When Margaret Thatcher died last week, I was surprised by the strength of feeling that event provoked in me. I might as well state now that I grew up in a working class family in Somerset under MT’s governance.
However I did not know her and I do feel for her family, her children and grandchildren for their loss. There will be no grave dancing or celebrations in my household. I will extend to them the same amount of sympathy and care, they would extend to my family when an elderly relative passes away.
Knowing that MT had shuffled off this mortal coil, however, took me back to my teenage years when my family was struggling with short-time working as my dad was a fabricator welder in manufacturing. But more than that, he’d been a coal miner, as had my grandfathers and my great grandfathers. I remember nothing good about the politics of that time for my family. I also remember the stranglehold of some of the trade unions, the closed shop attitude and I wasn’t keen on that either. It was a period of division and defiance.
However, I only expressed my views on my personal Facebook page and on a couple of business groups and the reaction was stark. Some treated me as I though I was a silly woman who couldn’t possibly understand the ‘bigger picture’ and some women started barking on about what a role model ‘Thatcher’ was for women. I respect most of their views but I don’t share them, I’m afraid.
Overall though, the divisive nature of the various debates which have hung around for days, reminded me of the strength of feeling MT could engender. Polar opposites appeared where none had existed before. It’s been very interesting and generated a feeling which existed very strongly in society during her reign.
My biggest disappointment has been hearing people suggest – as often happened in the 1980s – that because they’d been successful under MT (or any government for that matter), those who weren’t as rich or as successful must be lazy or scroungers.
The ‘I’ve got this because I’ve worked hard’ line which always suggests others aren’t working as hard. That kind of line always tells me that a person has no clue what’s going on in wider society.
Personally I have no problems with success – good luck to those who have it and well done if they’ve worked hard for it. Some do, some don’t.
But many, many people (like my dad) work really hard, live hand to mouth and still need some extra support. Many people work hard but are in jobs which will never lead to more financial success. That doesn’t make the millionaire in the next village better – it just makes them different.
It’s this lack of compassion and empathy which staggers me. Often from people I thought were better educated than that. Better educated than me.
Thatcherism seems to give people permission to kick the homeless, the disabled, the poor when they are already down. It allows people to gloat over the misery of others.
I had a lovely talk with my Mum about this and I felt humbled by her response. As a wife with two children and a husband working short time in the 1980s, life was a struggle. She often cried because there wasn’t enough money coming in. She said that she feels at peace about MT – for her last week contained a day when a defeated, old lady was set free.
Her reasoning was that on the day MT had to walk out of Downing Street having been thrown out by her own – that was the day justice was done for our family.
If MT had been defeated by a new government coming in, there would have been room for maneouvre. But when you are thrown out by your own, so publicly and then replaced by someone so grey and colourless – that’s the ultimate in humiliation. For Mum, when MT died last week, she was honestly able to say Rest In Peace.