I am a stockbroker. Many of my clients are plumbers and builders. Many “working class” (and proudly so) people earn far more than the “professionals” who serve them. Those who lack the wit to buy their own tools, van and hire a mate, and instead spend their wages in the pub or the bookies, have only themselves to blame. Before Thatcher, someone like me would only have seen a plumber when a pipe burst. Now, they’re my clients.
The working class people, who bought, or whose parents bought their council house, and got on haven’t changed as people. They remain the stout, hard working, decent people they always were. They’ve just got access to wealth which in previous generations was reserved for others.
Other generations have had means for people of the right talents to rise: Imperial service, industry, academia, politics or grammar schools provided means by which people from all backgrounds have risen to the top, and achieved comfortable stations in life. Britain has never been the snobby, closed society of myth. It’s just we’ve never wanted to throw our Aristocrats out, but instead join them at table.
The “post war consensus” though really did for a while create closed, corporatist, sclerotic society, and Thatcher shattered it. ‘Right to buy’ was, for many, the Thatcher policy which broke the mould as it put capital, and lots of it in the hands of people who previously were merely tennant vassals of the state or employer. That policy, and the idea that big business can start out of the back of a van gave people the confidence to try to change their station in life. These two policies shattered the working-class block-vote for Labour, and showed them that most people don’t want a hand out, but a hand up. The sense of belief in the country, and the talents of its people came from the top.
Labour in office spent 13 years spending taxes earned by Thatcher’s children, rebuilding the client state she smashed, with disastrous results. Those who benefited from her reforms will never forget her. Those who were left behind will never forgive her. But don’t pretend she was only for the rich. Because she made a lot of people of previously modest means very, very wealthy.