If like me you lived through the Thatcher years in the UK then you will probably have positive and negative memories. Personally I think she was the right person for the first four or five years of her Premiership and cut out much of the undue union influence and can’t do attitude that I am told existed in Britain at the time. However, her eleven years in power was more than enough with unemployment rising from 1m when she took office to little over 3m when she left. Also large parts of the UK were destroyed as many industries rather than being modernised were simply closed down. Many of these areas never fully recovered and it is often in these areas that the seeds of the so-called welfare dependency culture were sown. Due to the lack of meaningful industry she also planted the seeds of the import dependency that is now a cause for concern in the UK.
Being a school child at the time I cannot forget the lack of text books, leaky building (not enough money was often available to do the repairs) and general decline of education – the massive exam reforms were chaotic although perhaps well intentioned. She can be said though to have revolutionised the university sector by removing the often a false barrier between universities and polytechnics – something scorned upon by many until this day. She also was was instrumental in making the City of London what it is today – but I am not sure if this is a good thing. Indeed it was so successful that comedian Harry Enfield is said to have been surprised at the number of stupid people earning even more stupid salaries that worked there that he created the character “Time nice but Dim”. A typical Tory boy with little between the ears except a desire for cash, women and partying although in the end too stupid to actually be nasty or harmful.
Other less pleasant sides included tea and cakes with General Pinochet and some murky tactics being used against suspected terrorists in Northern Ireland. In both of these cases though they came down to need and in the case of Northern Ireland a desire to bring about an end to the mindless violence that had ensued. We should also not forget that the IRA did try to kill the entire British Cabinet in a bomb blast, thankfully they failed and she rightfully took the conference stage a few hours later to say they had been defeated. Even in the face of a near death experience she remained the Iron Lady.
If there is one good thing that can be said about her Premiership it was that women were at last allowed to reach the top parts of British democracy. It is perhaps though her quote below which will be remembered most as she apparently said there is no such thing as society, she was however misquoted as you can see.
“I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand ‘I have a problem, it is the government’s job to cope with it!’ or ‘I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!’; ‘I am homeless, the government must house me!’ and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society?
“There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families, and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.
“It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations.”
In summary no doubt she had a huge influence on the UK but in many ways we are only now only beginning to fully understand the implications of her often overly simplified policies have on long-term social cohesion. In the end she strengthened the rich and more or less left the country divided and driven by one thing: greed.
In any event rest in peace and my thoughts to her family.
Image credit Wikipedia (Creative Commons) and the quote is sourced from BBC News