People often say that you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, an opinion, particularly where public figures are concerned, that I’m not sure I agree with. What people say about you after you’re gone is largely determined by what you choose to do whilst you’re alive: nice people are remembered fondly and those who choose to be unpleasant are often vilified.
So how will we remember Margaret Hilda Thatcher born October 13 1925, died April 8 2013? Everyone will have an opinion I’m sure but lets consider the facts.
Thatcher’s first and greatest gift to this country is without doubt unemployment. Previous governments considered full-employement an absolute necessity, she considered it an inconvenience. She changed unemployment from evidence of a failing government to a respectable and somewhat desirable situation: “a price worth paying”, a way to keep wages down. In 1983 I worked for £3.50 an hour. In 1993 a friend of mine took a job, doing exactly the same thing for £3.50 an hour. 10 years of Tory government, massive profits for the wealthy and the lowest paid still on the same wages.
Unemployment soared as she dismantled the UK coal, steel and shipbuilding industries. Miners, some of the hardest working people in the country, were branded “the enemy within” because they wanted to work and support their families. Whole communities have been thrown on the scrap heap. Many of those workers are now part of the generational unemployed.
I grew up in Lowestoft, Britain’s most easterly town. A place where men worked in the fishing or shipbuilding industries. There is no fishing now and shipbuilding and construction firms are have just been derelict sites since the 80s. Now we have minimum wage chicken factories. Maggie created a whole class of jobless men and forced women back into the workplace.
No wonder Maggie considered unemployment, “a price worth paying,” she expected the victims of her policy to pay it, it’s almost like medieval practice of the condemned man paying his executioner.
Next she gave us The Great British Sell-Off, BP, gas, electricity, water, BT, railways and busses. Prices for all of these have soared as foreign owners milk the british public.
She flogged off our council houses without ever intending to replace them.
To Maggie profit was the great deity, people were just consumables to be used and discarded as required.
Then there was the most unpopular policy of any government ever: the Poll Tax. Whilst most political commentators state her euro-phobia as the reason for her eventual downfall I have always believed it was the Poll Tax.
She considered Nelson Mandela a terrorist, supported the racist apartheid regime of South Africa.
“Black Monday” wiped billions off the nation’s reserves when we were forced out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism as a result of her leading us into it a too high a rate of interest.
Many people have said that at least she stood by her guns, but look where her pointed them? It’s easy to stand by your guns if you point them at the weak and those unable to defend themselves.
People say we have a lot to thank her for and that’s true:
If you are unhappy about energy and water firms (mostly foreign owed) ripping you off, thank Maggie selling them off.
If you are angry that there are whole families where no-one works, thank Maggie for ending full employment.
If both you and your partner have to work just to be on the bread line, thank Maggie for making profit more important then you.
If you or your children cannot get on the housing ladder, thank Maggie for the 80’s housing boom that started this endless cycle of spiralling house prices.
If you are one of the two million on the housing waiting list thank Maggie for selling of the council houses.
The Iron Lady might be gone but we will never forget her, not least because we will still be paying for her legacy for generations to come.