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1979 and All That

25 Sep 2022 5 minute read
Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng leaves Downing Street to deliver his mini-budget. PA Images

Ben Wildsmith

You can learn a great deal about a society from observing which buildings dominate the skyline in its metropolitan centres.

Over the last 40 years, the cathedrals of London have come to be dwarfed by the headquarters of investment banks as the religion of free market economics has supplanted Christianity at the heart of UK life.

And what a successful religion it is.

When you vote in the next election, there will be no mainstream alternative to private ownership of everything except the NHS and the armed services.

Politicians who contest this can expect treatment by the press that’s generally reserved for the most heinous criminals or football managers.


Language has changed to accommodate the belief system.

You can be a ‘professional’ landlord nowadays, because listing a property with letting agents qualifies you to be part of an ‘industry’.

If anybody suggests governmental interference in your industrial endeavours, such as rent controls, you can explain that you ‘provide’ housing for those who don’t own property and the nation will nod along in agreement, as if being sold nutritional supplements by tapeworms.

Similarly, nobody is to question the provenance of somebody’s fortune.

The rich, we all agree under threat of derision, create their wealth and, as any fule kno, they do this through hard work. They are ‘risk-takers’ and that is why the gods of the market have blessed them so abundantly.

If public sector drones like firemen, police officers and nurses could conceive of the bravery required to see through a seven-figure futures trade they would cease their bleating for pay rises in awe.


If you are struggling to see the sense in these spiritual laws, then that is as it should be.

This is not some tinpot religion conducted in corrugated chapels, it flows from towering glass cathedrals in a language you are not worthy to speak.

As fast as money saving expert Martin Lewis can translate edicts into English, the edicts change.

‘The faithful shall swap their energy tariff with each season lest they face the wrath of the market.’

‘Only he who fixes his energy tariff shalt bask in the warmth of divine vapours.’

In ‘How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions’, the humourist Francis Wheen argues that the rational foundation of post-Enlightenment humanity has given way to a reliance on superstition.

He pinpoints 1979 as the precise tipping point, and this week’s news lent credence to that claim.


In Iran, protests have been erupting all over the country as people vent their fury at the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who had been arrested for breaking headscarf rules.

Women have been publicly burning headscarves and, strikingly, the protests have enjoyed the support of many men.

The headscarf rules have been in effect since the Islamic revolution in 1979 but have been more zealously enforced since the election of religious hardliner Ebrahim Raisi as president in August 2021.

There are recurring posts on social media featuring photographs of life in mid 1970s Iran, before the revolution.

They show smiling young people in western clothes, living seemingly carefree, modern lives.

These are shared both by those who seek to discredit Islam and by critics of western interference in the Middle East.

Either way, the implication is clear: that the rejection of reason in favour of rigid, superstitious tradition is contrary to the natural instincts of humanity.

Social fabric

Which brings me to Kwasi Kwarteng.

All fundamentalists share a tendency to strip ideas down to simple, symbolic elements which they insist upon to the exclusion of all context.

For the standard-bearers of Thatcherism, cutting taxes is the prime directive and, of itself, an indisputable virtue.

1979, though, is a long time ago, and as free market orthodoxy has hardened into dogma (thanks for that line to Lord Kinnock who did much to aid the process), it has been forgotten that it was four years before Nigel Lawson felt the economy could sustain major tax cuts.

Also forgotten is that this holy event occurred after 38 years of the post-war consensus, during which the social fabric had been woven to insulate people from hardship.


Now, in 2022, the economy is wrecked, and the only funding Bishop Kwarteng can source for his tax-cutting rites is borrowed.

Moreover, the social structures of the UK are hollowed out to the point of implosion and inflation is set to test them yet further.

You can’t argue with the sort of thinking that produced this week’s fiscal event.

Listening to worried Tory MPs ask Kwarteng why the Office for Budgetary Responsibility forecast was being suppressed, I was reminded of American states that have banned the teaching of Darwin in schools.

As the pound plummets, interest rates rise and winter sets in, our government in performing a rain dance.

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Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 year ago

This article truly does ‘tell it as it is’. A term many wrongly attributed to Trump and Johnson. The British electorate took a catastrophic wrong turn in May 1979 which took us over a cliff edge and we are still plummeting at now increasing speed thanks to the implementation of extreme Thatcherism. Do people really have to perish en masse before the rest of us wake up and say ‘hang on a minute, it could be us next’? Why is it that the vast majority who are victims of this evil cannot be strong enough to stop it by ‘breaking… Read more »

Steve George
Steve George
1 year ago

Great article!

I Humphrys
I Humphrys
1 year ago

Sanctions, on a base of nothing, are also backfiring. This may mean firms, especially German ones, may seek to escape the Greens and move production elsewhere? It’s possible that LNG could kick-in, but terminals will probably not be ready before 2030.
This, is where the East are increasingly receiving gas from Russia at decent rates.
Cymru should nationalise water, land and power, imo, and ready itself for survival.

I Humphrys
I Humphrys
1 year ago
Reply to  I Humphrys

Finland’s new LNG termina at Hamina, designed so as to avoid pipeline gas from Russia, received it’s first Tanker load this week…………….from Russia!
Source: Helsinki Times.

Last edited 1 year ago by I Humphrys
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago

‘Bishop Kwarteng’…my mind goes back to the Vaults in 1979 and the lone voice of my old pal Max warning us of what would happen if Snatcher and Co got in…you were spot on mate…

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 year ago

It’s the last throw of the dice for the Tories after their brexit fell flat on its face. It will probably be the last throw of the dice in favour of Thatcherism, that’s blighted the land for 40 years, too. We don’t need the markets to tell us this week’s budget was bad bad bad – a six year old could see it. The only question is how bad and what will be left of the UK both economically and physically once it has fully played out.

David Smith
David Smith
1 year ago

Shrink the state, free up markets and get government out of the way! All while borrowing like an addled BetFred junkie. About as ideologically contradictory as a devout Muslim who gets wasted and eats bacon. These people are nutters.

1 year ago

The actions of this Tory government to line the pockets of the rich in their remaining term in power will have to be paid for by the poor of this country for many years to come

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 year ago
Reply to  Windy

What this government is doing is squirrelling away all our cash and assets into private accounts then torching the house so that the incoming government will be facing total devastation and having to rebuild from scratch. Then this lot will bleat away in opposition for 5 years that it’s another ‘Labour crash’ like the lie of 2008.

1 year ago

I often used to think, when sitting in EU negotiations listening to the UK, under Labour as well as Conservatives, explain yet again that something was unwise or impossible because of The Market: “In the beginning was The Market, and the Market was with God, and the Market was God.” The sense of a cosmology in which we were born into a pre-existing Market Universe, of which we were inescapably bound servants was overwhelming. No other country, not even the market-focussed Netherlands, came close to the UK’s helpless thrall, which often ruled out even deciding what goals were desirable. Other… Read more »

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