Brilliant, hilarious news from the BBC this morning: they’ve uncovered documents that show Arthur Scargill tried to exercise the Right to Buy a Barbican council flat.
In purely tribal terms, it’s another amusing rebuke to those who sanctify the ex-NUM leader – as one of his former supports told the BBC, “It’s so hypocritical it’s unreal”.
Scargill’s messy legal battle with the NUM, in which he tried to make them continue paying the rent on the flat (rent which they paid for 17 years without the NUM Executive realising), was for many an enjoyable demonstration of the man’s titanic selfishness. This news is the icing on the cake.
But there is another, more important, point raised by the revelation. This Right to Buy application is perhaps the greatest demonstration of the degree to which Thatcher’s policies reached parts of the electorate that other policies simply cannot reach.
No-one thinks Scargill was going to switch to voting Tory, but if even he found himself taking part in the Thatcher property revolution then it’s a measure of the sheer extent of its appeal.
So as well as having a chortle over our breakfast at the news, we should also consider this: which policy today has the reach and power of the Right to Buy? In 30 years’ time, which policy might we discover Owen Jones or Len McCluskey was tempted by?
There are Coalition policies with mass appeal – the welfare cap, for example, seems to resonate across otherwise fixed political boundaries, while the immigration cap is popular but widely expected to fail. But it’s hard to think of one modern policy which is as revolutionary as the Right to Buy was in its heyday, transforming people’s lives, reopening minds that were previously closed, and even tempting diehard socialists to try a taste of Toryism.
With structural electoral challenges to overcome, the hobble of coalition and the troubling entrenchment of dislike of the Tory brand in large parts of the country, those are the kind of ideas we will need in order to break open British politics again.