Watch the vid (if you can) and then check out the bile in the YT comments
For those of us who believe Margaret Thatcher rescued Britain from a 50 year spiral of economic decline, the bile still directed at her from the left is hard to stomach. Surely these people can now see how there really was no alternative. Surely they realise that the vast majority of us are much better off because of the changes she bulldozed through. And they must at least understand that our public services have benefited from our higher level of general prosperity.
But no. Just as the Greeks blame the Germans for their economic reality check, much of Britain still blames Thatcher.
One of the most emotive charges against her is that she vindictively crushed the miners and smashed their communities into dust. That she provoked them into a strike and then refused to countenance any settlement other than their abject and unconditional surrender - a surrender immediately followed by mass closures and redundancies.
And it's certainly true that the numbers of mines and miners were slashed under Thatcher. in 1980 there were 211 coal mines and 230,000 miners. By 1990 the numbers had fallen to 65 and 57,000 respectively (see here). We can see why the mining communities felt as if they had been punished by the nasty vengeful Tories.
But the strike and its aftermath didn't appear out of a clear blue sky. There was a lot of history.
To begin with, coal mining had been in steep decline for decades before Thatcher, and employment was only around one-fifth of its peak. Just in the previous 20 years the number of both mines and miners had fallen by two-thirds, with most of the cuts taking place under Labour governments. In fact there were more mine closures and job losses under Harold Wilson than under Margaret Thatcher.
And that's because British coal mining was inefficient, uncompetitive, and increasingly expensive. It may have fuelled the industrial revolution and Victorian Britain, but much cheaper alternatives were now available. The industry was only kept going by being taken into state ownership and propped up by massive subsidies, including rigged prices for supplying our coal-fired power stations. Taxpayers and electricity consumers - including our vital manufacturing industries - were being forced to pay through the nose for one of life's essentials.
On top of that, by the 1980s the miners had established for themselves a shameful record of industrial blackmail. There had been two prolonged national pay strikes in the early 1970s, necessitating extensive power cuts and a three day working week imposed to eke out supplies. The entire nation had suffered at the hands of the miners and their militant union bosses, and by bringing down the Heath government in 1974 they had shown its successors who was really in charge. They had lived by the sword, so could hardly complain when it was turned back on them.
The reality was that by the 1980s, the British coal industry had become too expensive and too unreliable to survive.
Of course, in the romantic fantasies woven by people like Billy Bragg, none of that matters. Thatcher's crime was to destroy the lives of miners and their families, and - according to their myth - to do so with the cruellest of capitalist smiles playing across her lips. If she'd possessed one ounce of humanity she would have supported the miners and nurtured their noble way of life. She'd have found the money to keep the jobs going by taxing the idle rich.
We've blogged before about public sector jobs as welfare, and by the 1980s most mining jobs had become precisely that. They had become economically unviable, and increasingly depended on taxes and subsidies grabbed from the rest of society. Moreover, whereas five-day-coodinators and most of the other public sector non-jobs are at least safe occupations, mining is not. We were subsiding people to do dirty and dangerous work that we no longer needed.
The tragedy is that so few of these ex-mining areas have developed alternative sources of prosperity. Decades after the mines were closed, unemployment remains high and for far too many, one form of welfare dependency has been replaced by another. As we've blogged before, we think the solution is to radically improve tax incentives in those areas - something we'll come back to.
PS We've met St Billy several times on BOM - start here.