Monday 8 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher 1925-2013

It probably would've been wiser for me to keep quiet. However, Margaret Thatcher
is going to be one of those people who will divide opinion for generations.
(Pic : The Guardian)
Well, "that day" has finally come. Margaret Thatcher has died. Although she was in ill health, and it was obvious she was – I'm not trying to be crass – in her final years, this news came out of the blue.
I'm not a ghoul, but I'd often wondered what I would end up writing when this happened. Would I even write anything at all? Should I write anything?

I'm just about old enough to remember the tail end of her premiership through to her resignation, but it's unquestionable that she left her impact on my adulthood, and the lives of everyone who's come after me.

There's so much I could focus on, but I think it'll be her economic policies that she'll be most heavily associated with in Wales.

Absolutely everything today – from housing, who we buy our energy from, where we work, even the way we get around on things like the railways and buses - was touched or influenced by her one way or another.

When she came to office, the UK was, as often described, a basketcase ripped apart by union self-interest, woeful economic policies (not helped by various energy disputes and crises) and manifest incompetence by people at the top of government.

She radically repositioned and restructured the British economy - fuelled by North Sea oil - overheating the south east of England in the process and purpetuating a slow, ongoing decline in the industrial parts of the island, which has only been reversed in a few cases like Manchester.

You could twist that into a positive too. People now work in comfortable offices, earning more money, buying more "things" and "stuff". They no longer have to worry about their own safety by having no choice but to take up some of the most unpleasant jobs imaginable. The lucky ones anyway.

That devastating legacy to Welsh heavy industry through the 70s and 80s eventually led to the destruction of individual lives those who missed out on the "new economy" - as a job vacuum was filled with welfare dependency and drugs.

At the time,  everything was reduced in worth to a simply tallying of how valuable it was. These losers in her redefined game of life, and Wales in general, became worthless. We've borne that label from the defeat of the miner's strike right through to the present.

So, when she left office, it was a different kind of basketcase she left behind – a nation-state slave to living in other people's pockets and a fostered individualist culture where everyone was now out to ask - "What's in it for me?"

I think it's safe to say that, as of 2008, that ideology has crumbled, despite outlasting Soviet Communism and completely destroying the old English left (Wales still retains it – just about).  It's also allowed politicians in Wales for decades - especially Labour - to point to her legacy as cover or to provide excuses for their own inaction.

However, people my age – deemed "Thatcher's children" - have grown up with it, and most of us actively embrace "me, me, me" regardless of our politics. As much as it embodies big banks, it also embodies stuff like reality television, things like Facebook/social media, mobile phone jingles, trendy city-centre apartments, hybrid turbo cars with big spoilers and it's the reason jobs like recruitment consultants exist.

Was she a good Prime Minister? Objectively, she was an excellent one. She was an ideologue and yes, a revolutionary, who knew precisely where she wanted to take the UK. She's going to be remembered as one of those great (as in important) historical figures that will divide opinion for as long as people have opinions.

Was she a good politician? The key difference between the two is that a leader of a nation has to maintain a detached objectivity from public feelings to be able to lead effectively – like a military officer. Politicians still have to care though, and have empathy. I think the fact so many of us fell off her coat tails as she enforced her revolution means she was a terrible politician. I don't think that's because she was incapable of caring, she probably just couldn't afford to care as there was too much at stake for her to reverse course.

Neither of that means she was a terrible person though, and I think it's wrong to think of her as evil, when all she was was a woman resolutely and pig-headedly committed to a set of core ideals and actions, believing with all her heart she was right even if those ideals were poisonous to some, yet the only answer to others.

Like it or not, she was in the right place at the right time. Like it or not, people voted for her again and again because they liked what she was doing - putting money in people's pockets and giving them "freedom of choice" over their "things" and "stuff".

Her legacy, in my eyes, will come down to those two words - "things" and "stuff."  That's what we've all been reduced to since, and what we will continue to pander to.

She's endured ill health during a rather frail old age, so she's been released from that now. I would've hoped she would've been given the dignity of a funeral in private so her body doesn't become a focal point for the inevitable ideological thrashing over how she's either Gloriana II, or an evil witch "milk snatcher."

Let her rest. Let her outdated ideals rest alongside her too.


  1. It's going to be interesting to see how the funeral is handled.
    An overdose of jingoism from the Brit Nat BBC could be the clincher in the Scottish independence referendum.

    Will Danny Boyle be asked to do the arrangements?

  2. I hope its a private one and not god forbid a nationalised one...

  3. Everything she did was a disaster to anyone other than the parasitic "elite" that currently misrule the UK. You can tell a lot about a person from their friends and enemies. She was a friend to right wing dictators like Pinochet and enemy of Nelson Mandela. She was a friend of the rich and priveleged and enemy to ordinary decent individuals. To me that sums her up! I feel sure if there is an afterlife she will have the kind of company she deserves, and will never be cold again!

  4. Anon 18:17 & 18:27 - "The Margaret Thatcher funeral, brought to you by Burger King and Take a Break." It's what she would've wanted.

    Britnot - Well, she helped invent Mr Whippy ice cream too. In short though, I think there's so many points of her legacy up for debate, including her foreign policy, I think it's best left to other people to discuss it rather than me. She made her mark.

  5. She inadvertently contributed to devolution going ahead, second time around. We don't need to thank her for that, because it was unintentional, but only 34% of the Welsh respect her, compared to 55% in England and 23% in Scotland. This was in the Guardian yesterday.

  6. Well, those numbers don't exactly surprise me, Anon. I think we also need to remember how close the devolution referendum was in 1997. It's not as if it was as emphatic as Scotland, simply because Labour in Wales were divided on the issue. There were plenty of Labour and Tories on the same (no) side in the build up to that. I think Thatcher played an overstated role there.