Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it ... Santayana

In 1979 Margaret Thatcher launched her monetarist crusade to reduce inflation, create mass unemployment, run down and privatise the public sector, break the unions and make the rich richer. She made me an expendable part of that crusade, one of those people who you throw onto the scrapheap then tell them its their own fault they cant get a job.

In 1989, fed up with having spent most of the decade either unemployed or on Government jobschemes, I wrote an essay about my experiences which I called 'Government Surplus'. Not knowing what to do with it, I idly sent it to John Course, Northern Editor of 'The Guardian', and was surprised when he announced that he would like to publish it nationally. Naturally, I relished the thought that my words would reach the eyes of the successful and powerful, but was I was quite unprepared for the stir which followed the publication of the article. It turned my life around, and demonstrated to me for the first time the power of well written words. A year later I wrote a second piece for the Guardian, 'A Job is a Job is a Dead End', which tells the story of what happened next. Ironically my remark about 'a job sweeping the streets' proved prophetic, and I would never have imagined that I would still be doing that job sixteen years down the line! Yet I prospered, published further books, and with the advent of powerful IT and access to the internet I have finally launched into publishing in my own right. The original 'Government Surplus' article was republished for many years by the Open University as the centrepiece of their Foundation Course in Social Sciences (for which I was never paid!), but is now out of print.

How much (and how little!) has changed. Government Surplus was the legacy of Thatcher's Britain, yet 17 years on it still has resonances which are relevant to Tory Blair's Britain (no, it's not a misspelling!). How quickly we forget our recent history ... Thatcherism, and all the evils it created, is now forgotten, despite the fact that Margaret's ethos has not disappeared, but has been transmuted by New Labour into something almost as socially malevolent! Unemployment has fallen but the legacy of Thatcherism has been neither addressed nor reversed, and this country is the worse for it. New Labour has betrayed working class socialism and left us with a political system that denies voters any real choice. Politicians talk of democracy and freedom , while eroding civil liberties in the name of 'national security'.

This website tells the full story of Government Surplus. It contains both the articles, and also a collection of letters which were written to The Halifax Courier on a wide range of subjects, usually in connection with unwelcome social change or political correctness gone mad. Newspaper publishing is perhaps the most ephemeral of media, and it is good that today we can use the internet to republish these writings on a more permanent basis and disseminate them to a wider audience.


Mytholmroyd 2006.

copyright Jim Jarratt 2004