Monday, September 04, 2006

The Hideous History of Sir Alfred Sherman

Here's my piece from today's Morning Star, on the late Sir Alfred Sherman.

De mortuis ni nisi bonus. But in the case of Sir Alfred Sherman, I think we can make an exception.
Out of all the nasty people who surrounded Margaret Thatcher in the 70s and 80s, Sir Alfred was without doubt the nastiest.

"He was an impossible man. Mean-spirited, spiteful, envious and resentful he never had a good word to say about anyone else’s intellect and overvalued his own. He thought a firing squad was too good for anyone who disagreed with him”- the verdict not of a political opponent, but of fellow- Thatcherite bruiser Bruce Anderson. Sherman didn’t do manners. Another former associate, who hadn’t seen Sherman for a while remembers Sherman greeting him with the words ‘You’re a fxxxing booby’ before he’d even asked how his friend was.

What Sherman did do was hate. He hated immigrants- even though he himself was the son of one. He hated the Irish, ‘coloured people’ and anyone he considered left-wing or ‘middle of the road’. And most of all, he hated the working-class. In his ‘appreciation’ of Sherman in The Times, Bruce Anderson, relates how at one Conservative Party conference, Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, a patrician Tory of the old school, offered Sherman a lift. As they walked to the car, Sherman was denouncing the working class: to a man they were idle, shiftless, useless and good for nothing. They arrived at the car which had a very flat tyre. Neither of them had a clue what to do, but fortunately a passing member of the working class observed their plight and changed the tyre. Worsthorne waited for a change in tone, but in vain. Sherman merely continued with his diatribe.

It is little surprise, given his views, Sherman found favour with that other far-right Tory figure of the period, Sir Keith Joseph. Sherman had come to Joseph’s attention when a reporter on the Daily Telegraph and he helped draft some of the Conservative politician’s most notorious species which berated the lower orders for having too many children and glorified the ’free market’. In the early 70s, these views were very much fringe ones, even within the Conservative Party. But after the two election defeats of 1974, the extremist philosophy of Keith Joseph and Alfred Sherman began to gain more and more followers. The new Conservative leader, Mrs Thatcher was a ‘believer’ and the Centre for Policy Studies’ founded jointly by Thatcher and Joseph in 1974, and with Sherman as its director, began to have an increasing influence on party policy. Sherman urged the CPS to ‘ think the unthinkable‘. Tragically, the unthinkable was not only thought- but became the policy of the newly elected Conservative government in 1979.

The British people were now the guinea pigs of the great Sherman/Joseph/Thatcher ‘free market’ experiment. The next decade saw massive tax cuts for the rich, the whole-scale privatisation of state assets, attacks on the trade unions and the effective destruction of manufacturing industry in Britain. Millions lost their jobs, crime rocketed and society disintegrated before our very eyes- but for Sherman and his fellow zealots, the exercise was a great success-the irresistible rise of the working class had been resisted. “We could never have defeated socialism if it hadn’t been for Sir Alfred” was the Iron Lady’s glowing tribute. Like all good Thatcherites, Sherman made sure he profited personally from the economic changes he had helped bring about. Having propagandised tirelessly for privatisation, he accepted a position as public affairs adviser for the newly-privatised National Bus Corporation- and duly issued a paper advocating the paving over of the nation’s railways.

In 1983, Sherman resigned from the CPS and threw himself into other extremist activities. He joined the notoriously hard-right, virulently anti-communist ‘Western Goals’ group, whose activities included campaigning against groups such as Oxfam, Christian Aid and War on Want on the grounds that they were too ’left-wing’. Western Goals supported the apartheid regime in South Africa, advising PW Botha against ‘going soft on communism’ and helped organise a visit of the leader of the Pretoria-backed Angola separatist UNITA group to Britain. Sherman was himself sent to Central America by Margaret Thatcher to ‘monitor’ Nicaragua’s democratically-elected Sandinista government and was received at the White House by Ronald Reagan. In the later stages of his life, Sherman became a professional lobbyist, with clients including Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb commander in charge at the time of the massacre at Srebrenica.

But although Sherman has now passed away, the misanthropic and hateful creed he espoused hasn’t. Thatcherism still dominates the political landscape- a full sixteen years after the Iron Lady’s exit from Downing Street. Who would have thought in the mid 1980s, that twenty years later, a Labour (ital) Prime Minister would be addressing a conference of partners of Goldman Sachs and boasting to them how they paying less taxes than under Thatcher? Who could have imagined that that a Labour (ital) Chancellor would be praising Thatcher’s ‘economic legacy’. PFI, the privatisation of air-traffic control, the forthcoming sell-off of The Tote and the failure to even countenance the reintroduction a new top rate of income tax are all things the late Sir Alfred Sherman would heartily approve of.


TheRedLeopard said...

Steve Irwin dies at 44, Alfred Sherman at 87. Where's the justice in that?

Tim Lieder said...

Well if Alfred Sherman had hunted crocodiles to trap for a living, he might have died sooner.