Norman Tebbit - a key confidante of Margaret Thatcher entirely ignored in the recent film The Iron Lady - is commonly remembered for two prescriptive statements. The first was that, instead of complaining or rioting, the unemployed should get on their bikes and look for work.
The second article of Tebbitism is that immigrants should take a ‘cricket test’ of national loyalty and identity. If you’re living in one country but decline to support it against your nation of origin in an international sporting contest, Tebbit implied, you have failed that test.
Australia had its own less strict but more formal version of a cricket test in the sample question about Don Bradman in the original Australian citizenship test under the Howard government.
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“There Is No Alternative” was a favourite line of Margaret Thatcher’s whenever she was trying to push one of her ideas on to the public.
The “TINA” philosophy has become part of the armoury of governments, big corporations, and others who want to convince us that we are naïve, ill-informed or stupid when we try and question the wisdom of their decisions.
Qantas is the latest example of a major company trying to convince us that There Is No Alternative to its plans to shift its operations offshore, and to cut about 1000 jobs here in Australia.
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In this country we are blessed with some outstanding economists. But can they be collectively wrong? The Gillard Government thinks not. They claim that no economist is backing the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan, which therefore proves that it is the wrong policy. Case closed.
Gillard’s claim is false: there are economists who back alternative approaches to her carbon tax including Nobel laureates and Reserve Bank board members. However, even when there is a massive consensus among economists, history shows that they can be wildly off the mark.
A prominent example of this was the letter that 364 economists signed against Margaret Thatcher’s Budget in 1981. Thatcher broke economic orthodoxy by cutting borrowings with aggressive fiscal measures in order to make it easier to control monetary policy and get inflation under control.
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It’s Tuesday at The Punch
Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s first female prime minister today in 1979.
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History looks inevitable because we’ve lived it; we think it happened that way because it had to happen that way.
But history is really a series of hinge points, choices taken and not taken, each of which could have changed the future a little. Even the most insignificant can make a massive difference.
Everyone knows, for instance, that the First World War was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Fedinand at Sarajevo. What most people forget is that the killing only happened after the assassination attempt proper had failed; and that the gunman Gavrilo Princip only got his chance on his way home, because the Archduke’s driver took a wrong turn and stalled the car.
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