DAME Shirley Porter, the Tesco heiress, was to Tory local government in the 1980s what Margaret Thatcher was to Tory central government - a crass, proud, ruthless, seemingly efficient, mix-it-with-the opposition defender of the sacred cause of free enterprise.
Dame Shirley ran the City of Westminster as Thatcher ran Britain. Now Lady Porter and her lieutenants are revealed in a report by the District Auditor to have run Westminster Council like a bunch of cynical ward-heeling New York political gangsters of an earlier age.
Some of the details provoke disbelief. Systematically, over years, and using the council's civil servants as their tools, they worked to change the population of Westminster to one they could be confident would vote Tory. Like the Stalinist government in Bertold Brecht's fable which grew displeased with the people and decided to elected a new one
By bullying and bribing, they drove poor people out and subsidised the well-off to persuade them to move in.
They used vast sums of public money for party-political purposes. They looted the city's assets for their friends. They coerced council workers into carrying out their orders and "investigated" recalcitrant officials in order to blackmail them. The list of their political-gangster deeds is very long.
This was a council that systematically waged class war and party-political war, while surreptitiously engaging in major social engineering.
After years of investigation - triggered when Porter gave away valuable public land (graveyards) for pennies to her friends - the District Auditor recommends that Porter and her close collaborators be surcharged £21 million, the amount of public money used in various ways by the council leaders to secure narrow Tory objectives.
And who is to surcharge Thatcher, Major, and the rest of the Tory gang who have run Britain for 15 years pretty much as Porter ran Westminster? What Porter did to Westminster, Thatcher did to Britain
Remember? The selling off of council houses was nothing but a piece of crude Tory vote-buying, and not on a borough but on a nationwide scale. In principle there is nothing wrong with people owning their own homes: here, the Tories simply took scarce housing out of the pub}ic stock and sold it at cut-price, making no provision for replacing it, and bestowed it on lucky individuals as a love-the-Tories bribe.
Vote-rigging? Large numbers were driven off the electoral register - that is, deprived of the right to vote - by the poll tax.
Vast amounts of public money have been spent to provide a succession of "work-training" and "work-substitute" schemes whose only use has been a political use for the Tory government in whose interests the real level of unemployment was thus disguised.
The governnnent has had civil servants working this last decade or more to disguise the real numbers of the unemployed by changing the rules by which they are counted. The Tories say that there are only 2.75 million unemploycd now. The International Labour Organisation reckons that the real figure, not counting people on pretend-work schemes, is 3.8 million.
Dame Shirley gave away a few cemeteries and subsidised the sale of flats to yuppies. Baroness Margaret and her gang have looted and asset-stripped a vast amount of public property, from water to British Telecom to coal mines. Vast public wealth has been distributed to the rich.
Nothing like this looting of public property for the benefit of private individuals has been seen since the great aristocratic families were allowed by complaisant governments, from the 16th to the 18th centuries, to steal millions of acres of hitherto common land and make it their private property.
Porter's gang "investigated" an "awkward" official, to intimidate him and make him into their tool. Thatcher's gang have, in the interests of the Tory party and those it represents, ripped up a great swathe of the civil rights which Britain enjoyed in 1979, when they came to power. The trade unions have been shackled, police powers vastly increased, the rights of the individual in face of the State weakened or removed.
Compared with Thatcher and Major, Dame Shirley has been a crude, clumsy, dabbling little local amateur.
It is by no means clear, but Porter and her friends may be surcharged. Matters may now have escape the control of the Tory fixers. In that way a belated and inadequate measure of justice may be meted out.
But nobody will surcharge the national Tory party! No court, no District Auditor, exists to call what they have done for 15 years by its right name and to brand the national Tory party leaders for what they are. They have held the supreme state power. They could make and change the law as they went along.
The verdict of the District Auditor on the antics of the "little Thatcher" in the City of Westminster holds a mirror up to what the other Mrs Thatcher did, and got away with doing, in the rest of Britain.
Only the labour movement could have stopped thatcher and the Tories.
Not an auditor or a court of law, but labour movement action, will undo what Thatcher has done and settle accounts with the Tories and all they represent.
Socialist Organiser 600, 19-5-94