October 29, 2019


Thatcher had a battle plan for her economic revolution - now the left needs one too: The Ridley Plan was a masterclass in strategising for transformative economic change. Where is the left's equivalent today? (Christine Berry, 28 October 2019, openDemocracy)

In 1977, Tory backbencher Nicholas Ridley presented Margaret Thatcher with a report unglamorously titled 'Final Report of the Nationalised Industries Policy Group' - later to become known as the 'Ridley Plan'.

Ridley, the son of a wealthy family whose coal and steel interests had been nationalised under the Attlee government, was implacably opposed to public ownership. And beneath its innocuous title, the Ridley Plan amounted to an astonishingly ruthless and hard-headed battle plan for privatisation - one which was to guide the Thatcherites' assault on the nationalised industries, and whose repercussions are still with us today.

The Ridley Plan prefigures almost all of the key moments in the long neoliberal assault on public ownership, from the open war against the miners to the privatisation "by stealth" (Ridley's own words) of the NHS. It suggests that Thatcher pick her battles, provoking confrontations in "non-vulnerable industry, where we can win" such as the railways and the civil service, while taking steps to create the conditions for eventual victory against the more powerful trade unions. It outlines a plan to prepare the ground for privatisation by introducing market measures in the running of nationalised industries (such as changes of leadership, targets for return on capital, and new incentives for managers), and fragmenting the public sector into independent units that could later be sold off.

Ridley explicitly describes this as a "long term strategy of fragmentation", "a cautious 'salami' approach - one thin slice at a time, but by the end the whole lot has still gone". In a controversial appendix entitled 'Countering the Political Threat', leaked to the Economist in 1978, he even anticipated the pitched battles of the miners' strike, highlighting the need for "a large, mobile squad of police who are equipped and prepared to uphold the law" against violent picketing.

Posted by at October 29, 2019 4:39 PM