If you want to start an argument in any pub in the UK, talk about Margret Thatcher.
Baroness Thatcher, was PM twenty years ago, and yet she is still far more controversial than Tony Blair, who if he had converted a few years before he resigned as PM the Pope would have had good cause to excommunicate him for the Iraq war and for his pro-abortion voting record.
Interestingly it is Thatcher’s quote, “there is no such thing as society” which she is best remembered for, a quote which is out of context and was deliberately polemical. She went on to say that actually there was such a thing as society but it had to be people driven, relational, local community and family orientated rather than state dictated, something that actually makes a lot of sense in a Catholic understanding of the role of the state.
Thatcher’s adherence to Laissez-faire economics was occasionally at the expense of the common good however. Jim Slater was allowed to destroy industry in the UK and make a killing by asset stripping, the results of which we are still feeling today.
The UK now relies so heavily on the banking sector in London we were heavily hit by the credit-crunch, however it was a banking system that Thatcherite reforms helped so effectively to build so credit where credit is due.
Thatcher’s response to the miners strike became more than just economically motivated, it became a personal battle between Arthur Scargill and Maggie in which both were more interested in crucifying the other than discerning the national interest.
The poll tax was a monumental error, perhaps the only mistake Margret Thatcher ever admitted herself was a mistake.
Ironically the only thing that anyone effectively challenged her about directly, on live TV, was the sinking of the Belgrano, which was undoubtedly the right tactical move to make at the time. The guns of that ship could have sunk the entire British Expeditionary force in a matter of minutes. It was probably the inability to understand someone criticising a very sensible decision that threw the Iron Lady who was normally at home with controversy.
If it hadn’t have been for her decisive and courageous leadership during the Falklands crisis she might not have won the election of that next year or it would have been much closer than it was. If the iron lady hadn’t have been at the helm it would have been like America giving Peal Habor to the Japanese after they attacked it, a defeat which would have been rued in perpetuity.
Likewise it was the iron lady’s encouragement to George Bush senior that it was “no time to throw a wobbly” that likewise helped save the Kuwaiti’s from a vicious dictatorial occupation.
The hatred for Margret Thatcher in the north of England is exceptional, it is visceral to this day. To say that a lot of people north of Watford would have been happy if she had not recovered from her recent ill health is a massive understatement.
It is virtually impossible to talk of the correct decisions Margret Thatcher made as PM if you live in the north of England, decisions that the opposition leaders of the time would almost certainly not have had the courage to make, especially regarding the cold war and opposition to European federalism.
Even today, in a time of conviction-less politicians we have David Cameron as PM, whose “Big society” is merely a repackaged and slightly more palatable or at least more vague version of the vision and ideology of Maggie (perhaps because it has been massaged by countless spin doctors). This country, for better or worse, is still very much the country that Maggie built.
Sorry to segue into the realm of politics again.