Margaret Thatcher

I guess this blog post is nearly as long-expected as dearest Margaret’s passing away.

I thought about doing a post last Monday night about her influence on the country, her legacy, etc, but there was so much commentary elsewhere that I decided against adding to the wealth of opinion.  I wouldn’t exactly have been breaking new ground by arguing how she saved the country.

The question I would prefer to answer is why I personally hold Lady Thatcher in such a high regard despite coming from the north of the country and why I revere her so much – why I feel I connect to what she was a part of.

I had a mix of emotions last Monday.  I was initially saddened although it was an expected (and slightly feared) event, but the memories of what she had done for the country put a smile on my face.  As the day went on, a rage grew inside of me seeing people celebrate the death of someone I so admired.  I calmed down in the evening – overnight, instead of sleeping, I started to think more of my place and whether I was respecting her legacy – silly questions like whether I should give up clubbing and just work hard all the time to achieve ‘stuff’.

It does perturb me to see those who were not born during her reign, especially those who are well-off that are complaining – you know the sorts, Rory and Tarquin complaining that Maggie took away the jobs/milk, etc.  During the 1970’s this country was known as the sick-dog of Europe.  We were thought of like Greece are now.  We were a laughing stock.  We had to go to the IMF and beg for a loan as the markets wouldn’t lend to a bankrupt country.  A 3 day working week.  Power black-outs.  Most public services on strike at times.  The unions in control rather than democratically elected leaders.  29 million working days lost to strikes per year.  Is that seriously what people would have preferred another decade of?

Fuck right off.

However, that said, I understand the bitterness that some have.

Many manufacturing bases for example in the north of England, or in Scotland, continued their decline during Margaret Thatcher’s era, and she is an easy target to pin the blame of globalisation on.

I do not begrudge those who lost jobs in loss-making industries from blaming others.  It is easier to blame someone in an office 200+ miles away instead of your own union leader that you regularly pay money to ‘represent’ you.  Or perhaps more pertinently to blame someone else for your own perceived failings.

I guess blaming Margaret Thatcher for the closing of the coal mines is similarly analogous to me solely blaming Gordon Brown for the failings of the bank regulators, or even for myself being made redundant a couple of years back.

Although it is worth noting that when Margaret Thatcher took over in 1979 there were 235,000 working in the coal industry.  In the early 1950’s – there were 700,000.  Quite how she gets the blame when 66% of the coal jobs were lost long before her I am not sure.  It doesn’t add up but why should that stop anyone from hating her?

Hmm.  I’ve just done what I said I wouldn’t do.  This isn’t supposed to be a political rant, though it is so easy to fall into that trap.

I am writing to outline the reasons why I cherished her so highly, and why I am so appreciative of what she stood for:

1. Determination and hard work.  I wish I could survive on 4 hours sleep a night.  OK I do now and again go into work having had zero hours sleep but I am not exactly able to function 100% let alone run a country, give speeches, fight for causes in parliament.  Everything about her embodied hard work and determination and whenever I am feeling a little lazy or unmotivated  I just need to look at my Margaret Thatcher mouse mat, see what she achieved and bring that into my vision.

2. Breaking boundaries.  I kind of know what this feels like myself, as a northerner with an obdurate linguistic slurred grunt way of speaking back in 1998 – I didn’t exactly find it easy to fit in down south initially.  Margaret went far further in not only breaking boundaries at the stuffy Oxford University in her studies, but also as a woman in the equally as stuffy Conservative party of the post-war era.  And then was elected and re-elected.  Her personal achievements are absolutely 100% admirable in breaking through social structures.

3. Leadership.  Mrs Thatcher was a leader.  She knew what she wanted, she knew how to bring enough people along with her.  I greatly admire leaders – I require heroes and leaders in my life.  I require people to look up to.  At times in my life I have had some awful managers at work and it is so hard to work for someone you despise and still do a good job.  Even more important is a strong leader of the country.  David Cameron does a decent enough job of leading, especially compared to his gold-giving-away predecessor and having a good strong leader makes me happy to pay tax.

4. Individual Responsibility.  When I was at university, I thought the world owed me a living.  Whether I got a degree or not, I believed that someone should give me a job just for being half-intelligent.  When I voluntarily got chucked out of university, I reluctantly took up a job with Natwest.  I thought nothing of turning up 4 hours late because I could and I totally thought it was 100% acceptable because the world owed me a living.  A few years later of further study and I had discovered the idea of individual responsibility, through reading about the values that Margaret Thatcher espoused.

5. Freedom.  Finally and most importantly – freedom.  The idea that everyone should be free.  Free from trade union control, free from socialist dictats, free from over-burdening bureaucracy but absolutely most importantly – freedom from state control, especially from evil empires.  This especially resonates with me now as I watch the Arab Spring and the fight that citizens of many countries have to have their basic freedoms – to be allowed their opinions.  Those critical of Margaret Thatcher should be thankful that they don’t live in one of dozens of countries across the world with strict or selective censorship of the freedom of speech.  Some don’t even have freedom of movement.  A few regimes are just so awful that they are sickening in their contempt for human life.  Some countries would torture you and your family for having an alternative opinion.

Margaret Thatcher fought against the advance of the state and unelected bodies trying to wield power over the government – and pushed an agenda of freedom across the Iron Curtain to assist in bringing freedoms back to our European brothers and sisters to the east of the continent.

I personally have her to thank for allowing me the freedoms to follow my life as I do, to have the freedom and the enjoyment of life, the opportunity and also some of the friends that I have met along the way – would I be living in Reading enjoying relative prosperity were it not for Thatcherism?  Or would I be living in a run-down council estate in Hull, bemoaning the lack of fishing docks?

Sure there are many other contributors in history but for me, following the values I have outlined above, makes me who I am, and the post-Thatcher United Kingdom allows me to follow my beliefs and I feel that I hold a great debt of gratitude to someone I will forever hold dearly in my heart and memory.

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2 responses to “Margaret Thatcher

  1. Brilliant piece James. I've also read some utter bollocks on Thatcher over the last few weeks, from being chastised by the gay community for being homophobic (other than homosexuals themselves, who wasn't? Obviously society has developed and become broader minded but it certainly wasn't back then) to apparently calling Nelson Mandela a terrorist (she called the behaviour of the ANC 'terrorist' when they threatened to, errr….be terrorists).

    Fiscally I agree with most of what Thatcher did. As you say mining was failing here and industry in general was hugely inefficient. The battles against the trade unions were tory through and through (so I'm not going to disagree) and improved labour market efficiency and after deindustrialisation Thatcher and then Major were responsible for the educational reforms that brought about more vocational training- GNVQ, NVQ and BTEC. Successive Conservative governments supply-side policies brought about a more skilled, more broadly educated workforce. My dad, for example, spent two years unemployed because machines took his job. He didn't blame Thatcher, he learned how to maintain the machines and carved out a career earning more money than he ever did previously. The Conservatives as you say moved Britain with the times and Thatcher deserves the credit for that.

    In terms of foreign policy it's virtually impossible to find a leader that hasn't been open to question, especially in hindsight. As you said, Thatcher was closer to a traditional libdem ideology so obviously there will be dyed-in-the-wool Conservatives that didn't agree with her hence the intra-party factions.

    Overall there is valid criticism of Thatchers reign as there would be with any leader but it is impossible for any reasoned thinker to ignore that her reign, overall, was hugely successful in the face of a huge transition for Britain. Her fiscal policy facilitated the biggest boom in Britains history and cannot be blamed for Blairs' failure to regulate the financial sector.

    Whilst I didn't support a minutes silence at football matches (She like many others didn't have the foresight to realise football fans should be treated with anything but contempt- again, down in no small part to our society being far more agricultural in its mentality back then) as that would be asking for trouble, but I do support a universal, generic celebration of a lady whose achievements are unlikely to be matched or bettered.

  2. I have waited a long time for someone to comment upon a blog post of my and the wait was very much worth it.

    I agree with you on the minute's silence at football matches – not the right place for it. I do remember what football was like in the 1980's, having opposition fans running past next to you with knives out was a bit of an eye opener for an 8 year old. Though I have to admit I found it exciting.

    I will forever commemorate Margaret Thatcher Day on 10th January.

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