Fewer workers doing the long grind

ANALYSIS

-

A02T9650.JPGNon-stop: Michael Jiang with his son William. Photo: Marco Del Grande

Putting in long hours at work? Then you’ve got plenty of company. Nearly 1.7 million Australian employees – that’s about one in six – work 49 hours or more each week, the latest census showed. Nearly half a million of those were managers – the occupation with biggest proportion working very long hours. But long hours weren’t restricted to white collar workers. One in four “machinery operators and drivers” and one in five “technicians and trades workers” worked more than 49 hours a week, the census showed.

The proportion of workers putting in very long hours is not ballooning as some might fear. The share of employees working more than 40 hours a week rose steadily in the 1980s and 1990s but peaked about a decade ago and has since edged lower. Back in 2000, about 10 per cent of workers put in more than 60 hours a week but that’s now drifted down to about 7 per cent.

Despite this, Australia still has a higher proportion of workers putting in long hours than other comparable countries. This emerged in the Better Life Index released on Tuesday which compared the 34 developed country members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Hourly rates: Percentage of workers who work more than 49 hours a week.Hourly rates: Percentage of workers who work more than 49 hours a week.

Australia topped the overall rankings but performed poorly when it came to balancing work and life. The report also showed Australians devote less time each day to eating, sleeping and leisure (such as socialising, hobbies, games, computer and television use) than the OECD average.

Advertisement

Professor Barbara Pocock from the University of South Australia’s centre for work + life said structural change in the labour market has shifted perceptions of work hours.

“We’ve moved from the production line which imposes a natural discipline you’d knock off at five or go onto overtime. Now we’ve got a lot more professional and service sector jobs without the same time disciplines.”

Mobile technology is also reshaping work patterns.

“Often longer hours are explained by these enabling technologies,” Professor Pocock said.

Research has also revealed many workers spend time checking emails late at night or early in the morning in a bid to gain more control over their work days.

Social researcher and author Hugh Mackay said the growing acceptance of long work hours was taking a toll on the community.

“Long working hours contribute to our prosperity but if you are talking about the general well-being of a society and whether we are nurturing our relationships with family, friends and engaging with the life of the neighbourhood and community then you have to say that raises a bit of a doubt about Australia. “Too many of us are spending too much time at work at the expense of nurturing those relationships,” he said.

Research by the Diversity Council Australia shows most businesses have yet to truly embrace measures to improve work-life balance.

“Why on earth are we maintaining this culture of presentee-ism when every bit of research shows the positive impact of workplace flexibility?” asked Nareen Young, the council’s chief executive.

Grocer who puts in 91-hour week

Michael Jiang calculates that he spends 91 hours a week running his family’s Friendly Grocer store in Pyrmont.

That’s nearly double what most hard-working Australians put in.

Most days Mr Jiang, the owner, works 14½ hours. He is at the busy convenience store from when it opens at 8.30am to after it closes at 10.30pm each night.

”It’s just kind of non-stop,” he said. ”It’s not just about buying and selling, it’s about stock management – and managing people, too.”

His mother helps out at times, and the business, which operates every day, employs three others on three shifts throughout the day.

The son of Chinese migrants who moved from Shanghai in 2006, the only downtime Mr Jiang gets is sleeping in until 9.30am twice a week if business allows.

And work-life balance? He admits to feeling lucky that he lives only five minutes away from his store. That means he can dash home to cook dinner for his wife (she does the preparation while he does the cooking) and one-year-old son William.

When asked if he resents working so many hours, he said: ”That’s life.”

Mr Jiang said he is not unusual among his friends, many of whom are the offspring of recent Asian migrants who work two jobs and long hours trying to save a nest egg.

”I am trying to build a future for my family. I still don’t own a house, so I am saving for that and for my son William’s future.”

Catching up with friends is rare because he has so little time. ”We book two months in advance [to catch up],” he said.

with Julie Power

Advertisements

Group buying sites – Daily Deals

Australia was once plagued by group buying sites, with the number of cut-price deals offered online reaching saturation point.

Fuelled by our love affair for a bargain, and in the thick of the financial crisis, growing numbers of consumers signed up to receive email deals from their favourite discount sites each day.

At the peak, more than 80 group buying sites were operating in Australia. But major consolidation and some failures have seen deal site numbers fall to around 30 still operating.

Between January and March 2013 Australians spent more than $115 million on group buying sites, according to the latest Online Group Buying Study by technology analyst firm Telsyte. This represents a decline of 7 per cent on the same period in 2012, when there were more players in the market.

Advertisement

But the bulk of the consolidation is complete and the group buying sector is expected to generate revenues of around $500 million this year, Telsyte predicts.

Nevertheless, there’s no doubt the group buying sector has had a few setbacks, with frequent consumer complaints about lengthy delays on deals being fulfilled or redemption terms being too rigid.

The industry was also rocked by a major recall announced by livingsocial.com in 2011 after a deal offering cut-price Havaianas thongs was unable to be fulfilled.

What do you think? Are you frustrated with daily deals? Or is your love affair with deal sites far from over?

The sector has wised up since then, launching an industry code, with member sites identifiable by the Group Buying Code Member logo listed on their websites and offers.

Complaints against group buying sites have also nearly halved in recent months, according to NSW Fair Trading. Improvements include better complaint handling processes, taking responsibility for problems and industry-wide self regulation.

Nationally, complaints about group buying have dropped from more than 800 cases in May 2012, to about half that number in September.

“However, the level of complaints levelled at a few specific traders continues to be of concern to us. We will continue to monitor the industry’s compliance and will not hesitate to take enforcement action when necessary,” the Fair Trading commissioner, Rod Stowe said.

Telstye names Groupon, Scoopon, LivingSocial, Cudo and OurDeal as the top five active players in the market, which generate more than 80 per cent of market revenue.

“The industry is starting to mature, with merchants and group buying sites understanding that they need to be more selective in the types of deals offered.

“Food, dining, health and beauty will continue to provide a solid base of revenue. In 2013 we expect to see the emergence of deals which aim at more affluent demographics and deals that require consumers to commit to ongoing delivery of products such as health supplements, baby consumables and hygiene products,” Telsyte senior research manager Sam Yip says.

Scoopon is a major industry player, launching in May 2010 and selling more than six million deals.

The site’s general manager Jon Beros says Scoopon has remained a dominant player because it has adapted its offering as consumer preferences have changed.

At first, consumers were turned on by the offer of a cheap deal, but now they want deals on offer on mobile and localised deals they can access close to home.

“When the industry launched, any sales person with a phone and internet access could run a group buying site. But there was an unsustainable number of sites operating, so something had to give,” Beros says.

“Scoopon has continued to grow because we understand consumers want compelling offers for an experience they have wanted to enjoy for a while, at a great price. They also want those grudge buys like a car wash at a reduced rate,” he says.

Telsyte predicts that the industry will see new players create restaurant booking sites, which provide exclusive discounts to subscribing consumers, and online coupon sites, which allow consumers to access discount coupons for minimal cost.

But businesses considering listing an offer on a deal site should approach with caution, warns the owner of Ballina Beach Village, Rikki McDonald Grinberg.

“We have been steady users of deal sites to market our property over the past few years. We achieved $72,000 in sales in the first deal we sold, but with mixed results. We have learned not all deal sites have the right demographic, or the database to justify the sale.”

Vendors need to be extremely careful about how they use a deal and be sure they can meet the obligations, she warns.

“The deal sellers are always pushing for a really big deal, but that can be financially crippling to the vendor. There needs to be strict rules regarding the uptake of the deal,” she says.

The petitioners alleged the ministry distributed millions of rupees among selected journalists and media organisations to achieve certain objectives.

MoIT tops the list of ‘secret fund’ distributors

| 7 hours ago
0

-Photo by Shahzad Raza

ISLAMABAD: It was not the ministry of defense or foreign affairs or interior. The ministry that handled the highest amount of secret funds since 2009 was the Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT).

Surprising but true: the MoIT consumed more than Rs3 billion since 2009 under the head of a secret fund, an Auditor General report revealed.

The report read, in the fiscal year of 2009-10, that MoIT was allocated Rs 1.329 billion of secret funds in the federal budget.

In the subsequent year of 2010-11, the same ministry obtained an even higher amount of Rs 1.422 billion.

Interestingly, the secret fund fell down to zero in the subsequent year.

Secretary MoIT, Zafar Qadir, expressed his ignorance over the existence of a secret fund in his ministry.

“I don’t have any information any such thing existed in my ministry. You should better ask my predecessors,” he told Dawn.com.

Official sources said the MoIT was engaged in some concealed projects in Azad Jammu & Kashmir and the purpose of the secret fund was to fulfill the financial requirements without getting into the limelight.

A Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Jawad S Khawja and Justice Khilji Arif is hearing petitions challenging the use of secret fund by the ministry of information.

The petitioners alleged the ministry distributed millions of rupees among selected journalists and media organisations to achieve certain objectives.

On direction of the apex court, the information ministry placed a list of those individuals and organisations which had received money from the secret fund.

As the list was incomplete, the court demanded complete information containing the names of all the recipients.

More than 27 ministries and public departments had secret funds at their disposal.

During the dictatorial regime of General Musharraf, the ministries and department distributed more than Rs7 billion from the secret funds. The Pakistan People’s Party government raised the allocations by Rs1 billion.

The audit documents showed that in just three years (from 2009 to 2012) the government spent around Rs4 billion in the name of secret funds.

The second highest distributor of secret funds was the information ministry that distributed more than Rs260 million in the last three fiscal years.

It was followed by Federally Administered Tribal Areas (more than Rs 238 million), Interior Division (more than Rs 130 million), Civil Armed Forces (more than Rs 70 million), National Accountability Bureau (more than Rs 22 million), etc. in the same period.

A retired federal secretary explained the allocations for secret funds were made in the federal budget within purview of the law.

“The secret funds cannot be scrutinised publicly. If it is done, the purpose of having the secret funds will die,” he added.

In August last year, a report by the Interior Ministry revealed that ‘informers’ in the war against terror were compensated from the secret funds. They were paid a total amount of Rs30 million.

In 2005, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) installed close-circuit cameras to enhance the security at the Prime Minister House.

Surprisingly, the expenditure of Rs5.2 million was met from the IB’s secret fund. The then director general IB had revealed that fact before the Public Accounts Committee.

In May 2011, the Foreign Office conceded before the PAC that it had paid British Labour party MP George Galloway 135,000 Pounds from its secret fund to promote Pakistan’s viewpoint on Indian-held Kashmir.

The writer’s twitter handle is @shahz79

 

 

 

Nuke expenses and Coal Power

VIEW : Coal power — Fakir S Ayazuddin     DAILYTIMES    Tuesday, May 28, 2013

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20135\28\story_28-5-2013_pg3_3

 

Thar coal is much larger than a magic trick, and we should get very serious about this project, as it can turn our country around

We Pakistanis are so gullible that even our scientific elite are entrapped by the quacks of today. A case in point is the water-driven car. This magic trick has been already shown on many circus shows, and never made it beyond the magician’s spot. Yet in Pakistan we watch the anchors on television channels discussing the merits and demerits of the WDC (water-driven car). Our gullible public who have already been deprived of their hard-earned money courtesy the many Ponzi scams, and yet the public lines up for more of the same, including our Samad Dadabhoy, Double Shahs, and the like.

The whole world is still digging the coal out of the ground transporting it by sea and rail to the point of use. Government of Pakistan must concentrate on the mining of this precious product and distribution into the domestic market, and for the export trade. Both markets are huge, while the raw material is so close to the surface that it can be dug manually. The use of coal is hundreds of years old, and has fired the hearths of billions of people on all continents. Yet in Pakistan this valuable commodity is left underground for reasons that are obviously contrived to appease the formidable establishment, and it is obviously at the behest of the oil mafia, which at $15 billion sales a year is a very serious vested interest. They are very powerful, and are used to making or breaking governments. For them to devise a strategy to keep our coal underground is transparently simple.

The ‘studies’ to show that Thar coal is substandard have been peddled successfully throughout different governments’ tenures; till today we are using valuable natural gas to burn in our kitchens, while billions of dollars of fertiliser factories are lying closed for lack of gas. Not to mention the import of huge amounts of fertiliser imported for the farmers, without which the recently achieved self-sufficiency in wheat will be yet another dream achievement unused, much like our vaunted atomic bomb.

In Pakistan, government is being pushed into investing by the group led by Dr Samar Mubarakmand to release the huge funds (hundreds of millions of dollars) that would be required to research and then design a plant for Underground Coal Gasification (UCG). While the good doctor is trying to convince the hard rocks of Islamabad, it should be pointed out that there is no underground gasification machinery available anywhere, off the shelf or otherwise.

The largest scam under serious consideration is the UCG plant. While in theory it is a very elegant plan, the reality is far more difficult. Which explains why UCG has not been put into production anywhere in the world.

Government of Pakistan should beware of such offers promising highly sophisticated concepts that are as yet unproven in the commercial arena. As explained earlier there is a desperate need for us to excavate and market the huge coal deposits in Thar. The transport systems will also have to be upgraded to handle the increased loads efficiently. The marketing will not be a problem, for there is a huge demand for coal in Pakistan as fuel. Our oil import bill is currently running at $15 billion annually, and we are still arguing about Thar coal. The real reason it would seem is the middleman in Pakistan who in insisting on his pound of flesh is destroying the project itself. That is a prime reason for genuine investors giving Pakistan a wide berth.

Government of Pakistan must now get its act together, and stop playing politics at the expense of the nation. They must appoint a senior member of the private sector to spearhead this important project. Otherwise we will have lost an immense opportunity to bring jobs and fuel to Pakistan. It also illustrates clearly that the politician of today is more concerned about his own health, and much less for that of his voters, the ones who voted him into power in the first place.

However, Thar coal is much larger than a magic trick, and we should get very serious about this project, as it can turn our country around. Our nuclear dream shall always remain a dream, as its use on the subcontinent will have disastrous and long lasting effects at its point of use, 500 years of radioactivity minimum. Yet the praise bring lavished on our nukes is far greater than the benefits being reaped by Pakistan. In fact, our expenditure on defence has risen dramatically after our becoming nuclear.

Any delay in the Thar project is anti-Pakistan, for which the punishment is well known.

The writer is a freelance columnist

 

 

 

YouTube service is available through proxy sites and other software

YouTube ban not lifted

By Abrar Hamza

KARACHI: The reports of YouTube restoration in Pakistan happened to be a rumor, as it was not restored, it has been learnt on Tuesday.

Yesterday a section of media announced lifting ban on Youtube in the country, which spurred a glint of happiness amongst internet users, but when thousands of them tried to open the site it was found blocked. Interestingly, the ban on YouTube only works for table computers or laptops as the service of YouTube on mobile phones and I-pads are open.

Some industry experts told YouTube blocking system might have gone dysfunctional for a while but it did not mean the site has been restored. Moreover the concerned authorities did not announce officially the unblocking of the site.

However industry sources said the ban would be lifted after the taking of oath by the new government of Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) as they wanted to take the credit of restoration of this service.

Though it will be criticised from the right wing politicians but PML-N wants to win the courtesy of youth keeping in view Pakistan Tehreek Insaf’s popularity in social media, reasoned the source.

Many petitions are already being heard at different courts of the country against the ban on Youtube. Recently Lahore High Court summoned the Google representative to present their stance on the blasphemous content on the site before the Court. It has been reported the Google’s representative would appear before the Court soon.

On the other hand YouTube service is available through proxy sites and other software and it has been observed the consequences of this ban are not useful for the youth of Pakistan because majority of the users were unaware about proxy sites before the ban on YouTube but now this ban has explored the new ways to unblock the restricted and unethical material sites also.

 

Inspecting A Country’s Debt

Inspecting A Country’s Debt

 
 
Inspecting A Country's Debt
Nothing ruins a nice dinner party quite like discussing economics and fiscal policy. Blood boils, friends become enemies and no one bothers touching dessert. In the United States the rancor and gnashing of teeth over such matters reached a fever pitch during the 2012 elections and still carries on through negotiations over the federal budget. Questions about the role of spending and debt are a global issue, but the core issue isn’t how much to spend or what to spend it on as much as it is on whether debt is inherently bad. Tensions over just how to handle debt are pitting the rich world against the developing world like never before.

Developed Does Not Mean Better
Researchers often focus on the debt of developing countries rather than the debt of the rich world. To a certain extent this makes sense considering that developing countries can be neophytes when it comes to managing external debt and the flow of money. Developing country governments are faced with an ever-broadening array of financing options and may find themselves on the verge of a debt crisis, without strong institutions and policies in place to keep debt in check.

The argument posited by international organizations such as the IMF and World Bank, as well as rich world crediting nations, is that developing countries should follow the sort of policies described in the Washington Consensus. The 2008 global crisis has turned the argument on its head, however. According to the IMF, general government gross debt for advanced economies grew from 72.5% of GDP in 2000 to 109.9% in 2012, with much of that increase occurring after 2008. During the same period, emerging markets and developing economies saw their percentage drop from 36.6 to 34.4%.

Of the 35 countries considered advanced by the IMF, all but nine are in Europe, which has yet to right itself four years into its sovereign-debt crisis. Between 2008 and 2011, 13 European countries – half of all European countries considered advanced – had increases of general government gross debt exceeding 40%. In short, some developing economies are less indebted than developing ones.

Public Sector Vs. Private Sector Debt
Arguments over debt tend to focus on government debt, with particular focus on government debt as it relates to GDP. While high-debt ratios do indicate a greater claim on future growth by creditors, since debt requires service payments, focusing solely on government debt misses the other elephant in the room: private sector debt.

To illustrate how focusing solely on government debt can turn into a Titanic-meets-iceberg moment, Cyprus, the small island nation now dominating financial news, was flying under the radar with a debt ratio of 61% in 2010 (compare this to 98% in the United States). What everyone missed was that its banking sector debt was nearly nine times its GDP in 2010; the eurozone average was 334% in 2010.

Governments – and ultimately taxpayers – face two issues when it comes to debt. High government debt means that a greater portion of tax revenue has to be earmarked for debt service payments. This reduces funds for other programs. High private sector debt, while ostensibly backed by investors in the companies taking on debt, can wind up pulling in the government. Hence the popularity of the “too big to fail” quote.

In some respects private sector debt is more frightening than public sector debt, since a government keeping a tight fiscal ship won’t have as much of an impact (hence monetary policy). For example, a banking crisis in the private sector can cause business credit to seize, unemployment to spike and bankruptcies to ensue. This in turn would lead to decreased tax revenue, which would lead to a vicious cycle of cuts and contraction.

For many developed nations with sophisticated banking systems, a good portion of private sector credit comes from within. A review of World Bank data on domestic credit to the private sector shows that 23 developed economies had ratios greater than 100% of GDP in 2011, with five countries – Cyprus, Denmark, Ireland, Spain and Hong Kong – with ratios greater than 200%. This matters because a private sector failure, such as a collapse of several big banks, will hit residents harder. This is part of the reason the European Central Bank is at odds with Cyprus: domestic depositors don’t want to take a hit.

Action to Take
How well a country manages its finances is rarely addressed until something goes wrong. In this sense, strong institutions and close vigilance can reduce the possibility of failure, but incentives often align to push governments toward policies that may kick problems down the street, rather than face them in the present. America allowed loose credit leading up to the financial crisis, while Cyprus basked in the warmth of being considered a banking haven. Debt statistics matter, but the complex workings of economics makes them only part of the overall picture.

Investors looking to take advantage of growth opportunities while reducing risk have a tough task ahead of themselves. The interplay of economic indicators is complex, but some general rules of thumb apply. Countries can run deficits, but just like the average Joe must be able to weigh the cost of borrowing with future growth. The higher the ratio of debt to GDP the more likely a country is to get into trouble.

For the optimist, looking into countries with healthier balance sheets will bring more stability, but with reduced risk comes slower growth. For the pessimist, investing against the negative consequences of a country running a greater deficit can mean taking positions that profit from increases in interest rate spreads. Investors can also look to currency trading to take advantage of a possible default.

 

 

In Thatcher’s Britain

In Thatcher’s Britain

In 1989, Background Briefing broadcast a two-part series on the rise and rise of Margaret Thatcher, in a period where her leadership seemed unassailable. Journalist Nick Franklin, who together with the late Tony Barrell produced the programs, here remembers what it was like to report on Thatcher during those years. Radio National will air the first part of Franklin and Barrell’s documentary this Sunday to commemorate Baroness Thatcher’s death.

‘They’re down there you know—right below us underground.’ My new landlord was pointing at the earth outside his stately home (imagine Midsomer, without the murders). I’d just moved into the ‘Stables’ flat, having returned to my native East Midlands from Australia.

‘Who are?’ I asked.

‘The coal miners of course. They’re burrowing away below us.’

He paused: ‘Very low IQ miners, y’know.’

Ah, the miners. I didn’t tell him that my grandfather and great-grandfather had been miners just up the road in D.H. Lawrence’s Derbyshire.

I was acutely conscious that this was Thatcher’s Britain. Indeed, the lady who famously said she was ‘Not for Turning’ had grown up just 30 minutes drive east in Grantham, a Lincolnshire town once voted the most boring place in England.

Round this way certain local words are important. You don’t want to be ‘frit’ (frightened) and you certainly don’t want to be called a ‘mardy bum’ (moaner). It would have been part of the young Thatcher’s learning curve.

Key words, phrases, became Thatcher trademarks. Long after Grantham, spin doctors refined the Thatcher image—especially the voice. Cuttings from the studio floor of her voice training lessons were leaked to the media, as she diligently repeated the same phrases over and over again: ‘Enough is Enough’.

While doing stories on Thatcher and her government for the local television station, I would take a camera crew to the former grocer’s shop where the young Thatcher grew up, daughter of the mayor of Grantham. The shop was briefly turned into a yuppie restaurant, but like many 1980s businesses, it didn’t last.

Still, the symbol of the shop was to play an important part in the Thatcher narrative, signifying  basic Methodist values of hard work and thriftiness.

Early in her prime ministership it was clear Thatcher would take on the unions. I was working in television, an industry she’d identified as one of the last bastions of restrictive practices (when a news crew went on the road, the unions insisted that the electrician travel in a separate car to the journalist). But Mrs Thatcher saw a bigger ‘enemy within’—the miners. Her opponent, Arthur Scargill, was in one way very like Thatcher. He didn’t believe in compromise.

The dispute over pit closures was especially bitter in my home county Nottinghamshire, where only a minority of miners went on strike. I particularly remember one young woman whose husband was on the picket line, while her father and brother were at work. She’d sent her young children south for their safety. When I met her again months later, she’d lost her voice.

As ever with Thatcherism there are at least two narratives to the miners’ strike—a magnificent victory over militant unionism or a fatal smashing of the organised working class. The police played a vital role: the North appeared like a police state as cars were randomly stopped and homes raided. When the government won, it wasn’t just the miners union that was broken.

Meanwhile, Thatcher’s Britain was changing in other ways. You’d notice it when you drove around some of the huge Nottingham council estates. Suddenly the uniform redbrick rows were morphing into something else. Some houses adopted mock Tudor frontages—the result of privatisation, a central Thatcher philosophy which helped convince some traditional Labour supporters to vote Conservative.

Rupert Murdoch’s best selling tabloid The Sun came to the Party. The paper that had called her ‘The Most Unpopular Woman in Britain’ when as Education Minister in the Heath Government she stopped free milk to primary school children became a fervent backer. ‘Gotcha!’ it screamed as the Argentine ship the Belgrano was sunk in the Falklands War. Crucially, Mrs Thatcher understood that all that Union Jack waving struck a deep cord with sections of the working class, even though millions of them had been thrown out of work.

Of course she was tough, surviving the IRA assassination attempt in Brighton purely because she’d stayed up working into the early hours rather than go to bed. And many hated her. I remember the Nottingham Forest football manager Brian Clough passionately condemning her at a school fundraiser. Others worshipped the Iron Lady, particularly in the City where she was not only a hero, but also the creator of policies which made many seriously rich.

But some old style Tories were a little uncomfortable. A frail and very old (former PM) Harold MacMillan talked worriedly of the Thatcher Government ‘selling the family silver.’

When I left to return to Australia in 1989, Britain was divided and something very basic had changed. The new Britain was satirised by comedian Harry Enfield who had a character called LOADSAMONEY, an English version of the American quintessence of ‘Greed is Good’—Gordon Gecko. Money had become an end in itself.

When Tony Barrell and I started work on two Background Briefing programs about Thatcherism we called them ‘The Thatcher Decades’, half jokingly, because it seemed she would go on and on.

When New Labour swept to power a worried senior Tory is said to have expressed his fears about the young Blair. ‘Oh, don’t worry about Tony,’ said Thatcher. And she was right. New Labour was in several ways Thatcher-lite. And today even Arthur Scargill—the workers champion—is fighting his own members. The issue? His bloated living expenses.

Transcript

Show

Credits

Reporter
Tony Barrell / Nick Franklin
Supervising Producer
Linda McGinness
Sound Engineer
Executive Producer
Chris Bullock

Comments (2)

Add your comment

Nick :

13 Apr 2013 11:54:10pm

Nice to see Nick Franklin back.

The very term “Thatcher’s Britain” rankles me.

I use the term myself, telling people I grew up in “Thatcher’s Britain”, but in reality it was a deeply divided country, divided mainly by her and her party. Was it all “Thatcher’s”?

North/South, Rich/Poor, Working/Unemployed, Black/White and on.

She won around 42% of the vote in a country with 75% turnout, and ruled only for that 42% more than any government ever had before.

She dismantled any consensus that existed between the 2 main parties.

Britain was a country with serious problems when she won the 1979 election, but the economic ‘miracle’ she claimed was fueled by the oil of the North Sea, and by selling off public utilities, a trick she wasn’t alone in using: even local Labour Councils sold off their own buildings and town halls and leased them back for a quick cash hit.

The miracle proved a mirage. Interest rates soared at times with the pound under attack, the property market crashed, and Britain wasn’t immune from the stock market’s Black Monday of 1987.

But the lasting impression for me of Thatcher’s Britain was the homeless on the streets of London.

How can any society claim an economic miracle when record numbers were sleeping rough. Every doorway on Oxford and Regent Streets filled with someone down on their luck, the UK’s most high profile shopping meccas.

These weren’t ‘tramps’ but a variety of people, many were young fleeing the economic devastation of the north of Britain, hoping to find work (most jobs had hundreds of applicants), but without work unable to secure rented accommodation, and without an address unable to get a job.

Thatcher’s eventual demise at the hands of her own party caused celebration, but was soon soured by John Major’s grey safe pair of hands winning the ’92 election.

I remember the night well, but as a horror movie. The zombie cleaning up the carcasses after the vampire had finished with us.

I don’t, like some, celebrate Thatcher’s passing. I really had stopped thinking about her.

If anything her death has just brought back painful memories.

Nothing to celebrate.
*************************************************************************

Transcript

Hide

Chris Bullock: This is Background Briefing, I’m Chris Bullock.

The most recent images of Margaret Thatcher as a physically and mentally frail 87-year-old are hard to reconcile with those of the Iron Lady at her peak. In the 1980s Britain was most emphatically Thatcher’s Britain. She had stamped her indelible mark on her nation and beyond. By the end of the decade though, her political powers had peaked and were about to slide into terminal decline. After years of deep social division, the introduction of an unpopular poll-tax accelerated the slide, and she finally resigned in November 1990, making way for John Major, a much less charismatic and divisive Conservative leader.

In today’s program, which was first broadcast on Background Briefing 24 years ago in 1989, Nick Franklin and Tony Barrell chart the rise and rise of Margaret Thatcher. As RN listeners will know, Tony Barrell has since died, as have several other people featured in the program; Peter Jenkins, Hugo Young, former Labour leader James Callaghan, and of course Maggie Thatcher.

Margaret Thatcher: I don’t think there’ll be a woman prime minister in my lifetime, as far as I can see. I think if you look about the world you’ll find that women have become prime ministers really for one of two reasons; either because they joined in the pioneering movement that made the nation, or alternatively because they were very close to some of the main men politicians of the day, either by being related or, unfortunately, by being the widow. And that I think is the way in which women become prime ministers, rather than through their own career.

Margaret Thatcher: They say that a Thatcher government…and I must say I like the sound of that [applause], I like it a little more each time I hear it and they use it quite a lot, they must believe it. They say that a Thatcher government would be reactionary. If to react against the politics of the last few years which undermined our way of life and devastated our economy, if that’s reactionary then we are reactionary and so are the vast majority of the British people.

Tony Barrell: If the grocer’s daughter from Grantham surprised herself by becoming the nation’s leader, she’s been surprising everyone else ever since. Transformation has been her trade. And these days everyone does something many were once reluctant to do, and that’s take her seriously.

Margaret Thatcher: Can we go around? Because I don’t want anyone not to have a question. Are you wanting anything? Now, next? Yes?

Question: Do you think people expect too much of a woman in parliament?

Margaret Thatcher: No, I don’t think they can expect too much of a woman.

Question: What really keeps you at it? It must take enormous stamina.

Margaret Thatcher: I just don’t know but I think if many women sat down and thought how they got through the day they wouldn’t be able to get through it, but if you just tackle it as it comes along, you can cope.

Question: Mrs Thatcher, do you think you could solve England’s ills?

Margaret Thatcher: I don’t think anyone can solve ills for all time, it’s a job you have to go at each and every day afresh for the short-term and there is a long-term effect, and you must take both of them into account.

Question: But certainly not as heavy as doing the washing up, right?

Margaret Thatcher: Do you know, you men always get stuck on the washing up. There really are more important things in life, and it’s just a thing that you have to do.

Tony Barrell: Margaret Thatcher on a visit to Australia as leader of the Tory Party in 1976. It would be unthinkable for a journalist to ask her crass questions about the washing up today. But is this because she’s transformed herself, or the British nation?

Both transformations are the subject of this program. Here’s Nick Franklin, who spent the first Thatcher decade as a journalist in Britain, and for a large part of that time he lived and worked within a stone’s throw of Margaret Thatcher’s birthplace.

Nick Franklin: Ever since her childhood, Margaret Hilda Thatcher has been able to change her life and her environment. What Margaret did first was remake herself .But what was Margaret? What, or rather who, made her?

It’s impossible to understand her without making the pilgrimage back to her roots, to Grantham, a small market town in Lincolnshire where the conservative values of Victorian England persisted long into the 20th century.

And when we try to identify the ideological ingredients of what we all call ‘Thatcherism’, it isn’t to the dry economic theoreticians but to her father, the grocer, mayor and JP, Alderman Alfred Roberts we must turn.

Kenneth Harris: If you don’t know the father, you don’t know Margaret. She is her father’s daughter and, in a sense, her father’s son too because he never had a son, and she has done all the things he would have loved his son to have done if he’d had one and he would have liked to have done himself. He was always very interested in politics. If life had turned out differently for him he would have become an MP.

Nick Franklin: Kenneth Harris. He’s based his official biography of Margaret Thatcher on hours of personal interviews with her, and he’s convinced that if we want to understand Margaret, we need to understand her father.

Kenneth Harris: He was an austere, hard-working, Victorian kind of person, Methodist, chapel four times on Sundays and choir practice in the middle of the week, that kind of thing. A very upright man, didn’t believe in borrowing, didn’t believe in lending. He was a man of principle, believed in principle, believed in doing what you thought was right, and this made a great impression on Margaret and on her sister.

Nick Franklin: Was there a strict Victorian atmosphere in the Roberts household in Grantham?

Kenneth Harris: Oh yes. No games on Sunday, no Ludo, no Snakes and Ladders on Sunday. They were allowed to read books, and apart from that all they did was go to chapel.

Nick Franklin: And Margaret went on those four trips every Sunday as well?

Kenneth Harris: Oh yes, yes.

Reading: They were neat and tidy, always as well dressed as they could afford. The kind of people who even if they only had one shirt or blouse would get up a few minutes earlier every morning to put an iron over it.

Nick Franklin: Margaret Thatcher’s assessment of life in the grocer’s shop, as reported by Kenneth Harris. Even though it would clearly suit her much better than Edward Heath, the man she replaced, no one uses the nickname ‘grocer’ for Margaret. But according to Harris it was in the shop that she learnt her politics and her economics.

Kenneth Harris: The sugar came in big boxes and the butter came in big boxes, and a typical chore for Margaret was to weigh out the sugar into half-pounds and pound bags in the room behind the shop, the room below where she was born incidentally. And then she would weigh out the sweets into packets, penny packets, twopenny packets. She could slice the bacon. There would be a big side of bacon, none of your packets of bacon in those days, and Margaret would work the slicer, slice up the bacon, put that into half-pounds and pounds, that kind of thing. Very much in the shop all the time. And because of his political interests, lots of his fellow councillors used to come into the shop, partly to buy things but partly to have a talk, to sit around, have a cup of coffee, eat some biscuits and talk about local politics. So, you see, from being a very little girl of ten she was brought up in an intense and really, in its way, very sophisticated atmosphere.

Nick Franklin: In your book you refer to her early charity work. Can you explain what was happening then?

Kenneth Harris: Yes, the mother used to bake, she was a very good cook, and she used to bake cakes, as lots of people did in those days, and she would always bake more than she needed and then Margaret would be sent out to deliver these extra cakes and biscuits to the poor and needy and sick.

Nick Franklin: Margaret is well remembered by her contemporaries in Grantham as being hard-working, determined, and imbued with a conviction that she needed to improve herself and stand on her own two feet.

The reason she escaped being assassinated by the IRA’s Brighton bomb in 1984 was because she wasn’t in bed asleep but working on her papers in another room. Such dedication and commitment to getting on meant that Margaret had to do without fun and friends.

Kenneth Harris: A lot of her contemporaries at school, especially because she was so able and got on so well, were jealous of her. There is no doubt about it, I’ve talked to some of the school mistresses. They could see that Margaret tried to behave in a special kind of way. She was always very well turned out. She was always neatly dressed, everything was pressed. And everybody knew that she was ambitious to go to Oxford. And so some of them called her ‘snobby’, ‘Snobby Roberts’.

Nick Franklin: ‘Snobby Roberts’ set out on her struggle for achievement in the disheartening context of the Great Depression. But as the 1930s drew to a close, the prospect of war made an even greater impression on her. Margaret’s own brand of populist patriotism, the gut zeal which convinced her that she could lead Britain to victory in the Falklands, was learned on the roads of Lincolnshire. As the war became a certainty, the 14-year-old Margaret Roberts spent many an hour touring the local villages reciting the great English poets. Her favourite was Kipling.

Reading: God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far flung battle line,
beneath whose awful hand we hold
dominion over palm and pine
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
lest we forget, lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;
the captains and the kings depart:
still stands thine ancient sacrifice,
a humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
lest we forget, lest we forget!

Nick Franklin: Margaret’s dedication to homework paid off. She went to Oxford and studied chemistry, a practical subject she thought would lead to a career and financial independence.

She discovered student politics. In 1946 she became president of the Conservative Association, and only four years afterwards she fought her first election battle. She lost by 20,000 votes in a safe Labour seat. That same year she began a law degree, specialising in taxation, another move calculated to help her political career.

She met Denis Thatcher at a Conservative Party meeting in 1951, and their twins were born in 1953. Her parliamentary career got going in 1959 when she won Finchley, a safe Tory seat in North London.

During the ’60s she held a succession of shadow portfolios covering Treasury, Fuel, Transport and Education, and when the Tories won in 1970, Edward Heath made her Education Minister. She earned herself another nickname when she presided over the decision to stop giving free milk to primary school children, ‘Thatcher the Milk Snatcher’. The Sun newspaper called her ‘the most unpopular woman in Britain’, the paper that was to become, under Rupert Murdoch, her greatest champion.

Heath’s government fell after the disastrous dispute with the miners in 1973. Two years later Margaret Thatcher became the leader of the Conservative Party and she immediately defined herself a national mission.

Margaret Thatcher: What I want to do is to lead the people of this country away from the quicksands of Socialism. I don’t think they want a Socialist society as fast as they can, or even as slow as they can. I don’t think they want a Socialist society at all.

So I say now to all our people, and particularly those in the Midlands and the North, and to my friends in Scotland who welcomed me so unforgettably the other day, but who may have felt in the past that there was not all that difference between the Parties, that it didn’t really matter who was in office, I say to you: come back into the fight. There’s all the difference in the world. Join hands with us in the Conservative Party and help us rid the nation of this Socialist albatross.

James Callaghan: As you know, during the last few weeks speculation has been building up about the possibility of a general election this autumn. Some time ago, in the summer, I said that I would make a statement on the future after the summer holidays. So, I shall not to be calling for a general election at this time. Instead I ask every one of you to carry on with the task of consolidating the improvement now taking place in our country’s position. Let’s see it through together.

Nick Franklin: James Callaghan, Britain’s Labour Prime Minister, staving off the inevitable in September 1978. What followed was the ‘winter of discontent’. The unpopularity of Labour’s prices and incomes policy led to a rebellion by low-paid public sector workers. Their campaign of stoppages and strikes created mayhem across the board. When the election was called in ’79 the Tories walked in. And yet the nation as a whole was still in some doubt as to exactly how and why they had a woman prime minister.

Political commentator for the Independent, Peter Jenkins, has written an unauthorised biography of Margaret Thatcher, The Thatcher Revolution.

Peter Jenkins: She was very much an outsider at first. She had won the leadership from Edward Heath in 1975 by what was in effect a coup d’état. Nobody expected her to emerge from that election except some people around her who had a very clear plan and were very determined that she should. But she did, and the Conservative Party woke up one morning to find that it had elected Mrs Thatcher, the first woman to lead it in its history, but also somebody who was really quite outside not only the ideological consensus which had prevailed in the Conservative Party for the most part since the war, but a completely different type of person. She wasn’t recognisable as a Tory ruler. Mind you, Edward Heath himself had come from a humble background and was a somewhat different kind of Tory, but Mrs Thatcher the more so.

Kenneth Harris: She did not dispossess the old guard, she maintained most of them in her first cabinet. They did everything short of denouncing her in public. Most of them thought she wouldn’t last the ’79 – ’83 period. They tried to resist the very strong measures she took in the budget of 1981 which was really the watershed when she insisted on carrying out her anti-inflationary methods, and even though this meant increased unemployment and was virtually condemned by half her old Cabinet, she pressed on and on and on, and gradually got rid of them. Some of them got rid of themselves. So that by ’83 she was in charge of her own Cabinet, and then that whacking great victory in 1983 put her in an unassailable position as Prime Minister with her Cabinet, leader of the party with her party, and indeed with public opinion in the country.

Margaret Thatcher: When I first walked through that door, and many of you were with me photographing me then, I little thought that we’d become the longest-serving Prime Minister this century. The eight years and 244 days have gone very quickly indeed and there is so much more still to do.

Tony Barrell: She’s the only one to have given her name to a political creed. Its simple, straightforward elements were well in place long before she became Prime Minister, and the tone and style of Thatcherism were never better expressed than at that meeting with the Australian media in 1976.

Margaret Thatcher: My politics are that the individual matters more than the state and the state should be made to serve the needs of the individual and not the other way around. From that the individual has many, many relationships in the family, in the community. You have to learn to live together in freedom, and to do that you need a rule of law to protect the freedom of the weak from the strong. That’s all in a nutshell and you really have got it absolutely in a nutshell and you should be very pleased.

Chris Bullock: Margaret Thatcher talking to the Australian media back in 1976. And on RN you’re listening to Background Briefing and a program first broadcast in 1989. The reporters are Nick Franklin and the late Tony Barrell. I’m Chris Bullock.

Freedom through individualism was the consistent rhetorical theme of Thatcherism. Policies may have changed or been re-directed, but they are always presented as fitting within that unswerving framework. And this allowed Margaret Thatcher to constantly transform her policies and to remake herself or her image.

Margaret Thatcher: If, as I hope, the minority parties join with us next Wednesday we shall not only be able to set the wheels in motion, we shall also have reasserted the historic right of the House of Commons to say to the government of the day enough is enough.

Man: [unclear]…’enough is enough’, it’s a lowering, not a raising…

Margaret Thatcher: Enough is enough…

Man: No, it’s…

Margaret Thatcher: Enough is enough…

Man: That’s it.

Margaret Thatcher: Enough is enough…enough is enough…yes…enough is enough…

Man: Down…

Margaret Thatcher: Enough is enough…enough is enough…

Man: Yes, that’s it.

Tony Barrell: Margaret Thatcher on the steep learning curve of the 1979 election campaign.

The first decade of Thatcherism has transformed more than Mrs Thatcher’s own personal style.

Reading: In 1979 just over half of the population were home owners.

Nick Franklin: After ten years the government’s policy of selling off council houses means nearly three-quarters of the population now own their homes.

Reading: In 1979 only 7% of the population owned shares.

Nick Franklin: After the massive privatisation program of selling off the British public sector, more than 20% of Britons are shareholders.

Reading: In 1979 the annual inflation rate in Britain was 16%.

Nick Franklin: In 1989 it’s nearly 8% and rising.

Tony Barrell: In her first decade, Mrs Thatcher has slashed government spending and cut taxes, weaned the British away from socialism towards enterprise culture. To do it she had to tap a latent well of national zeal.

As well as being her official biographer, Kenneth Harris is an avid supporter. Why?

Kenneth Harris: Guts. Guts. She comes to power in 1979 and she says, ‘I’m going to reduce inflation, it’s killing us.’ Every Prime Minister had been saying that for 25 years. None of them had succeeded in doing it. She succeeded. Even if she’d failed, the very fact that she tried so hard, the fact that she tried so hard to keep her promises meant a great deal to people in this country because they’d seen so many prime ministers of different parties breaking their promises, but Margaret kept hers, and not only did she keep the promise to try and do something about it, she did it.

Peter Jenkins: There was a sense in Britain of failure, of persistent economic failure by 1979. Maybe this was not endemic to us British, maybe it was the product of the oil crisis of 1973, the inflation which afflicted not only Britain but most of the Western developed countries, so perhaps it was in part the product of things which were not wholly within our control. But nevertheless, I think that there was a sense of failure. Mrs Thatcher addressed it and she addressed it by saying we can’t go on in the old way. All of the old conventional wisdom is now, she thought, bankrupt. And so she had her own new and distinctive form of politics to apply. I think that it certainly made this psychological break with a failed past and given the country some degree of new confidence.

Margaret Thatcher: We must now bring life in the islands back to normal as quickly as possible, despite the difficult conditions and the onset of the Antarctic winter. Mines must be removed, the water supply in Stanley is not working, and there will be other urgent tasks of repair and reconstruction. Our purpose is that the Falkland Islands should never again be a victim of unprovoked aggression.

Tony Barrell: It’s the Falklands war that provides the galvanising factor. From a military perspective it was an absurd little war that nearly cost the British its blue water navy, but its timing in the context of national politics was devastating.

Newsreader: The BBC’s Nicholas Witchell continues:

Nicholas Witchell: The road from the airport into the town is in very bad condition, five miles of ruts and potholes, and the Prime Minister could be seen bouncing up and down on the back seat of the vehicle, her husband Denis on the taxi’s jump seat opposite hanging on determinedly. In this fashion the convoy bumped along past minefields and missile sites and astonished British servicemen going about their duties at the side of the road who suddenly lined up, came to attention and saluted.

Margaret Thatcher: We are really very thrilled and very excited that we’ve come to talk to the people here, to support the armed forces here, and to pay tribute to those who liberated the island.

Nicholas Witchell: There is a danger I suppose that the Argentines could interpret a visit by you as a provocative gesture.

Margaret Thatcher: It would be very strange if I did not come to the Falkland Islands, very strange indeed.

Hugo Young: Again, I think the Falklands War was very important, and I think in many ways, in sort of naked political terms, the key event of the ’80s in the sense that it sealed her in office for a long time afterwards, and that war could so easily have gone wrong.

Nick Franklin: Hugo Young, author of One of Us.

Margaret Thatcher: And in case the news hasn’t reached you, Britain is also doing very well, with a growth rate higher than any other country in Europe, wider ownership, lower taxes, and unparalleled prosperity which enables us to spend more than ever on education and the social services. So it’s not at all the picture you used to have in the days when people spoke in hushed tones of the British disease. Now we are known for the British cure and people look to us to see how it is done.

Colm Kearney: If Margaret Thatcher did not become Prime Minister in 1979 and if monetarist policies had not been put in operation, the British government, of whatever political party, would have had a lot more money to expend on infrastructural developments and on social welfare developments. As it turned out, the 30% reduction in the manufacturing sector resulted in a lot of North Sea oil money going to redundancy payments in that sector. That was a once-off benefit of North Sea oil, and it’s now lost. If it had been used on infrastructural development, Britain would continue to have the benefits of North Sea oil today and in the future.

Tony Barrell: Dr Colm Kearney. He made a study of the Thatcher economic revolution at first hand.

Those early years of economic hardship were supposed to be the short, sharp cure Britain needed to banish inflation, curb the unions and revitalise private enterprise. ‘There is No Alternative’ it was called. A once-and-for-all transformation. But unemployment doubled, and at the beginning of 1982 the horrifying figure of three million was reached. Instead of going to fund social infrastructure for a 21st century economy, the precious oil revenues were used to pay the running costs of monetarism, the dole queues.

Colm Kearney: It was a well thought out policy. To begin with the Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher first abandoned the commitment to achieving full employment. Instead they focused their attentions on permanently reducing inflation. Traditionally in Britain during the post-war period and more recently the two governments prior to Thatcher’s government it was a commonly adopted policy to use fiscal deficits to make the economy grow faster during bad times and to offset that by using tighter fiscal policy to slow down the rate of growth of the economy during good times to prevent inflation from taking off.

The idea here was to stabilise the unemployment rate while keeping inflation at a low level. These policies began to fail, and one of the reasons was emerging high interest rates, because on average governments were running deficits more than surpluses. So a high level of government debt was growing up over a three-decade period. And the high interest rates were increasing borrowing costs to private firms, so that private investment was, to coin the phrase, being crowded out by government expenditures.

This resulted in an antipathy to fiscal policy by the emerging Conservative government. They deliberately sought to minimise the role of government in the economy in order to allow market forces to operate in a more efficient way and hence hopefully to encourage the private sector to take up the gauntlet of more investment.

The policy of monetarism by raising the exchange rate in the order of 40% over a two-year period from ’79 to ’81 resulted in a restructuring of the British economy which amounted to a decline in the size of the manufacturing sector by almost 30%. Given that Britain has traditionally been a net exporter of manufacturing commodities since the Industrial Revolution, it is now for the first time in a position of importing net manufacturing products.

Nick Franklin: Britain’s balance of trade deficit blew out to an all time record of £14.7 billion. Instead of continuing with monetarism, the government u-turned to reflate the economy with a consumer splurge based on easy credit.

Margaret Thatcher: The advice I give is the advice which enabled me to proceed to three victories. It is quite simple; re-enunciate the principles in which you believe. You formulate the policies from those, which are policies that it’s not government’s job to do everything, it’s government’s job to get the finances right and to provide a framework of law in which free enterprise can operate. So our job is to get the finances right, get the framework of law right, but remembering always it’s not government’s job to run industry but government’s task to allow industry the better to run itself in free and open competition, and by getting down trade barriers because unless your industry is capable of competing it will soon be inefficient industry. And you stick to that policy through thick and thin.

Man: I think Britain is very prosperous with Mrs Thatcher ruling the government. I think that as long as she stays in control or the Tories are in control this country will prosper.

Question: Have you ever had a job?

Young woman: No. The job centres are all the same. It’s either people over 20, 21+, or too many qualifications.

Question: What would you like to do?

Young woman: Anything.

Man: My friends I talk to, they are very happy with their mortgages and…you open the Evening Standard every evening there’s a thousand jobs. I would say if you really want work there is work there. If you don’t want work then you can sleep on the streets. I don’t think any of it is down to Mrs Thatcher. There’s plenty of work about. My mother and father were buying their house, they were with Council, and Labour wouldn’t let them buy the house. When Mrs Thatcher came in, Conservative, they bought their house, they sold the house, and now they live in California.

Man: A lot of people who have got money have got more money than they have ever had in their lives, and those people who haven’t got money have got less than they’ve ever had, so you see that north/south divide within your own community. You can walk through town and you can see people with £300 suits on driving fast cars and having the time of their life, driving by somebody whose life is in a bag of chips.

[Music: ‘Loadsamoney’, Harry Enfield]

Margaret Thatcher: We haven’t divided the nation between north and south, there has always been a difference between north and south. That actually oversimplifies it because there are some very prosperous places in the north and there are some places of considerable difficulty in the south. But in the north we’ve got more self-employed, more enterprise allowance, houses are cheaper, salary for salary you do far better in the north on standard of living than you do in the south. And if anyone has tried to bring about one nation, it’s this government.

Nick Franklin: If supplementary benefit rates are taken as defining the level of the poverty line, then at the beginning of Mrs Thatcher’s third term more than eight million people were living on or below it. They include two million children which is 72% more than when the decade began.

Economic forecaster, Paul Ormerod of the Henley Centre at Cambridge.

Paul Ormerod: If we take the bottom 30% of the population in terms of how well off they are, since ’79 their income hasn’t risen any faster than inflation, so in a real sense you’ve not got any better off. If we take the top 10% their incomes have risen by 50% more than inflation, so there has been a massive widening of inequality in the UK, which of course Mrs Thatcher argues has been desirable to economic progress. And it’s this which I think causes potential problems. You could see it positively like Mrs Thatcher does and say this will actually generate jobs and generate wealth for everybody, or you could see it as creating severe social problems over the next decade as, if you like, the dispossessed, the underclass start to do something active about it rather than accepting it passively. Although I should say on that, I’ve personally taken the precaution of moving out of inner London south of the river where I used to live, a very crowded area with many social problems, out to the desirable pastures of Kew Gardens in West London where there is no question of any social tension arising.

Yasmin Alibhai: She has been very honest about one thing, she said she wanted us to go back to Victorian England, and she has taken us back to Victorian England.

Nick Franklin: Yasmin Alibhai, Race and Society Editor of the New Statesman and Society.

Yasmin Alibhai: What you have now is a serious underclass which we’ve never had before, and a large proportion of that underclass consists of women, single parents, often locked in a poverty trap, where their existence depends on patronage, not on rights, where supplementary benefit which you could apply for when you had a certain set of problems, by right you applied for and you got your supplementary benefit. Everything is needs based now, everything is a much harder process because the myth is that the poor are poor because they want to be poor. So, you know, we’re not a million miles away from the workhouse ideology.

You are getting inner-city areas, the really deprived inner-city areas producing some mini millionaires from these groups, and then for her this proves the point. That’s all it’s about, that Thatcherite economy, Thatcherite politics works for everybody, but it doesn’t. So what Britain is now is it’s okay to be selfish, it’s okay to be hard, it’s okay to care about yourself and nobody else, morality is connected with moneymaking, with affluence.

[Audio: Sounds of unrest]

Man: I’ve just come from a shop now down Park Road there where they’ve just been running out with arm-loads of stuff, you know. And I’m pleading with young people, 12- and 13-year-olds, put it down and go home.

Young woman: I’ve seen them get a young boy about 12 or 15, get him, about ten policemen get him and kick him in the head and everything.

Woman: The only one that we have to thank for this is Margaret Thatcher.

Woman: Bring the army in, that’s what I said.

Man: Aye, bring the army in, get these lads off the street, bring the army in. What you want is the army in.

Journalist: Law and order, as evidenced by this election broadcast, is one of the issues the Conservatives have started to push as the polls show their lead slipping to around 5%.

1979 election campaign material: Every day vandals strike 800 times, and 238 people are violently assaulted.

Every week there are 11,000 burglaries and robberies. That’s 66 every hour.

Nick Franklin: The 1979 Tory election campaign. In 1988 the figures for all those crime categories were up: vandalism to more than 1,600 a day, a rise of 100%; violence against the person by 75%; robberies and burglaries to over 800,000 a week. Or, as the admen like to put it, 90 an hour, one every 40 seconds, up 50% from ten years ago when Margaret Thatcher came to power on the law and order ticket.

Hugo Young: The police force has increased by many thousands of people. Police pay was the very first thing, way back in ’79, the very first executive act that government took was to increase the police pay by a very large amount in line with a report which had been published and had been qualified by the previous government. And in the hierarchy of people who have done well out of the Thatcher government, hardly anybody has done better than the police. But I don’t think that you can say, I don’t think anybody would say, I don’t think even ministers would say, that the fruit of ten years of heavy investment in law and order has produced law and order.

Kenneth Harris: At least she has established the preservation of law and order and the extending of law and order as the prime objective of the Conservative Party.

Nick Franklin: Well, the prisons in Britain are overcrowded, it’s got a higher percentage of people in prison than anywhere else in Europe, and these days the message coming from the Thatcher government is for the judges and magistrates not to send so many people to prison, which seems a strange thing for a law and order government to do.

Kenneth Harris: I don’t see that that is necessarily a strange thing for them to do. Our prisons are overcrowded, and what the government is saying to magistrates is let us see if there are other ways in which we can deter criminals and prevent crime than by sending them to already overcrowded prisons. After all, it’s a devilish problem, it’s a very great problem.

Nick Franklin: Kenneth Harris, author of Thatcher. And before him, Hugo Young, author of One of Us.

The social transformation of Britain as envisaged by Margaret Thatcher’s personal morality has seen some extraordinary contradictions. As you’d expect, with more poverty there’s more crime. There is also more wealth, and with it a new criminal class. Yuppies, it seems, have been afflicted by the strain of carrying all those loadsamoney.

David Furness: It’s not unusual to arrest people earning £20,000 upwards into six-figure numbers, on occasions up to £150,000, £200,000.

Journalist: Chief Inspector David Furness of the British Transport Police. He detailed the kind of behaviour a growing number of yuppies are engaging in.

David Furness: Vomiting over each other and other passengers, urinating on trains, throwing objects out of train doors, and on some occasions resorting to violence. They are full of remorse after they’ve been arrested and charged. Their excuse is I think that they are working extremely pressurised jobs within the city. As far as I’m concerned, that means they should have more responsibility. Everyone has a pressurised job it’s up to everyone to control themselves and act in a social way when they travel by train.

Margaret Thatcher: We have a great deal of work to do, so no one must slack. You can have a party tonight, you can have a marvellous party tonight, and you can clear up tomorrow. But on Monday, you know, we’ve got a big job to do in some of those inner cities.

Chris Bullock: Margaret Thatcher at her political peak after winning the 1987 British general election.

Today’s Background Briefing was first broadcast in May 1989. The presenters were Nick Franklin and the late Tony Barrell. I’m Chris Bullock.

.

Credits

Reporter
Tony Barrell / Nick Franklin
Supervising Producer
Linda McGinness
Sound Engineer
Executive Producer
Chris Bullock

Comments (2)

Add your comment


  • Nick :

    13 Apr 2013 11:54:10pm

    Nice to see Nick Franklin back.

    The very term “Thatcher’s Britain” rankles me.

    I use the term myself, telling people I grew up in “Thatcher’s Britain”, but in reality it was a deeply divided country, divided mainly by her and her party. Was it all “Thatcher’s”?

    North/South, Rich/Poor, Working/Unemployed, Black/White and on.

    She won around 42% of the vote in a country with 75% turnout, and ruled only for that 42% more than any government ever had before.

    She dismantled any consensus that existed between the 2 main parties.

    Britain was a country with serious problems when she won the 1979 election, but the economic ‘miracle’ she claimed was fueled by the oil of the North Sea, and by selling off public utilities, a trick she wasn’t alone in using: even local Labour Councils sold off their own buildings and town halls and leased them back for a quick cash hit.

    The miracle proved a mirage. Interest rates soared at times with the pound under attack, the property market crashed, and Britain wasn’t immune from the stock market’s Black Monday of 1987.

    But the lasting impression for me of Thatcher’s Britain was the homeless on the streets of London.

    How can any society claim an economic miracle when record numbers were sleeping rough. Every doorway on Oxford and Regent Streets filled with someone down on their luck, the UK’s most high profile shopping meccas.

    These weren’t ‘tramps’ but a variety of people, many were young fleeing the economic devastation of the north of Britain, hoping to find work (most jobs had hundreds of applicants), but without work unable to secure rented accommodation, and without an address unable to get a job.

    Thatcher’s eventual demise at the hands of her own party caused celebration, but was soon soured by John Major’s grey safe pair of hands winning the ’92 election.

    I remember the night well, but as a horror movie. The zombie cleaning up the carcasses after the vampire had finished with us.

    I don’t, like some, celebrate Thatcher’s passing. I really had stopped thinking about her.

    If anything her death has just brought back painful memories.

    Nothing to celebrate.

    Reply Alert moderator


  • Robert :

    14 Apr 2013 4:57:21pm

    Hope to see Background Briefing develop their pre-2006 program archive to enable us listeners have a sense of history surroinding people and events like this

 

 

 

Damning new report on EU’s inaction over Israel

Damning new report on EU’s inaction over Israel

Date     May 25, 2013 – 6:44PM

Ruth Pollard

The European Union had failed to hold the Israeli government to account over its continuing human rights violations against Palestinians, including the demolition of houses, water systems and critical infrastructure, a damning new report has found.

In a harsh assessment, a coalition of more than 80 aid and development organisations represented by the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) found that despite its tough talk, the EU had not effectively addressed the Israeli policies that create ‘‘unbearable conditions’’ for many Palestinians living in the West Bank.

A year ago, all 27 EU member countries committed to challenging the expansion of Israeli settlements and the increasing pace of the demolition of Palestinian property in an area of the West Bank known as ‘‘Area C’’.

Since then, the situation on the ground has only deteriorated, says Charles Silva, the chairman of AIDA and the country director of Action Against Hunger.

Covering more than 60 per cent of the West Bank, Area C falls under full Israeli municipal and military control and is home to around 150,000 Palestinians, as well as approximately 325,000 Israelis who live in settlements that are considered illegal under international law.

In the last year, Israeli authorities destroyed 535 Palestinian-owned structures (including homes, emergency tents, essential infrastructure, water cisterns, and roads), displacing 784 people, more than half of them children, the report found.

In stark contrast, 613 housing have been built in Israeli settlements and tenders have been approved for at least 1,967 new settlement units — a four-fold increase since 2011, the report found.

Even the EU’s investment in the development of village plans to increase the pace of development in the area — seen as vital to improving the lives of Palestinians who live without the most basic of infrastructure such as running water and electricity — had been stymied by Israel, the AIDA report found.

Not one of the 32 European-funded village plans had been fully approved.

The harsh policies were designed to ‘‘force the displacement’’ of Palestinians living in the area, Mr Silva told Fairfax Media.

‘‘What concerns us the most is demolitions of homes, shelters and sensitive infrastructure like water and sanitation, as well as the forced transfer of populations,’’ he said.

‘‘We have seen what happens when communities are forcibly transferred … they are removed and a few years later there is a settlement built there.’’

Israel’s settlement construction was high on the agenda during a visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah from the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, this week, along with his British counterpart, Foreign Secretary William Hague.

‘‘Our position on settlements and outposts … is that we are opposed to it. We believe that it is not … constructive in the context of our efforts to move forward,’’ Mr Kerry said on Friday after his fourth visit to the Holy Land to try to reinvigorate peace talks.

After visiting Khan Al-Ahmar, a Bedouin community in the sensitive ‘‘E1’’ area where Israel plans to construct a new settlement that would effectively isolate East Jerusalem from the West Bank, Mr Hague said ‘‘the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate’’.

‘‘The expansion of settlements, which are illegal under international law, continues to be a grave concern,’’ he said.

Indeed when the village Mr Hague visited needed to construct a school, parents, children and international donors were forced to build classrooms from car tires and mud in order to get around Israel’s harsh building restrictions, the AIDA report noted.

Even then, Israel issued demolition orders against Khan Al-Ahmar’s school — a familiar experience for villages in Area C, where there is a critical shortage of schools and young children are forced to walk long distances to attend class, facing settler and Israeli military violence, the report found.

After the release of the May 2012 EU Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions, there were hopes that ‘‘positive advances in EU policy could change an increasingly untenable situation’’, the report found.

Instead around 30 European-funded structures have been demolished and dozens more — such as tents, water cisterns and animal pens — are under threat of demolition.

‘‘The EU can take political action to ensure that structures do not get demolished,’’ Mr Silva said. ‘‘We have seen that when donors take decisive diplomatic action they can stop demolitions from happening … and that Israel takes notice of unified and robust opposition..’’

Israel believes it has the right to build in the West Bank, which it calls Judea and Samaria, and does not accept that the settlements are illegal.

The human toll of these demolitions is enormous, disrupting children’s education, separating family members, and causing the declining economic, physical and mental health, Mr Silva said.

Fairfax Media understands there is at least one Australian-funded structure that is under threat of demolition — a tent that provides shelter for a regular medical clinic in the village of Susiya in the south Hebron Hills.

The Australian government’s overseas aid program, AusAID, did not respond to questions before publication deadline.

PRESIDENT AGHA MUHAMMAD YAHYA KHAN

http://presidentyahya.com/

PRESIDENT YAHYA KHAN REMAINS ONE OF THE MOST MISUNDERSTOOD HISTORICAL FIGURE OF OUR TIMES.HE HAS NOT RECEIVED PROPER RECOGNITION FORHIS WORK TOWARD DEMOCRACY IN ONE OF THE MOST SURPRESSED COUNTRY IN SOUTH ASIA

A DICTATOR??
Would a dictator generate a fair election within one year of his presidency?

Would a dictator hand over all the power to an elected leader?

Yahya Khan established a semimilitary state, he also introduced changes that led to the return of parliamentary democracy. Yahya held national elections in December 1970 for the purpose of choosing members of the new National Assembly who were to be elected directly by the people. However, the results of these elections, which brought the politicians once more to the fore, led to the secession of East Pakistan and the creation of an independent Bangladesh in 1971.

Yahya accepted the demand of East Pakistan for representation in the new assembly on the basis of population. As a result, Bengali leader Sheikh Mujibur (“Mujib”) Rahman’s Awami League won all but two of the 162 seats allotted East Pakistan out of the 300 directly elected seats in the assembly (thirteen indirectly elected women were added), and Mujib wanted considerable regional autonomy for East Pakistan. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) emerged as the political victors in West Pakistan in the 1970 elections. Bhutto’s intransigence–he refused to participate in the discussions to frame the new constitution–led to the continuation of martial law and the eventual political and military confrontation between East Pakistan and West Pakistan, which precipitated civil war and the country’s dismemberment in December 1971. With Pakistan’s military in disarray, Yahya resigned, and Bhutto was appointed president and civilian chief martial law administrator

**************************************************************************

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9cHUJBt2Sw
Yahya Khan GETS ANGRY with Journalists AS IF THIS BULLY knowledge giving to Journalists = “babies can save East Pakistan.

his drunkard Yahya Khan was a huge disgrace to Pakistani and Paki Army. Yet Pakistanis defend him to this very day. His soldiers raped Bangla girls as documented by the Pakistani Chief Justice in his Humadur Rehman report about the East Pakistan Problem. The report was promptly kept under wraps for years before it got leaked out by the media one day. In it is documented incidents when Muslim Bangla girls, some as young as 11 pleaded with west Paki soldiers to not rape them..but still got raped.

******************************************************************************

WIKIPEADIA says = “Agha Yahya Khan (Urdu: آغا محمد یحیی خان; February 4, 1917 – August 10, 1980), was a Pakistani general who served as the 3rd President of Pakistan from 1969 until East Pakistan‘s secession to Bangladesh in 1971, and Pakistan’s defeat in the Indo-Pakistani war of the same year.[2] The name of General Yahya Khan is still like an abuse in Pakistan.[3]..”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yahya_Khan   <<<< Real history by a WIKI .

*******************************************************************************

Yahya Khan – Address To The Nation (Fall of Dhaka – 1971) Part 2 Of 2.wmv

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQm8UbdNTSQ

Living in DEFAULTER DREAMS

In this SPEECH this IDIOT great “Pakistani” dictator talks about HOW much Pakistan’s friends are SUPPORTING Pakistan !!! Army takes CIVILIANS to be FOOLS.

“…General Yahya Khan (February 4, 1917 — August 10, 1980) was the third President of Pakistan from 1969 to 1971.
Four days after the speech, he surrendered power to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto…”

********************************************************************************

Yahya Khan

Yahya Khan

General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan was born at Chakwal in February 1917. His father, Saadat Ali Khan hailed from Peshawar. After completing his studies from the Punjab University, Yahya Khan joined the Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun. He was commissioned in the Indian Army in 1938. His early postings were in the North West Frontier Province. During World War II, he performed his duties in North Africa, Iraq and Italy. After Independence, Yahya Khan played a major role in setting up the Pakistan Staff College at Quetta. During the war of 1965, he commanded an infantry division. He was appointed Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army in 1966 with the rank of General.

When, in 1969, countrywide agitation rendered the situation out of control, Ayub Khan decided to hand over power to the Army Chief, General Yahya Khan. Immediately after coming to power, Yahya Khan declared Martial Law in the country on March 25, 1969, and assumed the title of Chief Martial Law Administrator. He terminated the Constitution and dissolved the National and Provincial Assemblies. On March 31, he also became President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Unlike Pakistan’s other military rulers, Yahya Khan was not interested in prolonging his rule. Immediately after taking charge of the country, he started looking for options through which he could hand over power to the elected representatives. On March 29, 1970, through an Ordinance, he presented an interim Constitution, the Legal Framework Order. It was actually a formula according to which the forthcoming elections were to be organized. It goes to the credit of Yahya Khan that the first general elections in the history of Pakistan were held during his regime in December 1970.

The trouble started when the results of the elections were announced. The Awami League, under the leadership of Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rahman, swept 160 out of 162 seats allocated to East Pakistan. However, the party failed to get even a single seat from any province of the Western Wing. On the other hand, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party emerged as the single largest party from Punjab and Sindh and managed to win 81 National Assembly seats, all from the Western Wing. This split mandate resulted in political chaos where neither Bhutto nor Mujib was ready to accept his opponent as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. When Bhutto and Mujib failed to reach an understanding about convening a session of the newly elected National Assembly, the ball fell in Yahya Khan’s court. He handled the situation badly. He used army and paramilitary forces in East Pakistan to crush the political agitation. This resulted in the beginning of the war between Pakistan and India in the winter of 1971.

Yahya Khan, as President as well as the Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army, failed to plan the war. This ultimately resulted in the defeat of Pakistan, dismemberment of the country and imprisonment of more than 90,000 Pakistanis. Surrender of Pakistani forces without any resistance and the fall of Dhaka made Yahya Khan the greatest villain in the country. People from all walks of life started criticizing him and thus he was left with no other option but to hand over the power to the leader of the most popular party of the remaining part of Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, on December 20, 1971. Later Bhutto placed Yahya Khan under house arrest in 1972.

Yahya Khan died on August 10, 1980, in Rawalpindi.

*****************************************************************

General Rani tells about General Yahya and Bhutto

(21 posts)
http://pkpolitics.com/discuss/topic/general-rani-tells-about-general-yahya-and-bhutto

  1. M.AKRAM KHAN NIAZI

    The woman was a phenomenon. Easily the most influential figure during Pakistan’s second military regime, with the slightest gesture of her bejewelled hand she could guarantee employment, ensure promotions and bring about unwelcome transfers. Yet, interestingly, few even know her real name: Akleem Akhtar. General Rani she was, and remains to all but an intimate few.
    There are enough reasons for the lady’s ascension to local legend status. In her glory days she seemed omnipotent and was brazen about her exploits. And now, even while suffering from breast cancer that has led to metastasis in the liver and kidney, bedridden and in semi-seclusion, she remains spirited and outspoken.
    Yet, doing a story on her was probably the most difficult assignment I have undertaken. For one thing, everyone I was certain was acquainted with her, was reluctant to even own up to the fact that they knew her. So, for starters, I made a call to her daughter, Aroosa Alam, the defence journalist for the Pakistan Observer and the news coordinator for the Middle East Broadcasting Company, and pop star Fakhre Alam’s mother.
    Aroosa nipped all efforts at contact with her mother in the bud, claiming that not only was General Rani far too unwell to entertain visitors, but also, her brothers were completely against their mother appearing in the press. “My mother has been hurt sufficiently by the media already; we don’t want her private life exploited any further,” stated a stern Aroosa.
    A call to Naureen and Arshad Sami, Adnan Sami Khan’s parents, proved equally unsuccessful. Although General Rani is Naureen’s maternal aunt, she politely but firmly denied even knowing the lady. There was a similar response from Zil-e-Huma, whose mother Madame Nur Jehan’s friendship with General Rani was legion. Huma completely denied any knowledge of the woman.
    A journalist working for the Jang group, Maqsood Butt nearly had an apoplexy when I mentioned the story I was working on. While in the past Maqsood Butt had written extensively on this topic and is said to have close ties with the family, he has for several years, refrained from even bringing up her name in an article.
    “I promised her that I would never talk about her or her family again,” he stated nervously and refused to help me in any way.
    Clearly, the woman I was seeking out was no ordinary woman. As I kept running into a blind alley and became increasingly despondent, General Rani’s lawyers, S. M. Zafar and Ijaz Batalvi, Mustafa Khar, and a few journalists and government officials who wish to remain anonymous, appeared like beacons and lit my way.

    A sneak visit was arranged to General Rani’s house and thereupon begins this story.

    The house General Rani resides in is rather small, with little more than a handkerchief-sized lawn in front, and the main door opening into a virtually non-existent hall that leads straight to her room. There was an air of neglect about the house; the garden was unkempt and the floor unswept. General Rani was lying in bed. My first impression was one of shock. Having visualised an elegant, elderly woman, I was instead confronted by a dark, overweight woman. Her hair had obviously suffered due to heavy doses of chemotherapy, and the loss of hair accentuated the pock-marks on her face. But though visibly ill, she was in good spirits and happy to entertain visitors – a commodity I suspect, is a rare treat nowadays.
    General Rani hails from a village in Gujarat. Her father was a zamindar and the family was reportedly well-to-do. Those who knew her family describe their house as one of the bigger mansions in the area, with a number of servants running around to the residents’ bidding.
    From the outset, Akleem was an independent spirit. She was a tomboy, fond of outdoor sports and hunting. And though she did not even complete her matric, her sharp intelligence more than compensated for her lack of education.
    At a tender age she was married to a police officer many times her senior. Though the marriage lasted for some time and she bore six children, General Rani was never happy. Her husband was a traditionalist and believed that a wife’s primary duty was to serve her husband. A woman as strong and independent as she found this hard to digest, and squabbles were common between the two. The sham their marriage was eventually reduced to, collapsed one day – right on Murree’s Mall Road.
    One summer, when the family was vacationing in Murree, a burqa-clad Rani and her husband went for a stroll on the Mall. As was customary for him, he walked a step or two behind her so as to keep an eye on her. Suddenly there was a gust of wind – “a lovely breeze” says she, and quite spontaneously Rani lifted the naqab covering her face to allow the breeze to caress her cheeks.
    Her husband immediately tapped her with his walking stick to reprimand her. Enraged and insulted, she threw caution to the wind and flung her naqab to the ground, and her abaya into a cracking fire. She then turned to face her husband with a defiant gleam in her eyes.
    She explains her reaction in these words: “I just felt I had had enough. The anger and frustration had been building up inside me for many months, but that day, it just all came oozing out. I wanted to tear my husband’s muffler into bits, scratch his face, pull his hair out, and do all sorts of damage to him. The only thing that stopped me were the people on the Mall.”
    Though this incident marked the end of her marriage, the official divorce process (if there was one) took place later. Most sources agree that Rani was only married once, but one of her closest friend states that there was a second marriage, much later in her life and of an extremely short duration. Whatever the truth of that marriage, the dramatic end of her first proved a turning point in her life and transformed Rani irrevocably. She began to thrive on her independence and her life philosophy evolved into a specific ambition. As she puts it, “I was determined to beat men at their own game. Since my husband was in the police, I had been observing men in positions of power throughout my married life and I had realised that all men in positions of power needed a vent and the vent they require the most is a bedmate provided through a reliable agency. The higher a man’s position, the greater his demand.”
    In one interview, Rani stated: “I knew that dumb, pretty girls who come with no strings attached are a universal failing of men in power. After my marriage collapsed and I had to find the means to support myself and my children, I decided to become the provider of such girls to men in need.”
    In yet another conversation, she talked about the understanding she gained of the workings of the government by listening to her husband’s complaints. “I realised that in this country everything worked on mutual favours and the profession that I had chosen for myself entitled me to these favours.”
    This outspokenness notwithstanding, Rani maintains she personally never allowed herself to be used or even thought of as any man’s keep. She contends she maintained her dignity and saw herself as a sexless mother figure. She says she was always the woman behind the scenes, there to run the show and mop up the mess.
    The gods were obviously smiling on her, because soon after she adopted this profession, the man who was soon to run the show took a shine to her. She describes her first meeting with Yahya Khan. “At that time Agha Jani was posted at Kharian and I was living in Gujarat. We met by chance at a party in Pindi club. Though I would often frequent such parties, I never joined in the drinking and dancing. Rather, I preferred sitting some distance away from the party and usually found a seat near the men’s room, well aware of the fact that the more they drank the more visits they would have to make to the toilet and hence past me.
    “Agha Jani was in full swing at this party. He was completely drunk, and was continually traipsing back and forth from the men’s room. During one of these visits, he saw me and took a fancy to me. I remember asking about him and after we were formally introduced, I invited him to Gujarat.”
    Thereafter Yahya Khan began making frequent journeys from Kharian to Gujarat. Somewhere along the way she earned the title of General Rani and the name stuck. While speculation about the exact nature of her relationship with Yahya Khan rages – they were said to be friends, lovers, shared a sibling relationship or one of demand and supply at various times through the course of their relationship – the general consensus among Rani’s more intimate circle is that they never had a physical relationship. Various explanations are put forth to explain this. “Yahya never desired her,” says a friend. “She was a woman of principles and from day one, she made it clear to him what her limits were,” states another.

    Nonetheless, after he became the martial law adminstrator, Rani became a cornerstone in his life. Yahya’s weaknesses were drink and women and Rani masterfully catered to both. Among the women she introduced him to were film actress Taranna – film actress Andleeb’s mother – Madame Nur Jehan and Nael Kamal. She relates how Yahya’s fascination with Nur Jehan began.

    “One night Agha Jani came to visit me and was somewhat agitated. The moment he entered, he inquired if I had heard the song “cheeche da chala” from the film Dhee Rani. I smiled and stated that I had no time to listen to songs. So, he called the military secretary and ordered him to have a copy of the song delivered to my house at once. It was two o’ clock in the morning and the MS had to specially have an audio shop opened up in order to obtain the album. But the command was obeyed and within an hour, Agha Jani was blissfully listening to the song.
    “Observing him I smiled and stated that since he seemed to enjoy the song so immensely, I would bring the singer to his house on his birthday. This greatly pleased him and so the very next day, I took a flight to Lahore. In those days, a suite at the Intercontinental Hotel was permanently reserved for me and so from the airport, I went directly to the hotel. From there I called Nur Jehan and asked her to come and meet me. Till now, I had never been formally introduced to her; I just knew of her, as she knew of me. Well, Nur Jehan came, and we talked, and the next week she arrived in Islamabad to dance and sing for General Yahya Khan.”
    Madame Nur Jehan’s relationship with General Yahya Khan subsequently came under great scrutiny. At first, Madame persistently denied that she was on friendly terms with the general, but when objectionable pictures of both of them were printed, she resorted to another defence and officially stated that General Rani, had time and, again tried to get her involved with the general. In response to this, Rani laughed and commented that Madame was hardly a suckling infant who could be coerced into doing what others wanted her to do. The Rani-Nur Jehan tussle was played up by the press, until eventually, some time before the latter’s death, the two made up. Following is an extract from an interview General Rani gave after Madame’s death.

    Q: Why did you introduce Madame Nur Jehan to General Yahya Khan?

    A: Some tax inspectors were bugging Madame Nur Jehan and the poor woman was in great distress. She asked me to help her out and I introduced her to Agha Jani

    Q: How would you define your relationship with Nur Jehan?

    A: She was just like my sister and I often called her baji.

    Q: How would you describe her character?

    A: She was an exceptionally brave and confident woman, who brought up her children singlehandedly. The only flaw she had was her greed for money.

    Q: It is said that Madame tried to drive a wedge between you and Yahya Khan?

    A: I don’t want to say anything on this issue. If Rani catered to Agha Jani’s every whim, there is no question that she was royally compensated. During Yahya Khan’s time, General Rani prospered way beyond her wildest expectations. There are endless reports of how she would use her ‘special relationship’ with Yahya to fill her coffers. She would ask for a plot of land or a house in return for a favour and those desperate for a job or promotion would readily fulfill her demands.
    Bhutto and Mustafa Khar
    During this time, politicians were also eager to win her approval and among the many who curried her favour were Mustafa Khar and Z. A. Bhutto.
    General Rani describes her relationship with these two men: “Both Mustafa Khar and Z. A. Bhutto would come and sit at my house for hours on end, begging me to introduce them to the General. Mustafa Khar was particularly fond of listening to the poems I used to write. In fact if you compare Yahya Khan to these two, I would say that I was closer to Bhutto and Khar and arranged more parties for them than I did for Agha Jani.”
    It was a closeness that was not to endure. As soon as Bhutto came to power, General Rani was put under house arrest and her telephone connection was cancelled. Her crime in the words of an eminent lawyer was that, “she knew too much.”

    Thus began General Rani’s downfall. Once the issue of house arrest was resolved (courtesy S. M. Zafar) and her subsequent jail terms ended (the most recent for drug-trafficking), General Rani never really reverted to her former glory. By now the money that had so freely flowed into her hands had also freely flowed out.
    Financially wrecked, socially ostracised, dependent only on the kindness of a few whose affections for her have endured, General Rani lives largely in the past – in the memory of days of wine and roses.

    Posted 3 years ago on 03 Feb 2010 13:50 #
  2. M.AKRAM KHAN NIAZI

    Above article has been taken from
    http://www.newsline.com.pk/NewsMay2002/memories.htm

    Posted 3 years ago on 03 Feb 2010 13:56 #
  3. expakistani

    so days of wine and roses dont last long…. there is end to corruption and lesson for those who use unfair means to get luxury….

    Posted 3 years ago on 03 Feb 2010 16:01 #
  4. Anwer Kamal

    Just a nonsense of a prostitute to give her importance .I have listened her for hours in early 80s. She was with her daughter in custody for some other small offense.I tried to know some thing from her but she was with same foolish talks.