Maggie was no witch

 

But she was before her time:

You may enjoy this exchange, you may agree with it, but if you don’t no need to let us know.

Dear Anthony

Margaret Thatcher’s death and the diverse reactions to it, particularly in the UK, have given you and I and our generation much to think about. As working class sons of socialist Britain I suspect that you and I shared mixed feelings about her policies when she was in power. I was certainly not attracted by her self-presentation and manner which came across as so patronising. Yet looking back I truly believe that Thatcher and her governments, in the round, succeeded in changing the UK significantly for the better, indeed as no other prime minister has since Atlee. She had the vision to think the unthinkable and the guts and determination to take and follow through with unpopular action. I have absolutely no doubt that historians 50 years hence will judge her to be one of the great leaders of our time. I am deeply saddened by those in our society who excoriate her memory and would dance on her grave even before she is buried. I am disappointed though perhaps not surprised by the reactions of Kinnoch and other political adversaries.  Certainly she made mistakes, but it is a poor leader who doesn’t. I wonder how many Brits recall or know about the dire conditions of pre-Thatcher inflationary, uncompetitive, union-dominated, strike-ridden Britain?

It’s a pity she couldn’t communicate at an emotional level or have better publicists who could witness her humanity and feelings for the working people who were so much affected by the closures of the pits, the steel works and the ship yards. It left the way open for those who would run her into the ground and demonise her.

I don’t expect all of my friends will agree with these sentiments, but that’s OK: if she did nothing else Maggie aroused a lot of opposing feelings and debate. It’s what we need.

Brian

 

Hi Brian,

As you may remember any socialist leaning I have is from being the grandson of an immigrant Irish miner who was also a trade union activist in the 1920’s.  In those days he was fighting and suffering from the injustices imposed on him and his fellow workers by the mine owners – not the government/taxpayer.

Eulogising very recently about my brother Michael and why he was regarded as a fierce intellectual by some in the Labour Party, as well as being seen as a good and kind man by those who worked for him and with him, has caused me to reflect on what shaped both of us.  Why we are more Conservative with a small “c” rather than Socialist and why we both despise Liberalism.  It made me realise that socialism today may indeed equate to small “c” conservatism.

Margaret Thatcher spanned the generation gap between us and our parents.  She had experience of the 1930’s and the War whereas we only experienced the aftermath.  She would have a full appreciation of what intelligent women, such as my mother, gave up during those years and how they took on and lost enormous responsibilities.  For Michael and me Mother was just a mother.   We were shocked when she took a part-time job with such enthusiasm because we were both proud of her obvious stand-out intelligence, love of poetry and elocution.  I think we felt let down.

In 1979 when “Maggie” came to power I was succeeding in industry because I was able to speak to and with trade unions and the workforce.  It was the age of “Industrial Relations” and specialists in that field had great power.  They were convenient shields for poor and weak managers.  I didn’t hide, rather I relished the debate: the “poker” playing and the brinkmanship.  I always had in mind that the workers had to go home with “empty pay-packets” to face their wives and children.  Mixing with my Dad’s workers since being a small child made me realise that most men, single or married, had very little financial cushioning and 6 weeks would be the most they could last out.  Moreover, the vast majority didn’t hate the bosses.

The thing that was wrong with the system at that time was that the specialists advocated settlement, mediation and compromise.  This was all very well for getting the men back to work but it was at an escalating cost.  This was the position Maggie took over in the great industries.  The country was compromising us to a slow death.   Maggie obviously realised this and decided that swift execution was a better answer.

What is fascinating is that the wives of the workers were resolutely against Maggie and rather than forcing their menfolk back to work they encouraged them to stay-out, or at least many did.  It wasn’t Maggie who put miner against miner, brother against brother; it was the unions and the womenfolk.  Where Maggie can be questioned is why she allowed so much brutality in the methods used to deal with violent picketing.  The hatred for Maggie is in my opinion caused by the fact that women in the late 1970’s had not yet re-emerged and whereas men didn’t mind doing business with a forceful woman women did.

Much of the current reaction is rooted in urban myth soaked up by generations that accept men and women as being equals; reject discrimination and have a developed sense of human rights.  Not only that but they enjoy a better life style; greater welfare and care and live without the threat of global Armageddon.  We live in a society that has lost its moral compass.  Maggie is a stark reminder to politicians like Kinnoch; pastors like Wellesey and journalists like Toynbee that they got it wrong.  Whereas Blair for example can say that he “got it”.

Maggie was a very “sticks and stones” person.  I think her dealings with the IRA and terrorism in general were fashioned by the personal injury she and some of her close friends suffered.  She hated the idea of physical threat – hence her reaction over the Falklands.  But she never worried about “calling” and I doubt if she would want us to remember her for the fact that some may protest now.

You do raise a point which troubles me.  Could she have done more for those affected by closures?  It’s a hard one to decide.  In support of her, the government did do a lot to help regenerate areas affected by losing the big industries.  Whether they could have done more is a hard one because you need to model in what was happening in the world and the economy at that time.  Moreover, our political system does not encourage universal fairness.  There is very little comprehension as to what the Bible means when it says there will always be poor amongst us. I think blaming her is convenient for those who have a duty today to find a way of reducing the inequalities which exists in our society today.  They feel much greater and more pronounced than they did in 1979.

Anthony