For the next few weeks, I will have to endure hearing about the conflicts between Thatcher-worshippers and Thatcher-haters. I am in neither camp. I don’t really relish encouraging the hatred of individuals – their political ideas and the consequences of their work, however, are a different matter.
These apparently obligatory celebrations after the death of a divisive figure are starting to get annoying. Equally childish is the insistence of the worshippers to silence all critics; we had this with Christopher Hitchens, where we were instructed not to talk ill of the dead (fairly ironic considering this was definitely not Hitchens’ motto).
It should be obvious that there is absolutely nothing wrong with disliking Thatcher and the impact of her policies, and her death should not suddenly mean we must consecrate her as a saint. Equally, let’s take pause: her death has not brought the end to policies which continue to cast a dark shadow on our country. We would, therefore, do better to neither celebrate nor pay undue tribute to the politician, but rather reflect upon how we want our country to change right now – and then get on with it. After that, we have a moral imperative to rejoice.
Dancing on the grave of the individual is no antidote to the serious problems in Britain that we should be fighting to address – singing “the witch is dead” while drinking from milk cartons just makes people look simple-minded and lazy.
I volunteer at a charity store and was standing with several people around the till on Monday when one of the other volunteers mentioned that Margaret Thatcher had died that morning. No one said “No!”, and no one said “Yes!” The general reaction was one of mild surprise at first, although it was agreed that “she was getting on”.
I always assumed that I was born too late in the 1980s to have any strong opinions about Thatcher, but it seems I’m not the only one. Not all of the public either loved or loathed her.
Wrong to honour in this way
I find it almost incomprehensible that the late Margaret Thatcher is having a funeral with full military honours largely being paid for by the state. It is a disgrace that the most divisive prime minister that this country has had for many years should be honoured in this way.
This was the woman who brought about privatisation of national assets, which even her colleague Harold Macmillan felt was inappropriate; encouraged banks to lend recklessly; set the stock market free to become a casino; stated “there is no such thing as society”; demolished British industry; presided over a doubling in crime; made property ownership a key tone of her premiership and thus deprived many people of the chance of a home which they could afford; and made Britain a more selfish, brutish, less attractive place to live for many citizens, especially those who had no powerful voices to support them.
What is worse is that members of the Royal Family will be attending this shindig, which – for a family that has allegedly pursued their careers by not becoming involved in politics – just goes to show what a lie we have been sold over the past 50 years.
Behind the cool, steely facade
That Margaret Thatcher was kind, caring, concerned and considerate are not characteristics associated in the popular mind with the “Iron Lady”. Behind that façade of cool aplomb, steely, blue-eyed looks and indefatigable determination lay a very gentle soul, almost motherly in her attitude, with an innate insight into what each of us, individually, were capable of and could attain. This scared some people but others, like myself, were forever empowered by her.
I remember when, in 1987, having lost my first general election in Hammersmith by 2,004 votes to the sitting Labour MP, I received a telephone call from the then Secretary of the Carlton Club, instructing me to stand next to Disraeli’s old chair while the Prime Minister was delivering her speech, given on the eve of the State Opening of Parliament. Bemused by this request, but grumblingly acquiescing, I stood with my mother and sister who had come over for the campaign from Sri Lanka, listening to a triumphant speech by a Prime Minister returning to Government with a thumping majority of 102 seats.
Much to my astonishment, immediately after her speech, she made a beeline for me, fixed me with that famous look and said: “You are NOT giving up.” I stuttered: “Prime Minister, this is my mother.” Taking my mother’s hand, she smiled at her and said even more firmly “He is not to give up”, and walked on.
In the midst of forming a new Government, attending to thousands of demands and decisions, she had taken the time and care to arrange that meeting, knowing how I must have felt having just lost.
Margaret Thatcher was unique for many reasons – beyond anything else, as a great human being.
Conservative MEP, South-east Region
From fantasy to reality because of Thatcherism
In your editorial on the passing of Baroness Thatcher (Voices, 9 April), you made passing reference to the role that “de-fanging” the trade unions had on the founding of The Independent. As a co-founder of the newspaper, I think one can go further: without Margaret Thatcher, The Independent would not exist. The laws outlawing secondary picketing and the closed shop made it possible for the newspaper to escape the dead hand of the London printing unions. Their rejection of “new technology” and insistence on farcical levels of over-manning had rendered the idea of raising money to start a new national newspaper a fantasy. By the mid-1980s, their power to close down any new entrant to the market had been ended.
That was an essential but not sufficient condition for starting The Independent. The other was the revival of entrepreneurial spirits that the liberal market reforms of “Thatcherism” had brought about and the consequent creation of a vibrant new venture capital industry in the City. It had suddenly become possible for people of modest means armed only with an idea to raise a large sum of risk money and turn it into reality.
Lady Thatcher may not have regarded The Independent as one her finest achievements, but her contribution deserves recognition.
Every reason I have followed The Independent since 1987 was presented in a great edition on Tuesday. Following Margaret Thatcher’s death, like the day following a general election, there was an air of relaxation when professional writers become a little more candid and personal. When it was your writers and the people you asked presenting their thoughts and experiences, the diversity of opinion and quality of thought was fascinating. To formulate a personal opinion of such a complexity as Margaret Thatcher, reading views from all angles, is the only starting point. I hope more readers learn that this is the best way to approach the news.
Oh, how I regret my having a daily newspaper delivery to my home. On Tuesday, I could easily switch off the BBC News and tribute programme; my attempt to hold a sycophancy blackout was overwhelmed by the 31-page epitaph in The Independent.
I have decided that the many pages of unread news copy are to be my tribute to the person whom I have always regarded as “that bloody woman”.
Dr John Ayrton
Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire
Just for the record, Margaret Thatcher was not elected Member of Parliament for Finchley, full stop. She became the MP for Finchley and Friern Barnet. Give the folk of Friern Barnet a modicum of acknowledgement.
I was no Thatcher or Conservative supporter, but the predictably vitriolic abuse from the left after her death leaves me asking: how did she and her direct successor win four consecutive general elections, all by comfortable majorities? A lot of people must have thought she was a much better choice than the alternative.
If the shoe fits
Seeing Tories from the 1980s appearing on the tributes this week, it was notable how they all fall into one of three large camps: the outsiders, fiercely loyal to Mrs T and still crazy after all these years; the public-school boys, still feeling guilty after getting Matron the sack; and Ken Clarke, still walking the corridors of power in his Hush Puppies.
I don’t agree with Joel Baillie-Lane’s conclusion (Letters, 9 April) that the terrible state the country finds itself in is not all Thatcher’s fault. Without her example, Blair could not have run the country as he did.
She said she wanted to destroy the Labour Party, and she succeeded.
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
I’ve figured out George Osborne’s next excuses for the lack of growth in the economy: the prolonged cold spell; the funeral of Margaret Thatcher; the birth of a royal baby. I’ll eat my shoes if he doesn’t use at least two of the above.
The last word
On Tuesday, you published a letter that simply said: “May God bless the soul of Margaret Thatcher.” Was this supposed to be ironic? Of the first two nouns in this sentence, there is not a shred of evidence that they have ever existed, and of the third there is far too much.
No fury like...
I suspect that Caligula, Hitler, Stalin and the rest are now coming to learn what eternal damnation really means.
Sir Michael Rosenthal