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back to article Maggie Thatcher: The Iron Lady who saved us from drab Post Office mobes

Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister who worked alongside the world's first business computer and who privatised the UK's phone network, has died. She was 87. When Britain's Iron Lady came to power in 1979, your average Brit had just one phone, which was fixed to a wall by a wire and connected to a network …

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Happy

Thank the stars she privatised BT...

...it would just be some faceless, mega-incompetent corporate giant now if she hadn't.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Thank the stars she privatised BT...

Love her or hate her, she dragged the country into modernisation. The destruction of the closed shop, where you would only be allowed to work if you joined a union was almost her greatest triumph. In 1979 with the lights going out because of strikes, the British car industry run by unions, 22% inflation and where you could only take a maximum of £50 out of the country she came to power.

Without the break up of the unions we wouldn't have the technology base we have now, though if we had stronger unions the jobs might not have been farmed out abroad.

I still don't like her policies as when I left school the only jobs available for me was the Army, thanks for that Maggie.

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Meh

Before anyone moans about her...

The Labour Party first under Blair and then Brown could have, with such a large majority in Parliament over turned everything she and John 'Privatise Everything' Major had done.

They did not and THAT speaks volumes for her policies.

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Re: Before anyone moans about her...

The Labour Party first under Blair and then Brown could have, with such a large majority in Parliament over turned everything she and John 'Privatise Everything' Major had done.

They did not and THAT speaks volumes for her policies.

I think that speaks more about the tidal wave of bullshit and mediocrity that was NuLabour.

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Re: Before anyone moans about her...

No later government (under anyone) could have reversed the Tories' privatisations because they couldn't afford to. It always amazes me when Thatcher is held up as some kind of economic miracle worker, when in reality she was bolstered by masses of North Sea oil coming on stream and sitting on nationalised industries that had been built up over generations. All she did was take stuff that we owned collectively (like council houses) and sell it back to us for quick cash.

It was just like burning the furniture to stay warm.

And whilst it's true to say that the unions had got out of hand by the late 70s (and many people voted Conservative to try to change that situation), the cure ended up being worse than the disease. You don't fix things by destroying them.

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WTF?

Re: Thank the stars she privatised BT...

Lights going out??? when was that?

Oh yeah 1972 and 1974 while we had a Tory government... closed shop? not where I ended up working (MoD research) they made it quite plain you could join, or not depending on your political views

I joined.. but only for the legal aid if I was injured on the job.

The unions were well on their collective way to committing suicide anyway since they were run by people who used them for political purposes instead of looking out for their members

Remember Labour from 1974 to 1979 shut more mines than maggie wanted to...

And the reason the miners lost..... because what union boss changes the rules on a national strike , then goes for an area by area strike ballot for a national strike in MARCH when there are record coal stocks.

Scargil has a lot to answer for

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Re: Before anyone moans about her... @LarsG

>They did not and THAT speaks volumes for her policies.

NO... It speaks volumes about new labour. The current labour party is even more right wing than the old tories. When in power they did sod all for the worker, lined their own pockets while in power and lined up comfy jobs for when they were out of it. When Cherie Booth announced to her father she was to wed Blair, Tony Booth is reported to have said "God no, she's marrying a tory", I can only imagine his disappointment.

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Re: Before anyone moans about her...

@LarsG

"The Labour Party first under Blair and then Brown could have, with such a large majority in Parliament over turned everything she and John 'Privatise Everything' Major had done"

There was additional privatisation under Labour. In fact, with one service, Air Traffic Control, Major’s Government thought that it wouldn’t be a good idea – Blair’s, on the other one, disagreed. There was a story in Private about Major collaring a Labour MP in the Commons about it, asking him what he thought – the latter ummed and ahhed, causing the former premier to remark that in his cabinet it was ‘only nutters like Redwood’ were in favour.

Also, I think it’s a good idea to look at PFI – Labour took it far further than the Conservatives and made it more ‘business-friendly.’ See Private Eye ad nauseam and George Monbiot’s State of the Nation presents a decent early history of the whizzer concept.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Thank the stars she privatised BT...

"because what union boss changes the rules on a national strike , then goes for an area by area strike ballot for a national strike in MARCH when there are record coal stocks."

My family had several coal miners and they were incredulous that the union should adopt such a patently flawed strategy. They also felt that the strike created a very politicised Police force and instituted the view of it becoming a paramilitary force in the public's perception.

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Re: Before anyone moans about her...

They did not and THAT speaks volumes for her policies.

They did not and THAT speaks volumes for their policies.

there fixed it for you.

public school tory bois - a pox on em, whatever colour badge they are wearing this week

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Before anyone moans about her... @LarsG

The difference between New Labour and the Tories is that Labour do these things with a sad face, rather than with a smug grin.

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Re: Before anyone moans about her... @LarsG

>Labour do these things with a sad face, rather than with a smug grin.

Tony Blair's mug is the epitome of smugness. it's plastered on there like a botched botox grin.

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Re: Before anyone moans about her...

If you want to renationalise something that is worth many billions then you need to buy it back. At a certain point, for a politician, you look at the least worse option, especially for your career. I do not think then or now we could justify spending billions of tax payers money when there are so many other things that need improving.

That however does not mean the privatisation was correct in the first place. Its like selling your car and using the proceeds to ride the bus, the money runs out eventually and you need to reinvest money to carry on. Its just now we are all stuck on expensive, private, monopolised buses.

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Re: Thank the stars she privatised BT...

Having read many of the comments on here, is there anybody who thinks Thatcher actually did any good? Must be full of people of my age who were forced to live through the 80s.

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Re: Thank the stars she privatised BT...

If anyone doesn't admit Thatcher did a lot of good they need their head examining. But people rarely admit they were wrong all along, far easier just to go with the herd than engage thought processes.

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@Chris W - Re: Before anyone moans about her... @LarsG

Wrote : -"Tony Blair's mug is the epitome of smugness. it's plastered on there like a botched botox grin."

Botox? I always assumed he had wires put inside his mouth to pull up the corners.

I saw him on TV news once when it was clear that he was getting very angry with a heckler during a speech, yet it still looked as if he was smiling. It was creepy. He had God's gift to a politician.

Blair's smile in the icon.

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Re: Thank the stars she privatised BT...

That saved the car industry!

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Re: Thank the stars she privatised BT...

As a Yank hard to comment on her but I can tell you her kindred spirit old man in the US Reagan did some good but that was all negated by getting the trickle down your leg economics ball rolling which has done a whole lot to destroy our middle class today.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Thank the stars she privatised BT...

It's also worth noting that the privatisation legislation deliberately had a time limit built in so that the utilities couldn't be renationalised by an incoming Labour government..

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Megaphone

@Evil Graham

"And whilst it's true to say that the unions had got out of hand by the late 70s..."

Out of hand ? Completely out of control more like. The dead left unburied, ludicrous rent-a-bully "flying pickets", over 300 strikes a year at British Leyland, where night shift workers were caught in sleeping bags, miners in Downing Street telling the Prime Minister what to do. Strike-ridden ship yards delivering ships so late the customers just went away. The union bosses had become public enemy number one. The shoeing they received from Thatcher was deserved, overdue and entirely necessary. Unfortunately it was also so severe that a lot of industry was destroyed and left desolate.

What a shame the previous labour government - under James Callaghan, didn't stand up the communist boot-boys sooner, when their behaviour was less extreme. Then perhaps the reforms would have been more gentle. We would still have a manufacturing industry and moderate unions. Instead we have very little of either.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Before anyone moans about her... @LarsG

at least the Tories stabbed you in the front...

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Re: Before anyone moans about her...

Let's not forget the Labour manifesto commitment that "Every country must have firm control over immigration and Britain is no exception.". Subsequently, and apparently in order to "spite the right", they clandestinely imported millions of people into the UK, resulting a rapid rise in agricultural water abstraction rates from rivers, when we only grow about 60% of our food, when we already had a housing shortage, when we faced a separate influx of people from new EU accessions, when we faced an energy shortage that is now beginning to bite, at a time when we have reached peak phosphate/fertilizer (see food and note that for the first time in a long time, due to population increase and weather, we didn't export grain this winter) [...]

There are many other things that could be mentioned, including the sale of 66% of treasury reserve gold, when the price was at a 20 year low, in bulk, announcing it in advance (thus betraying complete ignorance of the markets); investment of billions into white elephant projects that faltered and then failed; passing volumes of red tape legislation that has tied down the economic and cultural life in a manner not unlike Gulliver in Lilliput... ...all the while they lied about their intentions and what they where doing, and the lies of Eric Byers and his special adviser (good day to bury bad news) on the matter of Rover's impending crash, as conveyed to him by the head of BMW who said that it was 'quarter to midnight', were symptomatic of these creatures, for whom I once (and only once) mistakenly voted.

These people left us with the biggest peacetime national debt, something which I didn't think possible given that I thought they'd learned the lesson of the 1970s, when they had to call in the IMF and thus left Thatcher the task of clearing up their tawdry mess. Already the process of forgetting what the Labour party left behind last time has begun, so I am unsurprised that people have forgotten what they left behind them in 1979.

The last government was mendacious, incompetent and seemingly wedded to a philosophy of political correctness which, in their attempts to inflict it on the 'right', has hurt the electorate. These people defy even my ability to wield adjectives, even more so than during the last Conservative government.

As a very accomplished rock poet once said, "there is no longer any one to vote for, only people to vote against".

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Re: Thank the stars she privatised BT...

Yes, in principle, but in practise? They should have privatised the access services and made the network a common good. That way we wouldn't have BT 'engineers' still doing the servicing on the ground, but a band of competent people providing the best possible access using the best possible technology - universally, as opposed to cherry picking the 'best' areas.

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Re: Thank the stars she privatised BT...

Yeah, Thatcher's "liberalisation" of the markets has left the majority of the country still connected to a single operator that is still considered monopolistic to the point that it has to be forced by law to charge MORE than its competitors in order not to be seen to be unfairly leveraging its monopoly.

Think about that. Next year is the china anniversary of BT Plc, and after two decades in a "competitive market" it will still constitute a monopoly. The absolute success of privatisation.

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Re: @Chris W - Before anyone moans about her... @LarsG

Tony Blairs smile takes me back to childhhood, its like benig grinned at by an aquaphibian.

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Anonymous Coward

My prediction is: Not all the comments are going to be flattering.

I, however, felt she did far more good for this country than bad.

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"This Country"

I'm guessing you mean "The Home Counties and the City of London".

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Re: "This Country"

And Sunderland... Making cars people actually want to buy. Fancy that?

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Re: "This Country"

And Derby (Toyota and Rolls Royce).

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@AC "I, however, felt she did far more good for this country than bad."

Let me guess - you're in America?

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Coat

"Let me guess - you're in America?"

Or in southern England...

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Go

Or....

In a mental institution.

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Headmaster

Re: In a mental institution..

No actually you're wrong there.

"Care in The Community" (National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990) a.k.a. all but eliminate inpatient mental health - neglect or underfund community care - came in right around the end of her administration.

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Anonymous Coward

Between The Unions and Thatcher

The UK has F*&k all manufacturing base left.

As the Steel Wheelers song goes:

"Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right"

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Re: Between The Unions and Thatcher

The UK has F*&k all manufacturing base left.

Actually we're still in the top ten - number six or seven I think. But hey - with people like you talking it down all the time and putting people off careers in that sector it might eventually fall further. Way to go - nothing like supporting your own country, eh?

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Re: Between The Unions and Thatcher

and making things at a cost that competes.

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Re: Between The Unions and Thatcher

During 1981 I toured some of our engineering firms and then later toured some in Japan, we were 20-30 years behind our factories still harked back to the 19th century - and this was caused by the complete failure of our managers combined with the Unions. Between the two they killed our manufacturing base, if it was not for Mrs T. are car industry would followed our textile industry into obscurity.

You are wrong to blame Mrs T. for these issues the seeds of our down fall was the set in the 60s & 70s with the Big government the State Owned Industries and the Managers/Unions refusal to move forward - after decades of failure Mrs T. came along and said let failures die and back the successes - the strategy only started to fail when Mr Brown & Mr Blair returned to the failed policies of the 60&70 started trying to prop up failing institution's the big example being those risky banks should have been left to fail (those retail banks Northern Rock, HBOS, RBS, Bradford & Bingle).

The state should never take on failed institution's it just drags the economy down and down. We should put a lot more state funding into new small business, it is these firms that will take over when today's large firms go through their cycle of decline.

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Mushroom

Re: Between The Unions and Thatcher

Yes, the UK's in the top ten. But only because of the enormous arms manufacturing sector.

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Meh

@AndrueC - Re: Between The Unions and Thatcher

Wrote :- "Actually we're still in the top ten [for manufacturing] - number six or seven I think"

Sorry, but that's poor compared with what it once was. It is also how it is spun, as a lot of "manufacturing" is only assembling kits of parts made abroad; the clever design and skilled manufacture are done abroad, but we, as dumb chimpanzees, assemble the flatpacks for peanuts as a PR gesture.

Whatever the statistics say, I look outside and see only German, French, Italian and Jap cars. It is rare that I buy any manufactured thing that does not say it is made abroad (the last "Made in the UK" thing I recall was a box of Xmas crackers). I see areas that used to be "factory estates" now flattened for housing and "retail outlets". There are new commercial estates at the fringe of town, but seem to be warehousing for imported goods. They called like "Distribution Parks" - Mrs T made it "shameful" actually to make anything, or sound as if you do. On TV last night I saw an archive news clip where she was saying we should not want to do dirty, noisy jobs.

I do not know anyone who makes anything anymore, they only shuffle paper around. Company A is doing a Health and Safety check on Company B's offices, who are doing the accounts for Company C who are installing software (written in USA and India) on Company A's PCs. I do not understand where the money comes from for their BMWs.

OTOH my parents and grandparents would not buy anything from abroad on principle. That would be utterly impossible today, which shows how far things have gone.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: But only because of the enormous arms manufacturing sector

well actually no, but don't let facts get in the way of a glib reply to attempt to back up your negative rhetoric.

8 global car makers are here employing British workers, Rolls-Royce - world leading aerospace, significant petrochemical, brewing, clothing etc etc.

Manufacturing has become much more efficient since the 60s, but employs fewer people.

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Re: @AndrueC - Between The Unions and Thatcher

> look outside and see only German, French, Italian and Jap cars.

Hmm. The "Jap" cars were probably made in England, the French ones in Romania or N. Africa, even some of the German ones aren't made in Germany any more.

I'm reminded of a story from a year or so back when the Labourites in Crewe & Nantwich laid into their Tory MP for being a toff in a flash car. He replied that he was delighted to have the chance to drive an excellent car that was made in his own constituency (Bentley are a nice little earner based in Crewe)

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Re: Between The Unions and Thatcher

@Elron Cupboard

The UK has F*&k all manufacturing base left.

Actually:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/02/22/manufacturing_figures/

Here's a nice simple picture even you can understand.

{ insert song lyric here }

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Re: @AndrueC - Between The Unions and Thatcher

"OTOH my parents and grandparents would not buy anything from abroad on principle. That would be utterly impossible today, which shows how far things have gone."

Your parents and grandparents were part of the problem then. If they were not willing to purchase superior goods at a cheaper price from abroad then the British companies taking advantage of their little England mentality saw no reason to improve and compete in an increasingly global market. Whereas if your forebears had not subsidised them they may have restructured and innovated and still be around today.

Of course the Labour party (and Ted Heath's Tories) were massively to blame too, by propping up these industries with the money from productive people.

Mrs T. did what was necessary, and took all the hatred that should have fallen on the shoulders of those who went before her.

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Megaphone

Re: Between The Unions and Thatcher @ andrueC

I suggest you read this paper:

'BRITAIN’S INDUSTRIAL PERFORMANCE SINCE I960:

UNDERINVESTMENT AND RELATIVE DECLINE

ESRC Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge

www.cbr.cam.ac.uk/pdf/wp014.pdf

I worked in pharmaceutical research and manufacturing for 15 years, my old man worked in engineering manufacturing for 40 years so don't lecture me with nationalistic, jingoistic crap.

I now sell equipment to manufacturers and believe me there are getting less of them over the last 15 years.

What's your experience of industry ?

Cake baking in Brighton ?

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Meh

@PhiloO'Sophical - Re: @AndrueC - Between The Unions and Thatcher

Wrote :-

>> I look outside and see only German, French, Italian and Jap cars.

> Hmm. The "Jap" cars were probably made in England,

As I said, those Jap cars will probably have been designed and the parts made elswhere (ie the skilled and exacting work) and only assembled in the UK.

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Meh

@TheTickRe: @AndrueC - Between The Unions and Thatcher

Wrote :- "Your parents and grandparents were part of the problem then. If they were not willing to purchase superior goods at a cheaper price from abroad"

In the 1950s-60s they were not superior. British stuff was good and sold all over the world, not just to my grandparents. 1950's Ausin Cambridges were widespread (still used in India today, as are 1950's Routemaster buses), and the World came to us for shipbuilding, Sheffield tools, electronics and railway equipment.

OTOH, the first widespread foreign manufactured imports were crap. Corroding Fiat cars, Renault Dauphins, flaky white goods and East German cameras. The reason people started buying foreign stuff was because it was cheap, pure and simple. It did improve with time as people generally became better off after recovering from WW2.

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Meh

@Dr Stephen Jones - Re: Between The Unions and Thatcher

@Elron Cupboard : "The UK has F*&k all manufacturing base left."

@Dr Jones : "Actually: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/02/22/manufacturing_figures/"

Sorry, I do not find an index increase from 40 to 100 in 60 years impressive (was it meant to be?) given that it starts from just after WW2, which devasted industry, and that in the meantime we have had revolutions in manufacturing methods. I would like to see that chart compared with the rest of the world.

Also, as the link says, it shows value, not the physical volume. As most things have become more expensive in real terms due to greater complexity (compare fitting out a house then and now), one would expect the value to rise even if the amount of manufacturing went down - indeed the link says it has.

The point is that manufacturing *has* gone down in volume while at the same time we are buying far more things in volume, so we are importing more things while most of us just shuffle paperwork, do safety inspections, drive lorries around between warehouses, and spend billions on greenwash. I do not see that the situation is sustainable.

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Meh

Re: Between The Unions and Thatcher

You could also argue that Britain was 30 years ahead of Japan back in 1981. In Tokyo now I see similar conditions in the IT industry. Large zombie companies being kept alive through government's direct and indirect support, despite their persistent losses and massive public debt. Little or no chance of any dynamic start-up growing quickly, due in part to crowding-out by domestic champions who are not globally competitive. Here, the cultural problem is not class-war. Rather the opposite; excessive consensus and homogeneity driving fear of change.

Like many on this thread I despised the lady at the time, for all her divisive vindictiveness and bloody-mindedness dressed up as necessity (TINA). Still do. Yet I did grow to respect some of the things that she achieved over the years. The worse things become, the more radical the remedy will have to be. I tell my Japanese colleagues the same.

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Re: Between The Unions and Thatcher @ andrueC

From the report you quote (www.cbr.cam.ac.uk/pdf/wp014.pdf) on page 22: notice the period when manufacturing output is falling (late 70's) and when it starts to rise again (around 1981 onwards, and solidly throughout the 80s). Now who was in power in those periods? Myth busted, as they say.

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Re: In the 1950s-60s

It's hard to make competing products when your factories have been bombed out by the Allies, and that's what the state of most of the world was in the 1950s except for the US (essentially untouched) and the UK (damaged but not flattened).

And all the snobby engineers backed by Unions and leftists in both countries ignored Deming and his continuous improvement processes. Those processes were eagerly picked up by the countries that had been bombed out in their desperation to make something that could compete. His processes worked while the unions and the snobs continued to whine. Now you are buried in your own bile, yet still you whine. Get over yourself. Get off your lazy ass and do some real work. Earn your living instead of whining that you lost your inheritance.

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