From the January 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard
Last December 10 saw a grimacing Margaret Thatcher posturing for photographers in a mechanically reclining wheelchair which was one of the winning entries in a competition run by the Design Council. Thatcher had lots of praise for this device and others like it in the competition, for the alleviation of suffering it would bring to the disabled.
In the insultingly patronising “Year of the Disabled” (hard luck presumably, on their terms now 1981 has gone) Thatcher’s mock concern is doubly hypocritical as she is at the front of a campaign to cut money to the second-rate Health Service leaving more to spend on machines of destruction. For instance, on the very day she was pictured in the national press gallivanting with glee around the equipment for the disabled at the Design Council Awards, it was reported that a NHS hospital for the mentally handicapped in South London had been ordered to cut back its expenditure by so much that some children would be left in their wards all day—because of the number of staff to be made redundant—and all sorts of facilities for the children including a hydrotherapy pool would have to go.
Even with cash donations from parents to help the local Area Health Authority pay for the required staff, no new patients from the community, however needy, will be admitted to the hospital because of the lack of resources. When Thatcher said last year in solemn tones, ‘‘We are paying ourselves too much”, most of us who are living in poverty of one degree or another were angered or confused. It now perhaps becomes clearer exactly what was troubling her conscience. Between June 1980 and June 1981 the largest percentage wage increase received by a sector of the British public was not received by the miners, transport workers nor by the shipbuilders for example who received increases of about 10 per cent, 40 per cent and 9 per cent respectively. It was received by none other than dear old Margaret herself and was over 40 per cent! (CIS Anti-Report, 1981, sources: Dept, of Employment Gazette, Hansard, Labour Research Dept.)