A patrician class of politicians came to dominate UK public discourse in the latter decades of the 20th century. They were a world removed from the current era in which Britain’s grandest offices of state are now occupied by an itinerant and formulaic class of knaves and chisellers.

The apotheosis of this golden age of political leadership occurred in the 1970s and 1980s when the most senior members of successive UK cabinets and their opponents were household names. They came to be known as much by their physical idiosyncrasies and verbal tics as for their politics. In those days there was no social media and so it was left to the light entertainers of the day, like Mike Yarwood gently to mock them and later the visceral and edgier Spitting Images.

🔔 Get unlimited access to The Herald with a subscription – save over 20% annually and receive a free gift box

👉 Click here to sign up for this offer

Even in working-class communities, the names of Margaret Thatcher’s most senior lieutenants were as familiar as the international football team: Nigel Lawson, Geoffrey Howe, Willie Whitelaw, Peter (The Lord) Carrington, Michael Heseltine, Leon Brittan, Norman Lamont. Lined up against them were such as Jim Callaghan, Dennis Healey, Eric Heffer (the Leftie), Robin Cook, Barbra Castle, Gerald Kaufman and Peter Shore.

It was possible back then to trust them and perhaps even to respect them even as you loathed their policies and their worldview. They were widely assumed to be people of unimpeachable integrity, personal decorum and rectitude.

Read more: Sign up to our newsletters and get the best writing in Scotland direct to your inbox

You couldn’t conceive of them carousing in champagne-lashed bacchanals at Downing Street during national emergencies or egregiously enriching their friends and families with Mafiosi enterprises as the rest of the nation hunkered down (though how much of this would have survived the implacable, 24/7 scrutiny of social media in the 21st century can only be guessed at).

Perhaps the most influential of these political titans (apart from Mrs Thatcher herself) was Nigel Lawson, who died on Monday, aged 91. Mr Lawson served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Mrs Thatcher’s second ministry from 1983 until his resignation in 1989. He is widely credited with being the monetarist Zvengali whose philosophies reinforced Mrs Thatcher’s economic strategy.

The Herald:

Already, the right-wing prints have begun the process of canonising him, their hagiographies including phrases like “economic miracle” and “reviving the UK economy”. And maybe some of this was true, but if such a miraculous economic transformation did take place it barely lasted beyond the end of Margaret Thatcher’s 11-year tenure.

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, describes Mr Lawson as a personal hero and hung a picture of him above his desk and it’s claimed that his views continue to influence the present-day Tories’ economic outlook. This was borne out the day after Mr Lawson’s death, with the revelation that Mr Sunak’s government has opted to hold back half of a promised £500m package previously promised to help plug staff shortages in adult social care.

Mr Lawson would have approved of such a move. His entire economic strategy was based on cutting taxes for high earners, de-regulating the banks; selling off the UK’s public assets to global investors; cutting the real-time wages of the lowest-paid and criminalising any trade union activity which attempted to resist this.

Read more: How manmade barriers are depleting Scotland's fish stocks

He believed that only unfettered capitalism and unregulated financial markets would stimulate growth and that sacrificing entire industries such as coal-mining, steel and car manufacturing were acceptable collateral damage in making progress towards the Holy Grail of low inflation. The working-class communities which these jobs maintained and nourished were considered to be of no value whatsoever.

The prime targets were Britain’s coal-miners and both Mr Lawson and Mrs Thatcher ruthlessly deployed every lever of the British state to bring them down. Mr Lawson may have been a monetarist who favoured tight controls on the supply of money. But the near-psychotic obsession with destroying the National Union of Miners which he shared with Mrs Thatcher caused him to depart from his own economic theories.

The majority of coal mines were still profitable even as Mr Lawson and Mrs Thatcher moved to sabotage them. Billions of pounds were set aside to pay off the miners. Britain’s police forces whose relationship with the public rested on consent and mutual trust became Mrs Thatcher’s private army, given free rein and immunity from prosecution to use violence to quell striking miners. No expense was spared.

The Herald: Margaret Thatcher (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

And for what? By the time Mrs Thatcher was forced out of office the rate of inflation had climbed back to pre-Thatcher levels; her relationship with her chancellor having turned toxic the previous year.

Much of the Thatcher/Lawson economic miracle was a chimera. The de-regulation of the banks sowed the seeds for the credit crisis which collapsed the UK economy barely two decades later. The City of London financial district became a sinewy pirate republic for the world’s money launderers and despots.

The receipts from the North Sea oil Klondyke were surreptitiously funnelled south and provided the funds to pay off workers in the traditional industries. Other oil rich nations, such as Norway used this natural bounty to future-proof their economies. The Thatcher/Lawson axis squandered it in pursuit of fulfilling their short-term economic fantasies.

Read more: Catriona Stewart, 'spare me your smug, middle-class, best place to live lists'

The legacy of the great utilities sell-off can be seen in the waves of strikes which have crippled the UK for the most of the last year. Packs of predatory hedge-funds and corporate raiders feasted on them, siphoning off the profits; paying their shareholders massive bonuses and failing to invest in infrastructure. And all of it contributing to higher rates of inflation.     

The Right to Buy Council House scheme, regarded as one of the defining policies underpinning the Thatcher philosophy has now been exposed as a massive confidence scam. Within a few years banks and building societies were channelling Arthur Daley and throwing “financial products” at customers as soon as they walked through their doors. This was only good while these people had decently-paid jobs.

But as workplace protections began to disappear in the slew of anti-trade union legislation the finance houses were ruthless in their programmes of repossession. Within a generation, dozens of London’s council-house neighbourhoods had become gentrified and a wholesale migration of working-class people have been forced out to make way for those who can afford homes starting at £800k.

The Herald:

Nigel Lawson was indeed a towering figure in the Thatcher years. But his economic legacy has left the UK’s poorest communities twisting in the wind ever since. In advanced old age he renounced the pro-Europe beliefs which caused destroyed his relationship with Margaret Thatcher and became a totem for those favouring the most uncompromising of Brexits.

In doing so, he clung to the same principles that marked his time as Chancellor: working for the very few at the expense of the very many. It’s why a politician like Boris Johnson worships him. The disgraced former Prime Minister said: “Nigel Lawson was a fearless and original flame of free-market Conservatism. He was a tax-cutter and simplifier who helped transform the economic landscape and helped millions of British people achieve their dreams.”

The word “millions” is a typical Johnson fabrication. What’s not in doubt though, is that Nigel Lawson wrecked the dreams of millions of others.