Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher – like her or loathe her?

’m breaking my own promise to myself here by writing this particular blog because I always thought I wouldn't get into the murky world of politics in Prestopeople. What do I know anyway.

However, Margaret Thatcher dying has been an exception. When I was first asked about my opinion about her departing this world I rashly said I hated her.

But as the days drew on I realised that wasn’t strictly the truth. I’m just old enough to have been earning a living while Maggie was on her Parliamentary throne. That means I was old enough to have been forced to pay the hugely unpopular Poll Tax.

For young people like me that meant about £300 a year and all my three other housemates, too. That was on top of running a car, feeding myself and paying rent, other bills and attempting to have a social life but there was hardly anything left for clothes from my meagre reporter’s wage.

I had friends who were living in London at the time and they were being asked to pay much more. Over £700 each or face a court fine and a criminal record. They didn’t pay, they simply moved and they weren’t the only ones.

I also remember watching incredulously as the Poll Tax riots in Scotland unfurled where the awful tax was first trialled.

This was also the time when people were going to parties and sitting around talking about how their properties had hit the roof in terms of their value. Some of these people had bought their council houses but there was no provision for other social housing stock.

All of a sudden the news was full of people who were in negative equity thanks to the property crash. I think a lot of marriages are likely to have crumbled under that kind of pressure.  

The truth is Maggie did a lot of bad and, I’ve been forced to admit in the past week, a lot of good. I wasn’t old enough to have really appreciated what was going on in the “winter of discontent”, when the country was grinding to a halt. If I had maybe I’d be looking upon Margaret Thatcher’s reign more favourably.

All the commentators are saying it was she who broke the unions, she who lifted our country out of the doldrums. But mud sticks, doesn’t it. I’m also aware that it’s easy to hate an easy target, and as leader of the country that’s what you are.

She was fair game for the fabulous Spitting Image current affairs puppet show. I remember a scene where they had Margaret Thatcher and all the Cabinet members being served lunch around the cabinet table.

The waiter leaned over Mrs Thatcher and asked if she’d like something he was serving from his platter. Then he said: “And the vegetables?” To which Maggie barked authoritatively: “They’ll have what I’m having.”

In fact Max Hastings says that she once opened a ministerial meeting by slamming her handbag down on the table and saying: “Well, I haven’t much time today – only enough time to explode and have my way!”

And wasn’t that the whole problem with Maggie – it was her way or the highway.

I can understand hatred in the north of England, after all if you are going to decimate an industry (coal mining) that generations of people have relied upon as an income and a way of life then you have to help provide them with another way to make ends meet. Maggie didn’t do that.

She may have been Britain’s first female prime minister but practically every political commentator I’ve heard/read has said she did nothing for feminism. Let’s face it, she only appointed two female ministers to the Cabinet and there hasn’t been a whiff of a female leader of a political party since she left office in 1990.

Was she a man in a skirt? I can’t help but laugh at this famous quote of hers “everyone needs a Willie” – she meant Willie Whitelaw.

Thatcher fans are quick to point out that she made us a nation of home owners, share owners and changed the Labour party for good. Didn’t she once say that New Labour was effectively her creation?

What I don’t agree with is those people who are celebrating the death of an 87-year-old woman who was no longer a threat to anyone. She didn’t send anyone to the gas chambers like Hitler. To me Margaret Thatcher had her time and that time was 20 years ago.

I’ll never be a fan but I will take a peek at the Margaret Thatcher funeral mainly because it's history in the making and it closes a chapter. What’s your view? I DID include a poll but have had to take it down as people were telling me they were voting and the poll wasn't recording them! Technology, eh!

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