We have heard much in recent weeks about loving or hating Margaret Thatcher. Now that her funeral is over, is it not time to step back and think about pitying her?
She began well by taking on the unions. At the time that needed to be done. But that success, coupled with her apparent natural tendency to an excess of self-belief, led to too much confidence in her own powers and opinions.
There is place for strong leadership. But there is also a necessity to curb the excesses of an over-strong personality. It is a kindness to save such people before their delusion does too much harm to themselves or others. And no one did her that service, neither her Cabinet colleagues nor the electorate, until it was too late for her and for the country.
Margaret Thatcher could have been remembered as the first woman Prime Minister, and the one who dealt with corrupt union practices. Instead she will be remembered by many as the PM who fostered greed and sowed the seeds of social inequality.
Susan Alexander, Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire
While the great and good gathered for Thatcher’s funeral, figures were released showing the number out of work had risen to 2.56 million. This is the real legacy of the late Prime Minister, as she famously believed that unemployment was a price worth paying in order to defeat both inflation and union power.
So whereas the previous post-war jobless high was a little over 1.6 million under Callaghan, Thatcher’s term of office saw this total more than double. Many of these jobs lost were in traditional heavy industries, and were not replaced by full-time work elsewhere. Consequently structural unemployment became a fact of life in former pit towns and the like, which have remained worklessness blackspots ever since.
Which is why you’ve got generations living on welfare, and a higher welfare bill than you would need if governments had remained committed to full employment.
Tim Mickleburgh, Grimsby
The views expressed about Margaret Thatcher over the past week by the general public appeared to have been either “She was pretty awful” or “She was pretty good” in roughly equal measure. On the other hand I’ve noticed on quite a few occasions an opinion shared by people in the BBC, the “quality” press, and in the Tory party which had a distinctly Downton Abbey flavour.
In the language of Julian Fellowes it might be translated as: “Her family were in trade, you know. It’s curious how she came to such prominence – I’m not sure something like that should happen in polite society.”
Alan Bellis, Shrewsbury
The stop at St Clement Danes during the funeral of Lady Thatcher was an opportunity (missed by commentators, it seems) to recall that this was the burial place of Anne Donne, wife of a former Dean of St Paul’s, John Donne, and an excuse to quote his immortal words: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less” – words that should resonate today with regard both to British social cohesion and to our membership of the EU.
Professor David Head, Navenby, Lincolnshire
The Bishop of London made generous reference to Baroness Thatcher’s Methodist roots in his sermon at her funeral, but had she remained in it Lady Thatcher would have found a church that it not “one of us”, as it reaches out to the most needy in society.
“Go not just to those who need you, but those who need you most,” said John Wesley, the church’s founder. It is now a church engaging in discourse trying to live out New Testament teaching in contemporary society, seeking social justice, celebrating difference, inclusive and questioning.
The Iron Lady came out of a Methodist stable but Methodism and Thatcherism are now clearly a country mile apart, and some of us thank God for that.
Helen Martyn, London NW5
Regarding the numbers of protesters at the funeral, there were far more in the crowd than at the designated protest points. I for one placed myself in the crowd on Ludgate Hill to protest against the glorification of Thatcher, the ruination of our country and society and the preposterous cost of the funeral.
There were many others doing the same. We simply turned our backs in silence as the gun carriage passed.
My thoughts were with the victims of the Belgrano, the coalminers, the steelworkers and those who lost their jobs as a result of privatisation.
During Mrs Thatcher’s funeral we were hit by a power cut. Was she reminding us what she stood for? Spooky.
Jim Bowman, South Harrow, Middlesex
No need for more house extensions
The proposal to increase the size of house extensions that could be built without permission is misconceived – but not because of the minimal extra impact on neighbours (“Bigger conservatories are no answer”, 17 April).
The necessary upgrading of the energy efficiency of about 26 million dwellings would provide more than enough work for the whole construction industry for at least the next 25 years. This job would be made more difficult by making dwellings larger rather than more efficient.
Many if not most house extensions are carried out to increase the value and potential “pension pot” rather than meet any housing need. The effect is to increase the endemic levels of under-occupancy in the owner-occupied sector and to make housing generally less affordable. Eric Pickles should be tackling these real problems.
Daniel Scharf, Abingdon Oxfordshire
How refreshing to read Chris Mullin’s views (Voices, 6 April) on housing and how depressing that his should be a lone voice – and furthermore that of a retired MP.
If there had not been a determined effort by Thatcher’s government – and all successive governments – to put every publicly owned asset into private hands, the property boom and bust which has contributed so much to the borrowing and negative equity crisis might not have happened.
Furthermore, because all council tenancies were dependent on contractual obligations being fulfilled, there would have been a better chance of council estates being well maintained and regulated instead of becoming the hotch-potch of ill-maintained private rental properties in areas totally lacking a sense of community which we now have to deal with.
Anna Farlow, London NW2
Our treatments do help addicts
Luke Dale-Harris’s report about addiction treatment (“The power of intervention”, 9 April) overlooks the effectiveness and recovery focus of England’s drug treatment system.
For people addicted to drugs, there is a wide range of treatment services available in every local authority area free of charge. Recovery rates compare favourably to other countries including the US. Residential rehabilitation is one of the options, however it should not be regarded as a “silver bullet” and is most effective when there are clear routes between residential and community services. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to tackling addiction – it is about understanding each individual and working with them, and their family, to develop the best combination of treatment and support to help them recover. For those addicted to heroin, substitute prescribing is endorsed by Nice as a means of providing a safe platform for recovery as part of this package of support.
There is always room for improvement; however, the reality is that record numbers of drug addicts in England are recovering from addiction, indicating the significant impact that treatment is continuing to have.
Rosanna O’Connor, Director, Alcohol and Drugs, Public Health England, London SE1
Not too old to walk the fells
You report (18 April) that an “elderly” woman died after a fall in the Lake District, and you say she was 68! I see an “elderly” person as frail and perhaps needing assistance in daily life. This active lady was hiking through the countryside. Quote her age by all means, but give her credit for getting out and about and enjoying what I think might have better been reported as “the early evening of her life”.
Joel Baillie-Lane, Bristol
Good and evil
Regarding Alastair Munro’s letter (16 April), all over the world, people are doing all manner of wonderful things at the behest of their religions, whether it be providing health care to poor children, spreading hope by suggesting there is more to life than consumerism or working to heal the wounds of civil wars. But atheists of Mr Munro’s persuasion don’t like to admit that religions inspire good deeds as well as evil ones.
Dr Margaret Harris, Chippenham, Wiltshire
It was amazing to see “The Finishing Line” get a mention in your piece about Richard Littler’s Scarfolk (18 April). I remember as a child the sick feeling in my stomach as I watched the story unfold, and over the years I told myself it was just a horrific dream. So it was real after all!
Sophie Goodrick, London SW2
In Canada, it is harder to obtain a firearm licence and the incidence of crime involving firearms is lower than in the USA. The US Senate might look north to see what to do, rather than voting down President Obama’s proposals.
William Robert Haines, Shrewsbury
Off to Korea
The BBC defends sending an undercover team into North Korea, notwithstanding any risk to the LSE students. Had any senior BBC management gone on the trip I might have been more impressed.
Francis Beswick, Stretford, Manchester
If there’s such a danger from a measles epidemic, why are the relevant authorities not offering the option of single measles vaccines alongside the MMR vaccine?
Jacqueline Miller, Dorchester