Page 10, 20th February 1981

20th February 1981
Page 10
Page 10, 20th February 1981 — Deaf ears in ivory towers
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Deaf ears in ivory towers

SOME politicians need to be told a few home truths about the damaging effects of their policies and the hypocrisy of their actions.

The Sunday Times leader has outlined the litany of failures which is the hallmark of the Government's economic strategy: "Wrong Mrs Thatcher, wrong, wrong wrong." The Bow Group has also identified the possible effects of more undiluted monetarism; this they have done with the timely reprinting of Norman St John Stevas' party conference speech which questioned the wisdom of the Friedman ite approach. One or two discontented Tory backbenchers have even talked openly about joining any new centre alliance which may emerge.

Yet, the lady's not for turning, or so she says. Worse than that, she's not for listening. When asked by Liverpool city council to meet an allparty delegation, which was to include union leaders and the Bishop and Archbishop of Liverpool, she said no: "I don't myself see delegations." She said that the delegation anxious about the loss of a further 1500 jobs at the Tate and Lyle refinery — should "see the management concerned." What humbug.

Prime Ministers have a special duty to safeguard the reputation of democracy. Mrs Thatcher is playing into the hands of militants and extremists of both the Left and Right. When people think that democracy has become irrelevant they look for other ways of expressing their frustration and anger.

Mrs Thatcher has apparently written off areas such as Merseyside as being outside her remit as Prime Minister she hasn't stepped foot in Liverpool since before the last general election. Yet there, more than anywhere, her medicine is having its most disastrous effects.

When politicians become remote and closet themselves in the corridors of Whitehall they run the risk of being deceived by their own dogma. A walk round the streets of a northern city might not be a pleasant experience but it would give some sense of reality to those who are living in a fantasy world.

Mrs Thatcher's Lord High Executioner, Michael Heseltine, could similarly do with a night in a broken down two-up, two-down terraced home, with an outside loo and no hot water. A far cry from the mansions of Oxfordshire or the offices of Marsham Street which house his Department of Environment.

He has just announced the latest housebuilding figures. Britain started fewer houses in 1980 than in any year since 1924. And as houses crumble and people continue to rot in foul conditions a record 279,000 building workers are now unemployed — a 10 per cent increase on May.

Secretaries of State and Ministers are never pleased when their records are criticised. They are less pleased when they are reminded of what they had to say when they were in Opposition.

In 1979 during the dying weeks of the Labour Govern

ment there was a debate on the previous year's housing figures. One MP had this to say: "The conclusion of five years of this Labour Govern ment has produced the worst new building record. the lowest record of private rented homes, a collapsed level of

improvement grants, record breaking interest rates, soaring land prices, and

record house prices ... 1978 has been a disastrous year for housing." He complained of

mortgate rates of I l per cent — they are now 14 percent.

He also complained of a

"general preoccupation wtih the levels of public

expenditure and the conse quential effects of inflation." Well, if it took the previous Government five years to

accomplish all that, Mr

Heseltine can now boast that it has taken him two years to do even worse. Secretaries of State should re-read sone of their old speeches lest the ghosts of speeches past torrie back to haunt them.




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