Well... I was wondering whether or not to deliberately avoid today's news - the death of Mrs. T. It seems,
however, that wherever I go, I can't. Radio, TV, social media - everyone seems to be having their say, so I thought that I would add my own insignificant contribution to the fray.
I tend to be somewhat Apolitical; I find almost all politicians to be unattractive, disingenuous people with little personal integrity. Maggie Thatcher was no different in that regard.
I am not, and neither have I ever been, a fan of Margaret Thatcher. I have never been, however, a rabid anti - Thatcherite; I sit somewhere in the middle ground between the polarised views of this most influential and yet divisive of politicians; I don't like sitting on the fence because it makes my bum hurt. I am no expert; but I do have the benefit of the experience of growing into adulthood and starting my working life under the government that she led. In that sense - lowly and minor though it may be, I can say 'I was there'. Also, in the sense that, as someone who joined the police force in 1984 (when she was at the height of her powers and in the middle of one of the nation's most divisive industrial disputes which of necessity involved huge draws upon police resources) and was labelled one of 'Thatcher's Boot Boys' as a result; I was there.
The government under her leadership inherited a largely broken country. In the late 1970s Britain was still reeling; teetering on the brink of economic catastrophe after having, under the so-called leadership of consecutive groups of privileged, grumpy old white men, failed to recover from the bankrupting effects of the second world war. Similar - if slightly less influential - groups of old and not-so-old privileged white men had steered the nation's industrial might towards a yawning chasm of death by inefficiency and incompetence. Decades of being preached to by stuffed shirts from Eton, Oxford and Cambridge had led to widespread industrial and social unrest and dissatisfaction - to the extent that even the left-wing Labour Party (comprised mostly of privileged, grumpy...you get the picture) had failed to calm the sense of discontent with the political world. Britain rested upon the edge of an economic precipice.
In the midst of all this, along came, of all people, Margaret Thatcher. Her gender was itself, in the beginning, a breath of fresh air - perhaps a sign of change. Her drive, legendary energy, intelligence and quick grasp of the big picture were powerful tools which she brought to the table and the international arena to make lesser people quake. There can be no doubt that she was an impressive individual, able to charm and intimidate at will. She was, without question, a natural leader.
Her political ideas would prove to be equally strong; divisive, some would say ruthless, others might say inspirational - but one thing they were without parallel; they polarised opinions. Among the everyday people of the country she was at at turns adulated and reviled. To some she became inspirational Britannia herself; to others, the devil incarnate; to be despised and hated and attacked quite mercilessly. People tended to fall either side of the love/hate fence, and few seemed prepared to sit on the top and take a broad view. perhaps they too, got sore bums from doing so...
Some of the things she did were positive; a strong stance upon joining a European Union proved to be prescient; unhesitatingly using military force to liberate the imprisoned Falkland Islanders and re-claiming British territory was simply the right thing to do; limiting the might of the incredibly powerful union movement was an absolute requisite for a competitive economic presence in the world. In other ways she demonstrated ruthlessness and a lack of understanding; the union issue was attacked with a sledgehammer rather than seeking agreed steps, her government paid scant attention to the real needs of the lower income majority of the country, and her personal manner was at best, patronising (and that was when she was playing nice).
People will, I'm sure, always hold strong opinions about her, but some of the comments I have seen out on the web today seem utterly ridiculous to me. I have seen comparisons to Hitler, Stalin and other dictators. Nonsense. Her government was democratically elected three times, and her party twice more after her departure from the political scene. I've seen reference to a near state of 'civil war' in the UK under her governance - again, utter nonsense. I was there, and it simply wasn't the case; the rule of law was never remotely in danger, and feelings never ran so high as to make it more than the topic of conversation in the pub after a few too many drinks. People have, rather sadly, been applauding her death - even celebrating her passing - well I think that such people, by their own words and deeds, demonstrate the kind of folk that they are and deserve no further consideration. She had, for a number of years, been frail both mentally and physically - what is the purpose of such hatred for one person, except maybe to perpetuate itself?
'Maggie' is, now, in every sense a historical figure. She did some stuff that I agreed with and she did some stuff that I thought was simply wrong. That pretty much says it for every politician, I should imagine. She took as much personal flak as I can remember ever seeing anyone take (George W. Bush might have been a similarly attacked punchbag if the U.S media had ever been up to the job) but came out fighting every time, until the absolute end; she had guts, there's no mistaking that. I prefer to think of her simply as a former PM, one with whom I did not often agree, who will always be remembered (for better or worse) by the British people as a landmark leader - and let's not forget - was the very first woman to fight her way to the front ranks of those privileged old men.
Maybe it's time we had another lady - of whatever political persuasion - in Number 10?