Thatcher, student politics, etc.

10. May, 2009

Today I woke up with a throat-ache. While it certainly is not a pleasant feeling, I thought it is, to certain extent, a blessing. Finally, I am able to stay at home and contemplate about my week.


On 4 May I celebrated the thirty years’ anniversary since Margaret Thatcher came to power. My “relation” with her is not an easy going one, I should assure you. When I lived in Latvia, I read quite a lot about her famous reforms of the public sector in Great Britain. I was so fascinated by the vigour of her initiatives to remake the Whitehall in a business-oriented organisation that I even wrote my Bachelor thesis describing them and juxtaposing them with the Latvian public management reforms. Whereas I am sure that her reforms were a needed change in Britain, I am not so sure that downsizing was such a good idea in Latvian case. This does not mean however that I prefer a Big Government in Latvia – not at all. There was a mess which had to be cleaned up after the collapse of the Soviet regime streamlining the procedures and identifying the redundancies. But in my opinion the focus should have been put on the capacity building – investing in the education of the public officials and high civil servants. This was a neglected field in Latvia. Was the low capacity accountable for the economic crisis that we experience in Latvia? Probably.

Thatcher did a great job fighting the economic crisis at her time and made Great Britain one of the most competitive economies in the world. Personally, my favourite theme of her economic programme is that of Popular Capitalism – that more people should be empowered to become property-owning, responsible citizens.

But as I said, my opinion about Lady Thatcher is an ambiguous one. Her opposition to the rise of gay rights movement, the bitter Euro-scepticism, and intolerance towards differing opinions (which allegedly led to her downfall) seem to indicate that she was far from being – what I would call – a perfect statesman. However, I will remember her as a challenger – a courageous individual who challenged both the Labour and Tory establishment – and as someone who succeeded in making a deep impact on the British politics.

Student politics

Although I have always been slightly sceptical about the politicisation of the student politics and universities, I have to admit that the Student Union is a true school of democracy. This week my party – the Conservative Students – concluded an agreement with the Social Democrat Students to enter a coalition. Just after I heard from our negotiator that the agreement had been reached, I was in a true panic – what on earth had we done? What exactly were we thinking when we made an agreement with the Social Democrats whom we criticised so bitterly in our electoral campaign? However, I soon returned to my usual composure – no, we had not sold our souls to the devil of Realpolitik. We are still as eager to make the work of the Student Union more individual-oriented and to achieve our promises as we were in the electoral campaign. The difference is now that we were in a position to deliver on our promises – yes, we share the power with a party which has a very different Weltanschauung, but, on the other hand, is not the politics exactly about the persuasion and taking responsibility?


My job is about reading and writing. That is why I just love it. But I also read as part of my leisure. Recently, I bought Allan Bloom’s marvellous opus “The Closing of the American Mind”. Camille Paglia called this book “the first shot in the cultural wars” and I must admit that this is a “must” to everyone who wants to participate in a modern debate on higher education. Although he wrote the book in 1988, Bloom’s criticism of the misleading postmodern intellectual permissiveness is as actual as at the time of the book’s inception. Moreover, I am deeply concerned that some of the phenomena that Bloom criticises can be observed even in other cultural contexts – for instance, in Sweden. Intellectual nihilism, “anything goes”-attitudes, thoughtlessness and carelessness in human relations – although far from widespread, can be observed sometimes also in the Swedish universities. Although Bloom should not be mistaken for a conservative – he was openly and, seemingly, comfortably gay – his message is that of warning. He is a truly liberal humanist who warns of atomization and of developing a mindset, which appears to be critical and open, however, is anything but critical and open and masks a horrifying lack of ideals.

Gender-neutral marriage

According to the amendments in the Swedish legislation, I and my partner can choose between continuing our partnership, and transforming our civil partnership in a marriage. We chose the latter which means that soon we should receive a marriage certificate. For me this is just a formality, however, an important one, I should add. It demonstrates that another division is eliminated in our society – the state does not care whether I marry a man or a woman, because marriage in Sweden is about a union of two responsible adult individuals. At last.

It was a pleasure to hear that Maine has joined to those American states which have redefined their marriage to being gender-neutral allowing also same-sex partners to marry. The bill was passed by the state’s lawmakers, as it was done in Vermont just some weeks ago. raksts

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