“Ding dong, the witch is dead”!

9 04 2013

Or so say the banners of Thatcher haters in Britain, celebrating the death of Margaret Thatcher, thatcherwho must be one of the most divisive personalities of all times.  What I read online tells me Britons either hate her or love her.

I have to say I find some of the things she has done border on evil.  The way she smeared Nelson Mandela a terrorist is unforgivable, as is the sinking of the Belgrano, which must surely be a war crime…..

But what I want to write about here is how she’s attributed with certain things that merely make her a product of her era.

Very very few people realise (or even believe I have discovered) that Great Britain hit Peak Coal in 1913.  It was coal that made Britain great.  Thanks to the likes of James Watt who invented the machines that could turn coal into useful work, Britain was able, with the world’s most powerful Navy, to expand its grip on “the Empire”.

Old map of Berlin to Baghdad Railway

Old map of Berlin to Baghdad Railway

1913, you might notice, is the eve of “the Great War”, the war to end all war.  Churchill, who then was in charge of the Royal Navy could see the writing on the wall for coal.  The Royal Navy, if it was going to remain the world’s most powerful, needed oil.  And it didn’t have any.  And Supertankers did not exist yet, so the way to transport oil was by steam powered trains, overland.  The Germans, who wanted to take over from Britain (and whose coal reserves had not yet peaked) joined forces with Turkey to run trains between Persia (as it was then called) and Germany, to move all that valuable oil to its territories.

Anyone who still believes WWI was started because some unknown Arch Duke was killed in Serbia has been duped…..  WWI was about oil.  All those Australian boys who died in Gallipoli died for oil.  If you’ve ever read the story of Lawrence of Arabia, you will realise that he blew up all those trains to stop oil getting to Germany, and make friends with the Saudi Family, whose oil would not be discovered for another four decades.

During the intervening years between the two World Wars, the USA became the largest producer of oil in the world.  Its economy slowly but surely overtook everyone else’s, and it was because of American oil that the allies won the war.  Hitler had to stretch his resources to ridiculous levels by invading Russia and North Africa to get oil to fight the war with.  And he lost.  As did Japan.  Oil is that powerful………

The UK’s economy relied largely on coal to rebuild after the war.  But coal became ever scarcer and dearer, until the pea soup pollution in London saw coal banned as a heating fuel.  AGA ceased production of the solid fuel cookers, like the one we own, in 1972.

But the coal industry was a powerful lobby, and millions of labourers relied on the mining industry for their wages.  Year after year, government after government, seemed to have no choice but to subsidise the coal industry until the stage was reached that Britain was virtually bankrupt, and something had to give…….strike

Enter Margaret Thatcher.  She could plainly see the writing was on the wall, the country and the government were going broke, subsidising coal mining had to stop, and the Iron Lady grabbed the bit in her mouth and took on the Mining Unions.  The rest as they say is history.  A one year coal strike was the result, which affected every other industry from ship building to automobile production; indirectly, all of them were also subsidised….  and as more and more oil had to be imported from the Middle East, the Arabs decided they wanted more money for their black gold, and the oil shocks occurred.  Which by the way postponed global Peak Oil by almost a decade…..

Thatcher got the blame for all that turmoil, when in fact she had no choice.  Just like those in power today will have to do something when we have to close down oil refineries, park our cars and airplanes for good, and distribute what oil is left for essential services like agriculture.  That we will see similar chaos as that which happened in Britain back then is a certainty.

The other funny thing which I constantly hear today as the media eulogises the Iron Lady, is that she “pulled Britain from the brink of terminal decline”…. when in fact it was oil that did this!  Just as the shit was about to hit the fan in the UK, oil was discovered in the North Sea, and Britain was saved.  Temporarily at least, that is now all going pear shaped too.

reagan_thatcherWith Reagan’s help, Thatcher started the economic boom that has now got us into this ungodly economic mess. The pair of them started the “greed is good” bubble, wasting huge quantities of non renewable resources in the process, and causing the complete denial of the Club of Rome’s work.

I don’t think she was a great leader…  Like all other leaders, she did what she had to do at the time, but she screwed up, like most leaders do.  I don’t think history will be very kind to her.  And neither is Germaine Greer who wrote this amazing article about Thatcher…..  I highly recommend it!