Thatcher's Secret War

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Margaret Thatcher declared war on those she deemed “The Enemy Within”. She used the phrase most notably about the miners during the 1984-85 Great Strike, but they were far from her only target.

The Labour Party, the trade unions, the far left, nuclear disarmament activists, the Irish Republican Army, new age travellers, municipal socialists, feminists, gays and lesbians, Scottish nationalists and others were all targets in Thatcher’s secret war.

Bloom’s basic thesis is that Thatcher and the right waged an undeclared Cold War in Britain. He pulls together a series of events that are usually treated in isolation and draws some important links that highlight the dirty tricks of the secret state — the murder, lies and corruption that are the underside of our rulers’ talk of democracy and the rule of law.

The descriptions of the 1970s, with former army officers creating private armies, sections of MI5 and MI6 running dirty tricks operations against alleged subversives at home, media reproducing secret service lies and smears and employers sabotaging the economy, may seem far-fetched.

However, in recent months we have had hints that those days could return, with the head of the army publically denouncing Jeremy Corbyn’s defence policies and the Sunday Times greeting Corbyn’s election by quoting unnamed serving army officers threatening mutiny.

The book looks at the dirty war in Northern Ireland against the IRA; the Falklands War; the miners’ strike; the inner city uprisings of the early 1980s; cover-ups and suspicious deaths surrounding arms deals with Saudi Arabia and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Also included are the death of Daily Mirror owner Robert Maxwell, who plundered his staff’s pension funds to prop up his failing business empire; establishment involvement in the child abuse scandals that have come to light in the past 18 months; and much else.

The most useful function of the book is to recall Thatcher’s attraction to and for the libertarian right wing ideologues who promoted the free market economics that has become the hallmark of the last 30 years.

It reminds us just how crude those behind Thatcher and her project were and, more importantly, their contempt for even the limited democracy associated with parliamentary elections.

The book isn’t without faults. There is little original research in its pages — perhaps inevitably given the ground it has to cover. On the areas that I know best, such as the miners’ strike, the choice of source material raises hackles. There is no effort to add new material released after the publication of the works upon which Bloom draws so heavily.

There are enough silly omissions, alongside a supercilious tone directed to the NUM, to make you wonder about problems with other sections of the book. In addition, the proof reading is poor. Maybe they will clean it up for the paperback edition.

Nonetheless, Bloom has done us a favour, shining a light on aspects of the state that our rulers would prefer forgotten.