the NF continued to achieve several strong results in parliamentary by-elections: 6.0% in Rotherham; 6.6% in Thurrock; 7.3% in Walsall North; 5.2% in the City of London & Westminster South; 8.2% in Birmingham Stechford; and 5.7% in Birmingham Ladywood.

National Front activist Derrick Day addressing a party activity at Hoxton market in East London, alongside NF national activities organiser Martin Webster.

It was therefore no surprise when at the start of 1978 the Conservative Party began to promote an apparently hardline immigration policy, which was the very first subject to be addressed when Mrs Thatcher was interviewed on what was then the country’s best known current affairs television programme, World in Action, on 27th January 1978. This interview was to become notorious for Mrs Thatcher’s calculated use of the word “swamped”, but it is worth quoting more fully.

The interviewer referred to “threats that you may well make major cutbacks on the level of immigrants allowed into this country” and asked: “If you do get to power how severely would you cut the numbers?”

Mrs Thatcher replied:

Well now, look, let us try and start with a few figures as far as we know them, and I am the first to admit it is not easy to get clear figures from the Home Office about immigration, but there was a committee which looked at it and said that if we went on as we are then by the end of the century there would be four million people of the new Commonwealth or Pakistan here. Now, that is an awful lot and I think it means that people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture and, you know, the British character has done so much for democracy, for law and done so much throughout the world that if there is any fear that it might be swamped people are going to react and be rather hostile to those coming in.

So, if you want good race relations, you have got to allay peoples’ fears on numbers. Now, the key to this was not what Keith Speed said just a couple of weeks ago. It really was what Willie Whitelaw said at the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton, where he said we must hold out the clear prospect of an end to immigration because at the moment it is about between 45,000 and 50,000 people coming in a year. Now, I was brought up in a small town, 25,000. That would be two new towns a year and that is quite a lot. So, we do have to hold out the prospect of an end to immigration except, of course, for compassionate cases. Therefore, we have got to look at the numbers who have a right to come in. There are a number of United Kingdom passport holders—for example, in East Africa—and what Keith and his committee are trying to do is to find out exactly how we are going to do it; who must come in; how you deal with the compassionate cases, but nevertheless, holding out the prospect of an end to immigration.

Mrs Thatcher continued:

I shall not make it a major election issue but I think there is a feeling that the big political parties have not been talking about this and sometimes,you know, we are falsely accused of racial prejudice. I say “falsely accused” and that means that we do not talk about it perhaps as much as we should. In my view, that is one thing that is driving some people to the National Front. They do not agree with the objectives of the National Front, but they say that at least they are talking about some of the problems. Now, we are a big political party. If we do not want people to go to extremes, and I do not, we ourselves must talk about this problem and we must show that we are prepared to deal with it. We are a British nation with British characteristics. Every country can take some small minorities and in many ways they add to the richness and variety of this country. The moment the minority threatens to become a big one, people get frightened.

The interviewer asked: “So, some of the support that the National Front has been attracting in recent by-elections you would hope to bring back behind the Tory party?

And Mrs Thatcher replied: “Oh, very much back, certainly but I think that the National Front has, in fact, attracted more people from Labour voters than from us, but never be afraid to tackle something which people are worried about. We are not in politics to ignore peoples’ worries: we are in politics to deal with them.”

In the purely electoral sense she certainly did “deal with” the NF. Before the “swamping” interview the NF had been regularly achieving votes above 5% in parliamentary by-elections; after it they were only to manage this on one further occasion, in the racial hotspot of Lambeth Central in June 1978.

Many years later in a TV documentary, even the left-wiong Labour MP Clare Short admitted that from her “anti-racist” perspective, the “swamping” reference had ultimately proved a good thing.

I think looking back it was healthy, because there was enough ballast in the Tory party that was not going to be so vilely, crudely racist, that it was better to destroy the National Front.  I don’t know how good her motives were, but I think historically it was probably helpful.

The combination of potential NF voters being won over to Thatcher’s Tories, the Front’s own suicidal infighting, and the violence of the anti-fascist Left effectively crushed the NF at the 1979 general election, from which it was never to recover.

Yet in office Mrs Thatcher if anything accelerated the swamping process. Where she had talked in 1978 as though ending up with four million from ethnic minorities by the end of the century was a dangerous prospect to be avoided, more than a decade of Mrs Thatcher in office (followed by seven years of her Tory successor John Major) left us with an even bigger problem than this nightmare hypothesis!

The latest census shows that there are nearly 11 million residents of England and Wales whose ethnic background is something other than White British.  In Greater London alone there are 4.5 million non-White British residents, while in two inner London boroughs (Newham and Brent) the non-White British population is over 80%.

The outcome of Thatcherism was thus to compound Britain’s racial catastrophe – unsurprisingly given that her supposed concern for our country’s cultural integrity was trumped by her adherence to market ideology.  More so than any other world leader Mrs Thatcher encapsulated the triumph of liberalism, through which (as Prof. Alexander Dugin writes in his recent book The Fourth Political Theory, which I review in the current issue of Heritage and Destiny): “private property is idolised, ‘transcendentalised’, and transforms from that which a man owns to that which owns the man.”  Mrs Thatcher and her ilk affirmed that “the individual is the measure of all things”, Dugin writes, and moved towards “the abolition of any governmental, religious and social authorities who lay claim to ‘the common truth'”.

Another aspect of Mrs Thatcher that has provoked nationalist curiousity is her relationship with the Jewish community, since her parliamentary constituency throughout her House of Commons career from 1959 until her retirement in 1992 was Finchley (now Finchley & Golders Green), one of England’s most Jewish areas.

Derek Phillips, last surviving member of the Finchley Conservative selection committee who chose Margaret Thatcher as the future MP in 1958

When the Finchley seat became vacant in the spring of 1958, the local Conservative committee, in the words of Mrs Thatcher’s biographer Dr John Campbell: “had specifically ruled Jewish applicants out of consideration, since the Liberals had already selected one and there was no point competing for the Jewish vote while alienating anti-Semitic Conservatives.”

Nevertheless. according to fellow future MP Sir Dennis Walters, the outgoing Finchley MP Sir John Crowder complained that Conservative Central Office was trying to advance the candidature of Peter Goldman, head of the Conservative Research Department, as an alternative to Thatcher, forcing local Tories to choose between “a bloody Jew and a bloody woman”.

Mrs Thatcher eventually won the nomination in a run-off against a local businessman, by 46 votes to 43, and remained Finchley’s representative for the next 33 years. For obvious reasons she built close links both with the local Jewish community and with the State of Israel and Jews in general, appointing an unprecented nymber of Jews to her cabinets, including her mentor Sir Keith Joseph; Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson; Home Secretary Leon Brittan; and Trade & Industry Secretary Lord Young  as well as launching the ministerial career of Michael Howard, who in 2003 became the first observant Jew to lead a major British political party.

Yet in one respect Mrs Thatcher remained reluctant to fall into line with Zionism.  During her early 20s she would have been well aware of the murderous Zionist terror campaign against British forces in Palestine, and when one of the most notorious terrorists – Menachem Begin of the Irgun – became Prime Minister of Israel from 1977 to 1983 – Mrs Thatcher was at first reluctant to meet him and shake his hand.

Though famous for her refusal to “U-turn”, Mrs Thatcher was persuaded to overcome her initial reluctance to shake the hand of Menachem Begin, the Jewish terrorist leader who became Prime Minister of Israel.

Conservative journalist and ex-MP Matthew Parris wrote in The Times after Mrs Thatcher’s death:

I was in the Conservative Research Department when our new leader announced that she would not shake the hand of the Israeli prime minister, Menachem Begin, who was to visit Britain, because he was an ex-terrorist. Anyone who had tried to persuade her that terrorism was sometimes right would have talked to a brick wall; but bridle as she did at the advice that whatever her opinions she should not make a scene over Begin – lest she be called too hot-headed to run a foreign policy – she took the advice. She shook his hand.

In February 1983 Mrs Thatcher’s disgust at Irgun terrorism was again apparent when Begin sought to appoint his former lieutenant Eliahu Lankin as Israeli Ambassador to Great Britain.  During 1944-5 Lankin had been imprisoned by the British for his terrorist activities but succeeded in escaping and by early 1947 had become the Irgun commander in Europe, based in Paris and liasing with the organisation’s covert allies in French military intelligence.  During the summer of 1948 he commanded the Altalena, a ship carrying arms for the Irgun which on arriving off the Palestine coast was famously attacked by the rival paramilitary group Haganah.

Lankin had been serving as Israeli Ambassador to South Africa when, following the assassination attempt which left London Ambassador Shlomo Argov in a coma, Begin attempted to send him to the Court of St James.

Eliahu Lankin, the Irgun terrorist whose appointment as Ambassador to London was successfully resisted by Margaret Thatcher.

Thatcher was outraged – since she was then involved in a brutal war against IRA terrorists, she had no intention of welcoming an ex-terrorist as Israel ambassador. Foreign Secretary Francis Pym suggested a diplomatic solution to avoid embarrassment all round. The chief of Mrs Thatcher’s Downing Street political office, prominent Jewish businessman David Wolfson (now Lord Wolfson of Sunningdale) was despatched to Jerusalem, where he held a secret meeting with Begin, warning that the choice of Lankin would damage Anglo-Jewish relations.

Woilfson was a clever choice, since his uncle Sir Isaac Wolfson had been one of the leaders of an influential Zionist cabal who had channelled funds for illegal Zionist arms purchases during the 1940s and – though at first closer to Begin’s political rivals – had helped smooth over differences within the Zionist camp thirty years later and ease Begin’s arrival as the first “right-wing” Israeli premier. Begin duly withdrew Lankin’s nomination, and Mrs Thatcher’s relationship with Israel was restored to what remained a firm footing.

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