From Thatcher to Blair and Cameron – a common determination to smash the Welfare State


THE just-released Thatcher papers confirm that the Tory leader had a very real hatred of the NHS and the Welfare State and, along with her Chancellor Geofrey Howe, unveiled a plan in 1982 to dismantle both.

British troops entered Port Stanley in June 1982 to conclude the Malvinas War.

In September, no doubt spurred on by their imperialist victory and a desire to treat the enemy at home in the same fashion, Thatcher revealed to the cabinet her plan to smash the Welfare State.

This plan was seen to be so extreme that the Tory cabinet drew back, refused to support it, and it had to be withdrawn and a revised version leaked to try and quell public anger. This was done so that the Tory Party could concentrate on its planned war with the National Union of Miners to shut down the coal industry.

Thatcher had asked her cabinet to impose compulsory charges for schooling and a massive scaling back of public services. A confidential cabinet memorandum by the Central Policy Review Staff in September 1982 declared of the plan: ‘This would of course mean the end of the National Health Service.’

The think-tank report caused ‘the nearest thing to a cabinet riot in the history of the Thatcher administration’, according to Nigel Lawson.

The plan proposed full-cost university tuition fees, ending any links between welfare benefits and rising prices, and on the NHS said: ‘It is therefore worth considering aiming over a period to end the state provision of healthcare for the bulk of the population, so that medical facilities would be privately owned and run, and those seeking healthcare would be required to pay for it.

‘Those who could not afford to pay would then have their charges met by the state, via some form of rebating or reimbursement.’

After the Tory cabinet ‘riot’, a revised version of the plan was produced and leaked. Even this provoked uproar with its proposals of introducing education vouchers, ending the state funding of higher education, freezing welfare benefits and having an insurance-based health service.

Thatcher had to make speeches about the NHS being safe in her hands, a speech that has become a ritual for Tories and ‘One Nation’ Labourites ever since.

Thatcher got on with the job of fighting it out with the NUM and the print unions, until she went a bridge too far and was brought down by the mass movement against the Poll Tax.

After the Major interlude, along came Blair-Brown, who followed in Thatcher’s footsteps with their measures to privatise the public sector, the introduction of the Private Finance Initiative to enrich the bankers, the introduction of the health market with NHS Foundation Trust businesses to pave the way for NHS privatisation, and the introduction of tuition fees.

Brown and Blair proved that the problem was not just a mad or super-arrogant Thatcher, but that the survival of capitalism required the policies that she pushed in 1982. This is why they were determined to implement them!

Now we have a Cameron government, driven by the capitalist crisis, that is carrying out Thatcher’s mission to smash the Welfare State, shut down and privatise the remains of the NHS and destroy the benefit system.

Mike Farrar, head of the NHS Confederation, yesterday arrogantly told the public that they will have to accept the closure of hospitals, and that the only way they will survive is by living healthier lives since hospitals will be providing fewer services and beds, unless you can pay for them of course.

The Thatcher, Blair, Cameron onslaught on the NHS and the Welfare State is a real requirement if capitalism is to survive. The truth of the matter is that the only way to defend the NHS and the Welfare State is through joining the WRP and organising the British socialist revolution to put an end to capitalism for ever.