The Iron Lady – Patron Saint Of Landlords?

Margaret  Thatcher has always divided opinion. Even now, following her death, and 20 years after John Major succeeded her as Prime Minister, she still elicits strong emotions. Many consider she saved the nation from the misery and chaos of a union controlled Britain, whilst others believe she destroyed the soul of the country (or at least the working class communities where they lived).

When I was young, it was fashionable to be anti-Thatcher. Everyone tends to be more left wing in their youth, but I would have thought those who were misguided in the 1980s into thinking Arthur Scargill was some sort of hero, might by now have realized the error of their ways and acknowledged they should be grateful for her having the guts to stand up to the unions however callous she may have appeared to them at the time.

It is a fact that the vast majority of improvements in our national wealth and standard of living can be directly traced back to Mrs. Thatcher’s policies. But apparently many people remember the rubbish strewn streets and power shortages of the pre-Thatcher years with rose tinted spectacles, judging by the vitriolic comments I have heard in the press and on the internet.

From my point of view, Mrs. Thatcher’s policies were the closest embodiment we have ever seen of Ayn Rand’s objectivist philosophy which, though admittedly somewhat lacking in empathy for any sort of weakness, offers a complete and undeniable demolition of the socialist manifesto.  Mrs T set out to create an environment which encouraged and rewarded the producers in society giving them the freedom to create wealth not just for themselves but for society as a whole. It is, as Ayn Rand points out, the producers in society who take all the risks and create jobs for others. But not only are they rarely thanked for it, they are frequently criticized for being greedy exploiters – especially by the very people who most benefit from the fruits of their work; the ones who are given jobs and a paycheck and those whose rent is paid for by the state. These people seem to think they are entitled to a job and a roof over their heads, without ever stopping to think about what has to be done to create and pay for these things.  Apparently, it’s just the ‘government’s job’ to provide them.

And don’t look to the media for support. Most of the press treat landlords as though we are all versions of Peter Rachman without ever giving us credit for providing much needed housing. In fact a recent TV documentary seems to suggest that Rachman himself was unfairly vilified and turned into a Fagin like character by the press.

It is thanks to Mrs. Thatcher that you have had the opportunity to develop an income from property. It was her support for The Housing Act 1988 which transformed the property investment landscape. It encouraged the de-regulation of rents in the private rental sector and aimed to increase supply of private rented accommodation. It removed the right to an ‘independently assessed fair rent’, reduced protection for tenants and ended rent restrictions in the private sector.  She also helped lift the restrictions on mortgage lending. All these things were hugely influential in creating the buy to let property boom.

For many reasons, I think she was a great woman, though I can understand why she alienated so many who feel she had a negative impact on their lives – I feel the same about Gordon Brown (but don’t get me started on that!)  However as property owners or entrepreneurs we should all be extremely grateful for what she did.

I will leave you with an amusing and affectionate (I think) piece of graffiti I saw via a photo posted on a wesbite:

The Iron Lady – may she rust in peace.