Thursday, 25 June 2009

Icon #15 Margaret Thatcher

Undeniably iconic whether you like her or not, Margret Thatcher was the first and to date only female British Prime Minister. And yet it is starting to feel like such a very long time ago.

My memories of Thatcher are pretty mixed. I can remember her becoming PM and all the excitement that greeted the first woman in 10 Downing Street. Most of all I remember what she left us with, what we are still having to deal with as a result of her eleven years in power, and yet was it all bad?

No not entirely. She fostered a relationship with Ronald Reagan that every post Thatcher leader has been compared to in their relationships with subsequent American Presidents and she played a key role in building bridges during the Cold War with Russia, particularly in her dealings with Gorbachev.

She was however a key reason that the Trade Unions in this country lost much of their power and influence. Many will feel this was a good thing. I don't agree with them or her tactics. She broke the miners in this country, referring to them during the year long strike of 1984 and '85 as the enemy within. Twenty odd pits were closed the year after the strike and by 1992 the Conservatives had closed over 97. But in the process she created an anti-hero (and for the true socialists a real hero) in Arthur Scargill and he remains one of my heroes today.

We went to war with Argentina over two small Islands in the South Pacific that serve what purpose exactly? I can remember being genuinely enthralled by the news at the time but also sobered when the War ended and the names of the British service men that had been lost were read out on South Today. My dad had been in the Navy and I recall his empathy with the men that had travelled to the Falklands to defend 'our land'.

The sinking of the Belgrano still goes down as us, basically sinking a ship that was running away. Not cool Maggie, not cool at all.

Those that know me will know that I'm pretty Liberal in my views but at the time, briefly, the Falkland War did, inexplicably, restore some British pride and Thatcher rode that wave to a second election victory.

She was admirable in many ways. With her sheer force of character and inner self belief, she clearly took no crap from those that worked for her. But that, in many ways was her biggest problem. The men in her cabinet worked for her. Not with her her. It was Maggie's way or the highway. And God was she a devout Tory, to her very core. And that, in my mind, can be an ugly thing. But I do admire her for what she achieved in a male dominated arena. But that doesn't mean I have to like her.

I can honestly say that when she resigned I was pleased, but at the same time felt sorry for a person who clearly didn't see it coming. That her former loyal colleagues loved sticking the knife in so much only added to the confused feelings. I hate a turn coat!

But at the end of the day Thatcher didn't believe in society. She believed in individuals. And that is not something that I can subscribe to. I believe that much of the economic issues that we face today in this country stem from those hugely influential Thatcher years. That legacy is not one to be proud of, but it is one that future Conservative Governments, should and must learn from. And surely that is what we will have after the next General Election.

Maggie Thatcher ladies and gentlemen. An admirable bitch.

Tonight's post is dedicated to @worldofdub and @doug2607