As many of you will now be aware Maggie Thatcher, aka the wicked witch of Grantham has popped her clogs. Contrary to reports in the Guardian or Private Eye she did not die because Arthur Scargill finally managed to wield a crucifix in front of her, nor did she melt at the application of holy water. A demon did not emerge from her dying body (as seen on the GLC, the carnage continues). All lies!
She has been described as Britains most controversial Prime Minster. Thats a bit like saying that Stalin was a bit of a scold or that Hitler didnt much like foreigners!
Put it this way, theres a Facebook campaign to have ding dong the witch is dead made number one. Theyve currently got it at number 2 (last time I checked). And thats not even the worst of the anti-Thatcher songs Ive heard!
Such hostility strikes many, even those on the left with some surprise, and horror. While the Daily Mail and Telegraph would rather we all begin crying and mourning in perfect formation like the North Koreans did for Kim Yung il, instead there were impromptu parties held in Glasgow and London.
But if, like me, youve lived in the areas where people who were most affected by her policies live, you understand where Gorgeous George (not one of my favourite people) is coming from when he says of her:
Thatcher described Nelson Mandela as a “terrorist”. I was there. I saw her lips move. May she burn in the hellfires
I have lived in Glasgow, the Welsh mining towns and of course Ireland. Before Thatcher came along the ship yards of Glasgow and the mines of Wales meant that there was near full employment in these communities. Good well paid, secure employment. People paid their way, paid their taxes and looked after their families. Post Thatcherism, many of these areas have been reduced to virtual welfare colonies with mass unemployment. Some parts of Glasgow and the ex-mining towns of Wales now count as some of the most deprived areas in the western world. Life expectancy has tumbled to 55 years of age (below some third world countries or war zones!). Those who are lucky enough to get jobs often can only get them in less well paid or secure services sector posts.
If theres one thing that annoys me about the Torys and their current policy of kicking people on benefits ( I mean Osborne seems to not want to debate his policies with disabled people and was caught recently parking his car in a disabled bay). Its the unwillingness of them to accept why so many people in the UK are unemployed. It largely a fault of their policies, notably those of the Thatcher era. They destroyed the livelihood of many people, now the UK as a nation is paying the price for their failures.
Of course apologists for Thatcher will say, oh but the economy was on its knees, we cant compete with China for manufacturing jobs, etc. I would respond that the late 1970s was a difficult time for everyone. We had our own problems in Ireland at the time, so did everyone else. The mainstay of British manufacturing was cars, ship building and heavy industrial products. While China and India have made some inroads into these industries in the last ten years in the 1980s and 90s they were no where. Indeed they were desperately trying to keep the imports of such products from the UK out for fear that it would wipe out their own industries.
No, the bulk of the ship building jobs on the Clyde or the car building jobs in Coventry went instead to workers in countries like Germany, American, Finland, Italy, France or Japan. Countries where by and large workers were paid more than British workers and Union membership rates were higher (in some of these countries union membership in these posts is actually compulsory!). While the UK cut its coal consumption post-miners strike the UK still gets a substantial portion of its energy from coal fired power stations. Only difference is its now imported.
It is thus difficulty to escape the conclusion that Thatcher killed off these industries as part of a calculated plot at political points scoring. Revenge on the workers for previous interference in Tory government policy.
Also as Ken Livingstone has pointed out, we can blame a lot of the current economic malaise, as well as the greed and corruption within the banking industry, largely on Thatcher. For she was the one who unleashed this greedy, rat race culture on the UK. The major mistake of the Blair/Brown regimes was to be too chickshit scared of the old labour label to reign in the banks and the city.
Her actions in Northern Ireland, resulted in an escalation of the troubles, leading to the deaths of many more people both in Ireland and the UK. Now while Im no fan of SF (notably his Geriness the Baron of Northstead), but it took a considerable effort by her predecessors (Blair and Major) to repair this damage and prevent a further escalation in the troubles.
While thus I dont go along with the sort of extreme views on her expressed, I can certainly understand where its coming from. And I mean Ive heard some miners talk of a plan for them to go down to London after shes dead and dance (or worse!) on her grave. Im sort of hoping her family have the good sense to have her cremated. Else she could be the only person whose grave needs 24 hr security
well unless they bury her under the toilets of a nightclub!….or down a mine shaft!
I still remember Frankie Boyles quote relating the £3m cost of her funeral:
for that much money we could buy everyone in Scotland a shovel and wed dig a hole so deep we could hand her over to Satan personally :))
But what about the economic boom her policies created, her supporters say. Surely we should credit her with that?
Well actually, no. Her reign also coincided with two important events. The post oil shock era when oil supplies and prices stabilised, both due to new non-OPEC supplies becoming available and a less militant activist OPEC. There is a strong correlation between economic growth and cheap availability of energy. Also with the North sea in its golden age, the oil revenues and jobs helped give the UK economy a crucial bounce.
How crucial? Well I once came across a textbook a few years back which detailed the history of the oil boom. It listed the UKs GDP over the 70s and 80s alongside the contribution from North Sea oil. Out of curiosity I deducted column B from column A and the result was that it suggested that for nearly every year but two of Thatchers reign the UK economy actually shrank!
Thus I would argue Thatcher should be remembered as not the UKs most controversial PM but the UKs luckiest PM. Because aside from surviving that IRA bomb by a few minutes, she also happened to preside over an unprecedented period of economic growth. Had the North Sea oil boom not occurred and she had implemented her policies, with no oil fuelled growth to hide anything the result on the UK economy would be somewhat similar to what were seeing in Greece or Cyprus right now or Russia under Yeltsin.
Consequently shed have been likely booted out of office either by her own party or the electorate after a few years and remembered now as nothing more than a footnote in UK history.