Forget arming police with Tasers. There’s only one thing we really need to know about Priti Patel.

Priti Patel
Ed Sykes

On 1 October, home secretary Priti Patel revealed plans which could see the government arm up to 60% of police officers with Tasers. She also promised to “end the free movement of people once and for all”. But amid all these pledges, there’s only one thing we really need to know about Patel’s ideology: she’s about as proud a Thatcherite as you’ll find in 2019.

With Team Johnson, Thatcherism is back in business

Patel openly refers to herself as a “Thatcherite”. And for months, her banner on Twitter has been a picture of Margaret Thatcher and US right-winger Ronald Reagan:

Priti Patel's Twitter banner showing Reagan and Thatcher

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Thatcher decimated working-class communities and workers’ rights throughout Britain. That’s why many communities across the country celebrated when she died. Because she left unemployment, destruction, and poverty in her wake.

In May, Patel wrote in The House Magazine about “Thatcher’s message of hope”, suggesting it was “the risk-takers, the entrepreneurs, who alone create the wealth”. And Patel is very much part of a rightward shift in Britain’s government. Because Boris Johnson has formed a hard-right government in Thatcher’s image, with critics calling him an “ardent Thatcherite” and even “worse than Thatcher”.

As Tribune wrote in July, Patel has “nostalgia for the very worst of the Thatcher era”. And a key sign of this was that she co-authored “the 2012 book Britannia Unchained”. As Tribune explained, this aimed to shift the Conservative-led government “sharply to the right, and ‘unchain’ Britain from regulations, rules and social spending”. For the book’s co-authors, Britain was suffering from a “diminished work ethic and a culture of excuses”. They called for the cutting of benefits, which they said “reward laziness”. And Patel “called for deep cuts in a “large bloated public sector” and the “generous welfare state” which was full of “perks” that were “lavished” on the population”.

Patel also left Theresa May’s government in disgrace after failing to disclose numerous meetings with Israeli officials before asking for aid for the state’s army.

Remember Thatcher (and Reagan)?

As ROAR magazine wrote in 2016, Thatcher “deregulated the financial sector with a religious ferocity”; she assaulted the labour movement and tore the British welfare state apart like no one ever had before; and people hated her not just for her policies but because of “the ugly face she put on them”, personifying “the naked logic of class warfare operating underneath the technocratic surface of her neoliberal project”.

Neoliberalism (i.e. austerity, privatising anything public, and giving companies total freedom to do what they want) has brought misery to ordinary people around the world for decades. And even its main backer has admitted that it’s boosted inequality. Under this dominant form of capitalism, money is god; and equality is a dirty word.

Thatcher also befriended Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and believed there was no alternative to apartheid rule in South Africa – saying Nelson Mandela’s ANC was just a “typical terrorist organisation”.

Racist Ronald Reagan, meanwhile, was the US version of Thatcher. He waged war on the left throughout the world. And in doing so, his government backed vicious terrorist regimes and the killing of tens of thousands of civilians. He also supported apartheid South Africa.

Our home secretary: a proud Thatcherite

In July, the Guardian wrote that Patel “has voted for a stricter asylum system, stronger enforcement of immigration rules, and against banning the detention of pregnant women in immigration jails”. It continued by stressing that:

She backed the key components of Theresa May’s hostile environment policies, presented in the immigration bills of 2014 and 2016, such as rent, work and bank account checks, all of which led to members of the Windrush generation being wrongfully told they had no lawful right to live and work in the UK.

And it quoted Clare Collier from human rights group Liberty as saying:

Priti Patel is a politician with a consistent record of voting against basic human rights protections.

Patel’s government is also continuing to punish Julian Assange for revealing the dirty secrets of the rich and powerful:

In short, Patel is a proud Thatcherite. And that means she’s a class warrior – a defender of the rich and an opponent of ordinary people. Conference pledges aside, that’s all we really need to know about her and her government.

Featured image via Press Association

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    1. There is an important difference between Priti Patel and Margaret Thatcher.

      Mrs Thatcher, and her quite likeable chum Ronald Reagan, were beguiled into neo-liberalism by sweet-talking economists (especially Hayek) in conjunction with astute, yet amoral, businessmen drawn from banking and financial services who knew exactly how they and their kind would benefit from deregulation and adoption of other neo-liberal doctrine. It ought be acknowledged that deregulation and putting public utilities, portrayed as inefficient and slothful, under the same discipline as the private sector held attraction to many people at the time. I too was gulled by the idea that ownership of public utilities is irrelevant so long as watchdogs kept them to the straight and narrow.

      Some of Mrs Thatcher’s policies have been portrayed as electoral bribery. Notable was discounted sale of council houses/flats to tenants. I am not convinced she was that duplicitous. She appears genuinely to have believed her policies necessary for revitalising the British economy. Her introduction of the Community Charge (aka a ‘poll tax’ by the ignorant and the wilfully obstructive), which I then and now enthusiastically endorse, demonstrated vision and underlying belief in fairness. Her implementation of ‘squeezing out the slack’ from public services was, I suggest, well motivated; unfortunately her advisers had not grasped how people in entrenched positions would regard the squeeze as threat rather than opportunity.

      Admittedly, long before Mrs Thatcher left office it was apparent that the neo-liberal regimen (not called such in public at that time) bode disaster to come. However, the baton was taken forward by all subsequent governments (with relish by the egregious Blair in his perverted version of Labour). We are now in the position wherein only a minority of members of the Commons remember, as adults at the time, the mixed economy and regulated markets before imposition of neo-liberalism; for many, that is how is how economies customarily are run.

      Perhaps Priti Patel merits praise for modelling herself on aspects of Mrs Thatcher’s character just as might Boris Johnson in seeking to emulate Winston Churchill. Unfortunately, neither is up to that mark; indeed neither is aware of the nature of the true mark.

      Mrs Thatcher deserves benefit of the doubt over her motivations. So too does Churchill despite antipathy in some quarters to the days of Empire.

      Priti Patel (and the rest of the Cabinet) are unable on basis of misplaced good intentions to claim moral redemption for their actions. She knows precisely what the effects of decades of neo-liberal economics have been on the UK and broader world. She is aware of being a beneficiary from descent into Ayn Rand dystopia. Her awareness is false. In the short term she and her chums shall indeed make hay while the sun shines. Later cloud shall gather and this silly woman, if not her then her descendants, shall rue lack of insight into the true economic structure of the world and where power lies. Conservative (and Blairite) politicians are playthings of powers they do not comprehend. They are led into false belief of social parity and friendship with their ‘betters’.

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