Deciding what is the most damaging legacy of the Thatcher years makes an interesting area for debate. Is it:
- the lingering divisive effects of the miners v the police;
- deregulation, particularly of financial markets;
- the "right to buy" council houses;
- the Falklands War;
- the emasculation of local government?
So how incredible that, while experts in the housing field are calling for an end to the right to buy, or at least its suspension, Ian Duncan Smith, Work and Pensions Secretary, is leading the push to extend the right to buy (at a substantial discount) to tenants of Housing Associations. Even dafter (though it is so incredible it may be a hoax) the Daily Mirror reports that Smith wants to gift (sic) their house to any council tenant who has been on benefit but gets a job and remains in it for a year.
This gives a whole new meaning to election bribery.
Equally illogical is David Cameron's determination to create more so called "free" schools on the spurious grounds that where they exist they improve the quality of surrounding schools. The evidence is that the existing "free" schools are no better than any other (for what it's worth, of the 73 free schools inspected by OFSTED 18 were rated as outstanding, 22 were inadequate or required improvement and three have been closed down or taken over.)
In practice these schools create havoc with local authority attempts to plan intelligently for by providing school places where they're not needed, largely to satisfy the aspirations of pushy parents who want schools in their own image,religious organisations which want to push their beliefs at the state's expense, or commercial organisations wanting to get their foot in the door ready for when running schools for profit becomes permissible.
An afterthought: if local authorities are not deemed fit to be trusted with running schools how come powers are to be devolved to Manchester to run almost everything else, including the the NHS?