What is Thatcher’s blame?

When the round black hat first appeared it was dubbed a bowler. This was because it looked like a bowl, and because it was made by the Bowler brothers. The term ‘Thatcher’s blame’ might similarly catch on for two reasons: it was regularly used against the lady herself, and it covers all cases, just as a thatcher covers all of a roof.

In her first few years in office, Lady Thatcher was blamed for poverty and unemployment in Britain. Seamlessly this switched to blame for the culture of shameless affluence as the emerging class of yuppies flaunted their new-found wealth. She was deemed to be at fault in both cases.

The fallacy of Thatcher’s blame’ is committed when blame is attached no matter what outcome ensues. The fallacy occurs because the evidence is irrelevant when the determination of guilt precedes the outcome of their actions. Indeed, the point about ‘Thatcher’s blame’ is that it covers all the conceivable outcomes.

If a policy is introduced first in Scotland, ahead of its application in England, the accusation is that the Scots are being used as guinea-pigs, and put at risk simply to test it. On the other hand, if the policy is introduced in England before being extended to Scotland, the charge will be made that the Scots are being left out yet again. Finally, if the policy is introduced at exactly the same time in both countries, this will be taken as evidence that the policy-makers are failing to appreciate the essential differences between England and Scotland. Heads you lose, tails you lose, and if the coin lands on its edge you also lose.

The fallacy works well in parliament because the official opposition is supposed to oppose. ‘Thatcher’s blame’ allows them to be against whatever the government decides to do, no matter what the outcome might be. Thus anything done quickly is being ‘rushed through recklessly’, while measures which take time are tagged with ‘intolerable delays’.

The fallacy falsely pretends that a judgement is being made based on the outcome, when that negative judgement would have been applied to any outcome. It regularly appears in Britain’s tabloid press, where once a celebrity has fallen from favour any action they take is deemed to deserve condemnation. Since the opprobrium comes anyway, it expresses no real judgement on the morality or merits of the actions themselves.

I've been asked to a christening, but I'm sure they'll give the child some outlandish name that will make it a laughing-stock. Either that or some unbelievably tedious and commonplace name which will make the child seem like a faceless conformist.

The fallacy is easy to use because it preys upon an instinct which would rather hear ill than good about people. After all, gossips don’t go round praising people for their righteous actions. To use it effectively, you should pour scorn on some proposed action, predicting an adverse outcome. You then introduce an alternative consequence with the words ‘And even if …’ This allows you to predict more dire consequences. Your audience will never spot that you have, like the fallacy, covered every conceivable case. If you think this too obvious, reflect that for over a century the followers of Marxism predicted disaster for capitalism, whatever outcomes it produced.