Since her death back in the heady days of 2013, there's been a running debate as to just how we commemorate former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Since firing her coffin into the sun is an unviable and divisive option, there's talk of the nearest alternative – a library – being built in her honour. More pertinently, every now and then we hear of a Thatcher museum, which would cost something like £15m, according to the Telegraph. Before you start just uncontrollably yelling: it's been confirmed that this wouldn't be backed by the taxpayer, although quite what would be in it – a Mr Whippy ice cream machine? The dying gasps of the coal industry? – is unclear. Statues in the Falkland Islands, it's safe to say, have been ruled out.
But here – in my opinion, a nervous Scottish man – here are ten better ideas to spend the mooted £15m that might actually benefit some of the people Thatcher's successive governments fucked over. They vary in worthiness – from "exceptionally unworthy" to "a bit worthy" – and if anything, they give some weight to the stereotype that left-wingers are terrible with money. But what are you going to do, go on strike about it? You can't, mate, the Thatcher-lite Tories that just grabbed power won't let you. Onwards:
MORE ART FUNDS FOR 'SAFE' BANDS
The Music Export Growth Scheme was a confusing fund which allowed a select number of UK bands to represent Blighty across the world – because nothing is cooler than being in a government-funded band, right guys? Bands like salt-of-the-earth-working-class-lads Catfish and the Bottlemen, as well as Drenge – who told us on Twitter not to vote Conservative – combined with weird choices like Bo Ningen and Melt Yourself Down to stuff a list of acts who were supposed to emulate the Beatles' success abroad. All of this while ramping up rent prices for popular independent music venues up and down the country, and having metropolitan police harass grime MCs and shut down raves. More of this, Tories!
Really, though, we surely can't go on with a culture that only benefits the privileged. It's ironic that for all David Cameron purports to love The Smiths, it's unlikely they would've survived long enough to affect our musical heritage under his governmental tutelage. With venues closing down and arts funds being offered to bands who are already on major labels, there'll be no middle between the hobbyist musicians playing to nobody and the very top, the likes of Take That, Blur, whoever. That's a terrifying prospect.
MORE BIKE SCHEMES IN BIG CITIES
Remarkably, London isn't the centre of the earth. If the Conservatives focused on more "Boris Bike" schemes (with a less nauseating name) in big cities around the UK – like Glasgow, Manchester and Cardiff – not only would it relieve pressure on public transport, but also put paid to some of that "greenest government ever" rhetoric that probably won them about three votes back in 2010. The caveat is that £15m would probably only cover half of a study into what bikes are, but hey, if that gets the wheels in motion (THAT IS A JOKE ABOUT BIKES!) (WE'RE GOING TO "PUMP THE BRAKES" ON THIS KIND OF HUMOUR!) (BRING TWO DIFFERENT KINDS OF LOCK!) then it sounds alright to me.
INVESTMENT IN FOOD BANKS
If you have, say, "a heart", the rise of food banks has been a terrifying trend. According to the Trussell Trust, 1,084,604 emergency food packages were given out between 2014-15, with almost 400,000 of those being given to children. That's a staggering, damning indictment on Coalition policy, that looks set to become worse under the next package of benefits cuts in this government. That 1m-plus figure is a rise of over 100,000 from 2013-14, and dwarves the figure of 346,992 from the year previous. And we're talking three-day packages in scenes of utter crisis, here – the unique visitors of food banks on either an ad hoc or regular scale have been discounted from the figures.
While £15m wouldn't exactly stop people going hungry, it'd be a start. Before the 2010 election, Cameron spoke to voters about a "Big Society", but it's clear that this vision, however earnest it was in the first place, is crumbling. If the Tories want to prevent civil unrest, then something has to be done about these appalling food poverty statistics.
Work with me here, but if we can make judgements based on 2012's figures (the most recent available – shit's got worse since) from the Office of National Statistics, the poorest 20 percent of non-retired single adult households spent £22.30 a week on food and drink that wasn't booze. Therefore, £15m would roughly be able to provide 500,000 people with the means to survive for about a week. That's not even half of the overall number of food bank claimants, and would only be useful for about 5-7 days. Unless 500,000 people suddenly earn much, much better wages or there's a spate of magical job creation, they're likely to need to use food banks for more than one week. The scale of the problem is absolutely gigantic.
SCHOLARSHIPS FOR BAME POLITICS STUDENTS
The Conservative and Labour parties both talk up the politics of aspiration, of social mobility. They speak of working class heroes, of dynamism, of diversity, and so on. If the Conservatives cared, in any meaningful way, about fully representing the multitude of cultures that Britain can boast, there'd be more scholarships for BAME students who want to get into politics. David Cameron says that the Conservatives will have the first Black or Asian Prime Minister – which sounds alright, until you realise only 11 of the 306 Tory MPs elected in 2010 were of those demographics. If the Tories are really trying to make people forget about those posters from the 60s, Enoch Powell and Cameron's friendship with Jeremy Clarkson, it's time to empty their pockets and let their actions talk. A perfectly normal scholarship, where kids might write an essay outlining their plans for University and employment, might work to put ethnic minority children from disadvantaged areas into the University system, with its exorbitant fees and systemic values of privilege. £15m would put plenty of talented BAME kids with political inclinations into further education. It seems win-win for the Tories, this. I've turned from a critic into a policy adviser in about three paragraphs. I'm so sorry, mum.
Since it's been made clear that the ill, the unemployed, the poor and the old are a drain on resources, while disgruntled Tory backbenchers have moved in dribs and drabs to a party represented by a man who condemns medical treatment for immigrants with HIV, there's an argument that the government should just drop all pretence and build a euthanasia clinic. Fuck it, why not lads? While it goes against the Christian values espoused by the Conservatives, so does pretty much all of their policy – would Jesus have cut disability benefits, given the chance? Would Moses cut EMA? It's unlikely. King Herod had a more lenient stance on abortion than Theresa May. Let's just do it. Let's build a centre in which to die.
In your old age, would you rather freeze to death in a shitty flat, having had your Winter Fuel Allowance cut, or repeatedly battering Ian Duncan-Smith in virtual reality to the sound of pounding techno? Exactly.
SEND NIGEL FARAGE AWAY ON HOLIDAY SO HE DOESN'T STEAL MORE TORIES
Farage is a man of simple pleasures. Although he doesn't like foreigners an awful lot, £15m would more than cover his expenses, wherever he might choose to go. He could swig Bombardier in Barbados, offend the locals in Dubai with his cigarette smoke, go and see Romania so he can get over his xenophobia: these are all just ideas. However the UKIP leader might choose to spend a forced retirement (via money), it'd be advantageous to the Conservatives, who have, in the last year, lost some dissenting backbenchers to the Eurosceptics. Farage IS UKIP. Cut off the head and the body dies. Or, send the head visiting European castles – scoffing with derision, making tired WW2 jokes as he wanders – and the body dies. Either/or.
FUNDING FOR UK BOXING
Let's agree that Amir Khan is our greatest living Brit. He hates Tories, he loves punching, and he isn't former MP Eric Joyce. A formidable athlete with Olympic pedigree, Khan is a better role model than any politician. We need about 500 more of him, so let's invest in UK boxing. Despite the recent fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao being among the most lucrative sports events ever, boxing still remains a working class sport, and there aren't many of those left. We lost football to Sky back in the 90s, rugby is for ponces, nobody knows what cricket is, snooker goes on for too long and darts is the only sport where the crowd can boast more athletic bodies than the competitors. It's the Ricky Hattons, the Chris Eubanks, the Tyson Furys – these are people who are more like us. Boxing is real, still. So let's be the best in the world at it. Fifteen million pounds of funding would be an okay start, even though that amounts to about one fifth of Gareth Bale.
Everton's Kevin Mirallas is your typical £15m footballer. Adept as a winger, with a scoring touch (21 in 86 games for Everton) and almost 50 caps for Belgium, signing Mirallas would be an indication that i. the Tories do actually know what football is, and ii. Belgians are okay, actually! He's shown that he's got a ruthlessly greedy streak, denying Leighton Baines his penalty-taking obligations in a game against West Bromwich Albion earlier in the year, before missing the spot kick in a fit of pique. He's selfish and works mostly in blue: it's a marriage made in heaven. Mirallas, with his sort-of handsome visage and cosmopolitan charms, could front the "moderate" Tories when the in-out referendum on EU membership rolls around, appealing to some of The North and to those who revel in the ballsiness of the well-paid. He's just so £15m, isn't he?
FREE RAIL TRAVEL FOR PENSIONERS
Let's say you're elderly, and you want to travel around the UK, but can't afford to: can you really afford not to see Margate before you shuffle off to your mortal coil? How can you not experience being battered by rain in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch? Have you ever been to, like, Oban? Had a pasty in Penzance? Spent countless hours at the Falkirk Wheel? Fought someone in Hull? Done whatever it is you're meant to do in Hastings? Come on: if you're going to ramp up energy prices that remorselessly victimise those in their old age, at least give them the chance to leave the flat. Maybe there are precious memories of summers in Bournemouth, seeing the castle in Edinburgh in the winter, sentimental reflections that really should be re-tread while the chance is there? If Britain really is special, let people who have worked and paid tax into it enjoy some holidays before they return, unappreciated, into filthy care homes, with ever-decreasing NHS budgets, living undignified under the care of brilliant staff who can barely afford houses of their own? If it's the elderly who primarily vote Tory, then the party really should give something back. Rail holidays would be a start. Also, they get the buses, right? Fuck buses.
A ROUND OF DRINKS FOR EVERYONE WHO BEAT UP MICHAEL GOVE AT PUBLIC SCHOOL IN ABERDEEN
Michael Gove, a nightmarish melting wax-work of a man, was educated mere miles away from your humble narrator. I went to a school where wearing a blazer meant you were gay, where drinking sparkling water was an invitation for physical violence and where I was legitimately once called a "posh cunt" for paying with my lunch with a five-pound note. The Govester went to school at Robert Gordon's College in Aberdeen, where he was presumably a total nerd. According to extensive research/Wikipedia, he's written to teachers more recently, apologising for misbehaving in class, which seems i. unlikely and ii. the behaviour of a grovelling shit.
There's a largely unsubstantiated anecdote around Aberdeen that dictates Gove was given a pounding by most of the school for trying to break up a snowball fight under the apparent instruction of the Head Boy, which I hope is true. If Gove's going to ramp up his attempts to repeal the Human Rights Act, the least we can do as a nation is to reward all of those kids, who despite (or because of) their educational privileges, knew a prick when they saw one.
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