Sunday, 14 April 2013

Giving Mrs Thatcher her dues?

I didn't want to write about Mrs Thatcher at this time. I would rather her family and friends were left to mourn in peace, and indeed to celebrate a remarkable life. She was a woman of great accomplishments.

I am sick and tired of the endless discussion on radio and television and in the newspapers about whether it is fitting to criticise Mrs Thatcher at this time. I doubt whether many would wish to be disrespectful but for the fact that so many Tories, and particularly Thatcherites are making political statements about her achievements, when for so many the feelings about what she did are still raw. They should understand that opinion was always deeply divided about her premiership. They should not feign surprise that it is still so today. They should also not be surprised that people who were and are still angry about her period of office should want to express it. Judgement is not one-sided. History teaches us different lessons.

I do not approve of the demonstrations at this time; but nor do I approve of some of the ludicrous claims being made about her achievements; and nor do I approve of the near-state funeral she is being given with full military honours. It is no disrespect to her to say that. It is a criticism not of her. It is a concern that such a funeral is disproportionate and in large part politically motivated.

If her supporters wish to make  claims for her successes, and I do not doubt that there were some considerable achievements; it is equally the case that by the time she was removed by her own party from the premiership, she had created mass unemployment, had overseen a rapid increase in industrial decline and a fractured society that was much more unequal than the one she had inherited.

Poverty, particularly child poverty had increased, whole communities had been thrown on the scrap heap and all her henchmen could suggest was that they got 'on their bikes' to find work. Hers was a callous and dispiriting government. The Tory party became, in the words of Mr David Cameron a 'nasty party'. She came to office cynically citing the prayer of St Francis of Assisi , yet she left office with a more divided and fractured nation, and in the end it was her own party who got rid of her.

Mrs Thatcher was a great lady. She was the first British woman prime minister. Clement Attlee wasn't given a near state funeral, and his government set about building society and the welfare state. His was an achievement that influenced the direction of British politics for three decades. But for all his undoubted achievements at healing Britain and creating the NHS, he did not get the disproportionate funeral or adulation given to Mrs Thatcher.

Mrs Thatcher built nothing, let alone society; she considered that society didn't exist. Her view of society was that it was little other than an aggregate of self interested (and indeed, selfish) individuals. There was she said 'no such thing as society'. she set about destroying the very concept of society, and it is no wonder therefore that she left the social fabric of our society in tatters. It is time we heard less from the Tory press and her supporters. If they wish the family to be left to mourn in peace, then I would suggest the less we hear from them the better.


It is not simply what is achieved that matters in judgement. It is also the manner in which things are done. Ends alone should not be the only consideration. As politicians get more powerful, it is this they tend to forget. Their conviction that they are right becomes all persuasive, and others around them stop telling them otherwise. And, for this reason, those around them are as culpable for that which goes wrong.

The frustration of those in Mrs Thatcher's government was always evident. They walked out of the cabinet. It was evident in the beginning of her downfall. The resignation of her longest serving minister, Sir Geoffrey Howe, was said to have come as a great surprise to her. His resignation speech was devastating. Whilst he had major disagreement over policies, it was her style of leadership that drove him over the edge.

This is the problem of believing what others and the media say about you. Mrs Thatcher as the 'iron lady' became locked into a style of leadership. The 'no U-turn' approach is all too familiar. You turn if you want to, the lady's not for turning was the root of her downfall.

Mrs Thatcher has earned her place in history. But the manner of her doing things will be left for historians to judge; and a realistic judgement won't be made until her supporters and her detractors have left the scene.




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