I wrote the following blog on an aircraft in the morning of 17th April 2013. I’ve held back on it’s posting as a mark of respect to both the family of the late Baroness Thatcher and to those who died and were critically injured in the Boston Marathon atrocity.
17th April 2013 will, I’m sure, be defined as a day that will divide a nation. In the years to come, just as in the past, Baroness Thatcher will continue to be a true ‘Marmite’ leader. I dislike using brands as descriptors in the main, however I find that politics is currently full of ‘product placement’, with David Cameron recently using the much overused ‘Ronseal – does what it says on the tin’ metaphor. I really do feel that once politicians need to stoop to advertising strap lines to describe their policies, we’re in trouble!
Anyway, back to possibly the best blog in the world..If only Carlsberg wrote blogs… Et al!
So today, the Nation buries Thatcher. The media storm, now with added ‘catastophisation’ (sic) following the atrocities in Boston is following the every move of the casket from it’s undercroft temporary rest to her final resting place.
A week on from my last musings on the subject, I still find myself writing and thinking in a balanced way. Whilst Maggie’s Clause 28 /Section 28 rulings in the late eighties twice provoked me to march on the streets of London waving ‘freedom’ flags, in reality, the generation that we were fighting for at the time didn’t suffer from any more or less homophobic abuse by their peers or elders than in my early school years. The inability of the education system to ‘teach’ (or preach) about homosexuality in schools was soon replaced by local help groups and helplines and anyway, in reality how many students were ever pushed into a life of segregation and abuse by teachers ‘promoting’ the ‘benefits’ of being gay?
On reflection, I wonder how many students at this time actually left secondary school in Walsall with a decent qualification, or at least one that prepared you for the outside world? Maybe this was just a time of significant change in the teaching profession and those of us in the public system at that time only had two options – fight or flight.
Whatever I think of the education system and my efforts and results at school, there were countless other policies and decisions launched by the Conservatives in Maggie’s reign which provoke bipolar reactions even now. Either way, the country at large (and particularly those that make their way onto the mainstream media) will today stand resolutely proud of what we’ve become as a country (thanks to her swingeing changes) or those that still see Maggie as a destroyer of Industrial history, a burner of books (sic again!), a stealer of kiddies milk and, as mooted this morning on the radio – the root cause of the current financial crisis. Excuse my language, but even I find the latter complete bollocks.
I believe in some ways, we need to be more adult about our emotions and ask some deeper questions when’s it comes to Maggie. In the communities that suffered from the changing political environment, how many have moved forward? How many have been blighted by years of malaise? How many generations have inherited the culture of blaming the Prime Minister for woes both then and today? Whilst I’m a great believer in understanding personal and local history, is there not a difference between understanding the past and living in it?
In short, I wonder if the UK lives in its past, blames others for its misfortunes and relies on the State too much? Maybe Maggie isn’t the real reason for today’s radical outbursts, but we are – each and every one of ‘us Brits’?
Maggie’s a good scapegoat though..
However much I believe Maggie did the majority of the country ‘good’ and the fact without her, we would have been a morally and fiscally bankrupt nation (well before 2007!), there’s no doubt that today’s media and tomorrows political comment will be as polarised as the traders in The City and the ex-miners in the Midlands.
Whilst on the subject of The Baroness, I’ll beg one further pause for thought. Will we be celebrating in remembrance our current leaders in the same way? Will we pass a tear for Blair (Bliar) or for just a frown for Brown? Conversely, will any of Maggie’s contemporaries provoke such barbaric and misdirected hatred and an outward celebration of death as we’ve seen in some instances over the last week?
However difficult today will be for some in the UK and of course with great respect for the Thatcher family, there are other matters in the news..
The presumed terrorist attack at the finishing tape of the Boston marathon and the heart wrenching tales of those that survived and died on the day has led many to speculation.
I’m sure many readers will have seen social media speculation about the source of the attack, obviously many pointing at Islamic fundamentalists, however I believe we need to caution ourselves at jumping to the wrong conclusion.
It’s a time of great sensitivity in the World, whether its Northern Ireland, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan or in North Korea. Wrongly phrased words, targeted blame, inaccurate right wing bravado or misplaced religious loyalties can create a vicious circle of hate which slowly but surely creates a basis for future atrocities.
Whatever the FBI finds in the minutiae of remains from Boston, we’ll one day be able to target our anger, emotion, nay grief at the ones who created that bedlam. For now, I think it’s time to moderate our outward views and leave those closest to the events alone in a period of reflection.
Finally for today, I focus on my old favourite topic for discussion, Tesco. This retail giant has dominated (I use this word cautiously) the supermarket sector in the UK for almost as long as I can remember, now accounting for one third of the UK food expenditure.
I’m a huge admirer of those that work at all levels in super-marketing. Whether the underpaid workers stacking pallets or those spending billions on store / business investment, it’s the speed that this market works at that makes it so interesting.
It’s therefore with some surprise that Tesco failed to read the US market correctly and has ended up pulling away from the US chain, costing ver $1bn. Having spoken to residents of California who’ve never heard of the US concept, it’s apparent that its not just pre packed fruit or small shopping trolleys that intimidated our US cousins.
I understand that many UK companies have struggled when entering the US and some are understandable failures as some brands and strategies are very British. Others have performed well, and marketed themselves on ‘Britishness’ – well done Sir Philip Green!
It’s pretty obvious to me that research and marketing have been then root cause of this failure. Big in bulldozing through the UK grocery sector does not necessarily mean that you’re an instant success in Nevada or California.
It’s a costly error and likely one that has led to many heads rolling at Tesco head office, but one has to question whether the market dominance (and big-headedness) of this retail giant has actually led to this poorly executed investment.