I came across an interesting thread on Facebook yesterday evening. The poster’s friends were being asked to put aside their personal views on Margaret Thatcher and to consider if their own lives were better or worse as a result of the policies that she implemented while Prime Minister. Most of the people who responded reported an improvement; most of them still hated her. She was a woman who induced strong opinions.
I find the idea of celebrating a death distasteful. Margaret Thatcher was once a major, public figure and it is understandable that her passing should prompt reminiscence and comment. Given that much of what she achieved during her time in power was controversial, the widely differing views on her tenure and legacy are understandable, but she had wielded no power or influence for many years. The death of an old lady is no reason to party.
As the dust settles on the news of her demise the public comments are becoming more balanced. There are those on all sides of the political spectrum who are expressing both positive and negative views on her achievements. It is interesting that there are many on the political right who are willing to be critical and many on the left who are willing to accept that some of what she did had a positive impact on the lives of many British people. These more honest and balanced reflections, which put aside the fawning or hateful rhetoric and, with the benefit of hindsight, look back at the historical impact, make interesting reading for one who lived through the time but did not pay a great deal of attention.
It is still rare for a woman to wield the type of power that Margaret Thatcher enjoyed. She did not align herself with feminists but proved that being a woman did not prevent her from doing her job. As ever, her gender is being used by her detractors. Her role as a mother is being questioned and criticised; how dare she ‘abandon’ her children for her career! The media does love to induce guilt in working mothers; we cannot know what her family life was like so why comment?
With plans for her very public funeral being finalised there are those who wish to use the event as a platform for protest. I can understand why many object to her funeral being publicly funded, especially as many of her policies introduced the idea of moving away from this type of financing, but I fear that the hijacking of her funeral by dissident groups will lead to violence. If protesters wish to gain publicity and sympathy for their cause then I suspect that these plans are likely to backfire. When feelings on both sides run high it is hard to maintain the peace and most people will feel that a funeral is no place for disorder. Even if one cannot feel respect for the deceased, regard should be given to those who wish to mourn.
Many of the more hateful comments on Margaret Thatcher’s legacy refer back to her treatment of the miners and heavy industries. There seem to be those who consider that the government has a duty to provide jobs with little regard for economic viability. It is still the case that a large number of public sector workers seem to be employed to push pieces of paper around, enforcing dubious rules and carrying out unnecessary consultations; while private sector employees complete the physical, publicly needed tasks such as rubbish collections, road maintenance and managing social housing. Perhaps if the public sector could demonstrate an ability to manage resources more efficiently and effectively then there may be more sympathy for the view that public ownership is good.
I do not feel qualified to offer much comment on the true impact of Margaret Thatcher’s time in power. I know that personally I benefited from many of her policies. My children will have a much harder time making their way in the world than I ever had, but I do not lay this entirely at Margaret Thatcher’s door. There have been too many other leaders who have been and gone who we may also blame for the difficulties that my children will encounter gaining qualifications, coping with subsequent debt, affording housing and simply finding work.
The world we live in now is very different to the world that I grew up in, but my guess is that the same could be said for every generation. Change happens and we cannot put back the clock. Instead of encouraging hate based on a retrospective view I would like to see more people working to improve things for the future. Whatever or whoever has caused the situation we are now in, we cannot change what has gone before. Learning from history is good but only if we can look back dispassionately and try to see clearly. We need to deal with the place we are in now and work to improve what is to come.
Hate and anger are destructive emotions. I would like to see the passion and energy being expressed channelled into influencing change here and now. Allow those who wish to mourn Margaret Thatcher’s passing the courtesy of doing so and move on. An old lady has died; I will not dance on her grave.