With an election looming, I thought I’d share my thoughts on what some people consider to be Thatcher’s greatest achievement for the working class, the right to buy scheme. I’ve heard some people say that they've become life long Tory supporters because Thatcher gave them the right to buy, something that could only happen under a Tory Government.
Thatcher has taken the credit for the right to buy, which was initially suggested in the Labour Party manifesto of 1955 and again in their 1959 manifesto, “every tenant, however, will have a chance first to buy from the Council the house he lives in; and all Council tenants in the future will enjoy the same security of tenure as rent restricted tenants.” Unfortunately, Labour lost, and the right to buy was then forgotten until 1980 when Thatcher claimed it as her own. I believe this was a carefully thought out attack on the working class and especially the poorer working class.
Whenever I mention the right to buy I hear two sides; firstly, it was brought in by Thatcher to stop worker's from striking, for fear of losing their home. This seems to be the majority opinion as to why the right to buy was introduced by Thatcher. I don’t agree with this at all but it has come to be the general response. To me losing your home if its mortgaged or rented amounts to the same thing because you don’t actually own your home until the mortgage is paid up, until then you are basically renting from the bank. What does it matter if you lose your home to a landlord or a bank because of strike action, ultimately you’ve still lost your home.
Secondly, right to buy was portrayed by Thatcher as a chance for tenants to buy a house they wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. I can still remember the campaign.
''Buy a piece of Britain of your own, every mans house is his castle.'' and my personal favourite, ''Have something to leave for your children when you’re gone.''
Please bare in mind that in 1979 when Thatcher was elected, the majority of people living in council houses were working class. Thatcher was the first Prime Minister in my lifetime to accept mass unemployment and as the level of unemployment rose into the millions Thatcher did a fantastical job of figure juggling to try and stop the actual numbers of unemployed being released to the public but I digress, the point being the lower paid workers generally inhabited council housing.
Now we fast forward to present the day and are told that over 1.5 million council tenants have purchased their homes through the right to buy scheme and now own a little piece of Britain. Or do they?
More and more people are starting to realise exactly what Thatcher’s right to buy actually means to them, it was literally nothing more than a way of reducing the welfare bill in the UK. Back in 1993, Thatcher had been replaced with Major and it was he that released what I believe was phase two of Thatcher’s right to buy grand but secret plan. Elderly residential homes were popping up everywhere as the nation began to reap the rewards of the 1945 Labour Government's NHS and social reforms, life expectancy soared. We as worker's retiring ceased being useful and became a huge drain as we lounged around idling away the time in our state funded residential homes. The Tory answer, sell these poorer people the dream of home ownership on the cheap then force them to sell their homes at current market value and use that money to fund their own residential care. That’s exactly what has happened, people that wouldn’t have normally bought a house and would have had care provided by the state in their old age are now, post 1993, realising that they have been conned, they have nothing to leave to their children. The house they bought in good faith was nothing more than a covert saving scheme to pay for their old age.
There are obviously ways round this but most people find out to late as this isn’t broadcast widely by the Government. It was reformed in 2015/16 but changed little for most people who own their own home. What I’m trying to say, as the general election gets nearer is beware. If a Tory is handing you something free, then look over your shoulder and you’ll see their taking twice as much behind your back.
By Pat Brady for Political Provocateur