I grew up under the cloud of Thatcherism. I was twelve when the Conservatives came to power in 1979 and I was thirty years old when they were finally booted out of office in 1997... and I stayed up all night to watch it happen.
I'm old enough to remember the Inner City riots in Brixton & Toxteth in 1981, partly arising out of the frustrations of spiralling unemployment and a government who put up taxes during a recession. I remember the mass riots in London in 1990 in demonstration against the Poll Tax (before it morphed into the Community Charge) that at that point sought to tax people equally, regardless of income or the ability to pay.
I watched the Conservative government strive to bring down inflation but do so at the cost of mass unemployment and deindustrialisation. I recall the Tory election posters of 1979 featuring a long, snaking dole queue with a caption underneath it saying "Labour Isn't Working". Yet by the time I left school five years later unemployment had tripled and stood at 3.3 million - and by the time Margaret Thatcher left office inflation was back in double figures.
I watched the moderate, socialist, consensus politics propounded by Clement Attlee swept aside in favour of a return the laissez-faire politics of the 19th century. A Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher pushed ahead with a policy of privatisation - gas, electricity, telephony, British Airways and British Rail were all sold off - with the idea that out of this new wealth people would be able and willing to pay a proper share of the cost of welfare, education and the health service. This seemingly ignored the fact that there were large sections of the population who were unable to share in this new wealth and were in no position to help themselves and in so doing the government abrogated its responsibility to support and protect the most vulnerable members of society.
Public expenditure and the size of the public sector were cut. The NHS was opened up to market forces. Banks were deregulated which, history has shown to be a far from sound idea.
Even flagship policies such as the "Right To Buy" scheme for council houses were fatally flawed. It was a great idea for individuals and families at the time as it gave them the opportunity to own their own home. It was not such good news for local authorities, who not only lost their houses but also the rental income they provided. The money was not reinvested in local communities nor put back into building affordable social housing; it was all clawed back to central government.
Consequently local authorities were left with the poor quality housing stock that no one wanted to buy and was more of a liability than an asset. What followed was a chronic lack of affordable social housing. What happened was a demand for housing that far exceeded supply which private landlords were swift to profit from.
What followed was people crippling themselves financially just to get on the housing ladder as house prices rose to the point where home ownership became a dream beyond the reach of many working class people. The "Right To Buy" gave the opportunity of home ownership to one generation but made it increasingly difficult for all the ones that followed.
Another Conservative flagship policy was the idea that, following the sale of our nationalised industries we're all "a nation of shareholders". We're not.
Leaving aside the political slight of hand that persuaded people to buy shares in something they already owned (!) many people who were once small shareholders, sold their shares for profit years ago. Our previously nationalised industries are now private companies, run by and for the benefits of their shareholders. The UK population are, at best, minority stakeholders with little say or influence.
I quite like David Cameron as an individual, but behind the apparently empowering rhetoric there are echoes of Thatcherism that worry me. For every "You can run your own school" (which I'm sure some people would relish and do well) is an unspoken lack of investment in Education. For every pledge to "cut waste" in the public sector there is the risk not only of redundancies but of cutting vital services that people rely on. His stance on Europe highlighted in the second TV debate sounds less like John Major's concept of being at the heart of Europe and effecting change from within and more like the Euro-Sceptic isolationism of the Thatcher era which would be disastrous for this country. The Tories eroded much of our manufacturing base during their time in office and we are now increasingly a service economy that cannot afford to be sulking on the sidelines on the International stage.
People are disillusioned with Labour. I get that. I am too on a great many issues. But it worries me that many people will vote for change simply because it's change - without stopping to consider what that change would look and feel like.
I realise that there are people who would be utterly opposed to my views. Whereas I view Thatcherism as an aberration, there are others who viewed her policies of small government, a property owning democracy, tax cuts and deregulation as the salvation of this country. A "golden decade" as one Tory MP described it. That's a democracy for you.
It could be argued that Thatcherism does not represent the true "One Nation" approach of compassionate Conservatism any more than New Labour - with Clause 4 removed - represents true Socialism. This may be true but, from a personal point of view I have no experience of that. I just remember 18 years of a right wing government that championed individualism and the needs of business but seemingly lacked a social conscience - and the thought of a return to that scares me.
All the polls indicate that we're heading for a hung parliament or a Conservative victory. If it is to be the latter then I really hope that David Cameron has the heart, soul, conscience and vision that many of his predecessors have lacked. Like it or not, there is such a thing as society...and we are all in this together.