The death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the age of 87 has attracted some of the most bilious of comments, many from people who were not even born when she was the occupant of 10 Downing Street. Des Morgan considers the claims and counter claims about the legacy of Britain’s first and only woman premier
Viewpoints range from the familiar ‘she stole children’s milk’ which while factually untrue was a good story – even though it ignored the action taken by Harold Wilson’s previous Labour Government to do exactly that to 6 to 11 year olds – to the most absurd that Mrs Thatcher was responsible for the 2008 banking crisis.
Parties have been held to celebrate her death and local politicians have joined in a chorus of disapproval of her life with Swindon Borough Councillor Derique Montaut, a former Mayor of Swindon when Mrs Thatcher was PM, saying she was a divisive force in the country and one of the most reviled individuals in modern politics.
While undoubtedly true that the miners had a deep hatred for her it is fanciful to declare such loathing was shared by many ordinary people. For many Mrs Thatcher was the voice of reason and the firm hand which restored the country’s reputation from being the ‘sick man of Europe’ to a period of unparalleled growth through the 1980s.
Some say Mrs Thatcher was responsible for polarising the nation. Such a comment attributes more power to her than she herself would claim to deserve. Others would say the nation was polarised before she came to power, and what she did was to use that state to achieve a victory against a powerful union and particularly against a man who had but one real aim which was to bring down her administration.
It was a great achievement to be the first woman British Prime Minister and a sad reflection on the country that in the last twenty three years there has been little evidence that another woman might become Premier.
She has been described as a war-monger for her decision to engage in the campaign to reclaim the Falklands. One only wonders what history will make of modern day premiers who have taken this country into conflicts which have lasted years as opposed to months.
There can be no doubt that Mrs Thatcher was a strong woman who claimed to owe nothing to the feminist movement for her success. She was single minded and determined and above all she was a patriot through and through.
Disagreements will rage for years to come regarding some of the political decisions she took and her legacy will always be viewed through the prism of political colour, what cannot be in doubt is that Margaret Thatcher fought for what she believed to be right for the country. Only history will prove whether she was right.
Former Mayor Derique Montaut speaks against Mrs Thatcher. Swindon’s two Conservative MPs express their appreciation