Thatcher’s enduring legacy and most heinous sin

<span>‘In the 1980s, thanks to Thatcher and her acolytes, we stole from previous generations.’</span><span>Photograph: Mirrorpix/Getty</span>
‘In the 1980s, thanks to Thatcher and her acolytes, we stole from previous generations.’Photograph: Mirrorpix/Getty

Andy Beckett’s takedown of the Thatcherite myth is timely (Margaret Thatcher set Britain’s decline in motion – so why can’t politics exorcise her ghost?, 12 April). Most remarkable is Keir Starmer’s admiration for the “entrepreneurialism” she let loose. Starmer is clearly stuck in his New Romantic era and hasn’t done his history.

The biggest burst of entrepreneurship came in the pre-Thatcher 1960s. The young Turks who burst into the music industry through the side door. The fashion revolution in Carnaby Street and Kings Road. The new magazines, including the very first glossy women’s rights publication. And, sneering rightwingers might note, I don’t think there was the proverbial politics of envy. I think we rather admired Terence Conran, whose airy Habitat emporiums offered well-designed homeware at affordable prices. It all made Britain suddenly world famous.

The only entrepreneurial activity Thatcher let loose was in the late 1980s when, having devastated the northern industries, she and Nigel Lawson devised a way of kickstarting the economy by deregulating the financial sector and offering people criminally stupid amounts of credit – a gambit that predictably went pop in 1990 and contributed to her demise. Let’s have less Daily Mail mythology and more accurate history please, Keir.
David Redshaw
Saltdean, East Sussex

• In his excellent piece about Margaret Thatcher’s ongoing influence, Andy Beckett has perhaps overlooked her most heinous sin. Her government, to the horror of Harold Macmillan, used the proceeds of privatisation not to invest in infrastructure or other capital projects but to fritter away on tax cuts and giving an illusion of an economic miracle.

It did the same with North Sea oil revenues. Norway was the only other European country to have the great good fortune to become self-sufficient in the black gold. It used the rewards to improve its infrastructure and to build up a fund to protect against future economic problems. The Thatcher government frittered ours away just as it had when selling our national assets.

Now instead the Tories are building up massive public debts, in effect stealing from future taxpayers. It’s no surprise that we boomers are often despised for our lucky lives. In the 1980s, thanks to Thatcher and her acolytes, we stole from previous generations; the public companies we sold had been built up using money from millions of customers and taxpayers. Now we are in effect doing it to generations younger than ours.
Brian Hughes
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

• It is strange that those who have held frontbench office at Westminster since Boris Johnson’s disastrous purge claim to be Thatcherites, for they are actually something startling different. Margaret Thatcher was always a remainer, like the purge’s victims. While ambivalent to certain European institutions and policies, she was never, as Andy Beckett suggests she was, hostile to the entire project. She campaigned for reform from within – and sometimes achieved it, such as the common agricultural policy rebate. As an incumbent prime minister she fought – and defeated, preventing a 1980s Brexit – a Labour party far more hostile to the European project. So far from being Thatcherites, this decade’s Conservative leadership are Footites, at least on Europe.
Charles EL Gilman
Mitcham, Surrey