On the April 10th 2013, ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died. Despite falling from power over 20 years ago, Margaret Thatcher remains one of the most divisive figures in 20th Century politics and the days after her death are no different. News channels across the country are showing footage of parties celebrating her death juxtaposed with mourners laying flowers outside the Ritz hotel where she died. I figured that, seeing as every other writer on the site has commented on Thatcher in one way or another, I would throw my thoughts out there.
Maggie Thatcher was the daughter of a Lincolnshire greengrocer. She originally studied Chemistry and became a Research Chemist before discovering her love for politics. In 1950 and 1951 she ran as the Conservative candidate for the Labour seat in Dartford and lost both times, nevertheless she attracted a great deal of media attention because of her age and the fact that she was a woman in a male dominated profession. In 1959 she became the MP for Finchley and worked her way into Harold Macmillan’s government. Thatcher was the education secretary and a cabinet minister before going on to lead the Conservatives and, in 1979, she lead the party to electoral victory and became the first ever female Prime Minister.
In order to evaluate Margaret Thatcher you first have to look at Britain before Thatcher and Britain after Thatcher. Before Thatcher, Britain was described as ‘the sick man of Europe’, the entire country was in ruin; the economy was screwed, unemployment was high and effectively every important factor in the economy was state owned and there were constant strikes which resulted in grinding entire areas of the country to a standstill, complete with rolling blackouts. After Thatcher, Britain’s economy was freer, the public were allowed to buy shares in various companies, such as railways and airlines, and council houses could now be bought by their tenants Thatcher allowed ordinary people to have a good chance at making it big. Granted, unemployment rose during Thatcher’s first term but that was due to the fact that she allowed some of the more costly industries that were already on their last legs, to die. These closures included the coal mines which came during the strikes organised by unions. Many critics of Thatcher cite the strikes and the closure of the mines as a major failing on her governments part. This is not true. What people need to understand about Thatcher’s relationship with the unions is just how powerful the unions were. If they wanted to then they could very easily organise a strikes and essentially cripple the country. Had Thatcher caved into the union’s demands then they would’ve continued their pattern of strike for years, possibly even decades. The unions had to be dealt with and Thatcher was pushed into hard action, she made the right decision. Yes, a lot of people were put out of work and many communities simply withered and died but action needed to be taken. A really good example of the unions tendency to strike at this point can be seen in the film Carry On At Your Conveiniance in which strikes are declared because of petty reasons (they run out of biscuits at one point.) Thatcher’s confrontation of the unions helped prevent them from repeatedly striking.
Thatcher is also heavily criticised for the fact things like the removal of free milk from schools and, of course, the Falklands. Firstly, does the milk thing really matter? I don’t remember being at too much of a loss over the lack of free milk. Thatcher must’ve saved a decent amount of money from it and in that time of economic chaos any amount of saving was worth it. Secondly, the Falklands. War isn’t nice but it is very often nessarcery. The Falklands was one such nessarcery war. At the time, Argentina was a dictatorship and the Falklands, being British land, had a lot of British citizens. Thatcher had to intervene to save those British subjects, she didn’t enjoy the knowledge that people would die but she did what she had to do. These are arguments that are common amongst those who disliked Thatcher but what people tend to forget is just how much she was involved in the end of the Cold War. Thatcher and Reagan, the conservative dream team, were both powerhouses in the downfall of communism and Thatcher herself helped build a relationship between Reagan and Gobachev and oversaw the fall of the Berlin Wall.
I’m not saying Thatcher was perfect. She was in favour of a white South Africa and opposed Nelson Mandela, whom she thought was a terrorist. Thatcher also began to refer to herself as we (as the Royals do) and despite being warned that her Tory cabinet were on the verge of turning on her, went to Paris to see in the end of the Cold War, she was even a little homophobic, introducing section 28 which denied the same rights to same-sex couples as were given to married couples. Alright, but just remember when Thatcher lived. She was old enough to remember the war, is it any wonder that she was a little cautious about Germany? Also, the 80’s meant AIDS, it was a huge fear and homophobia was rife. You cannot judge her too harshly for section 28.
Whatever your opinions are of Thatcher and her policies, I’m sure you can all agree that she was a powerful woman who knew what she thought was right and strived to achieve it. Margaret Thatcher was, in my opinion, a great woman and a great Prime Minister. Not only does she provide an example to aspiring female politicians everywhere but she changed this country for the better. Yes, there were bad things about her term but she did so much. She helped end the Cold War, the power of the unions was crushed, the Falklands were liberated, the special relationship with the US was strengthened, privatisation gave ordinary people a chance to succeed and a chance to own their own homes. Margaret Thatcher was a strong, resolute woman who didn’t deal in typical political bullshit or popularity contests. Thatcher should be remembered well, not just as one of Britain’s most revolutionary Prime Ministers but also one of it’s finest.
R.I.P Margaret Thatcher