Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Wake up, Maggie, I think I got something to say to you...

So.
Maggie's gone, off to that great grace-and-favour home in the sky...and I find myself reminded of a joke I first heard in the mid 80s:
'When Britain was an Empire, it was ruled by an Empress;
When Britain was a Kingdom, it was ruled by a King;
Now Britain is a Country, it is ruled by Margaret Thatcher!'
Of course, that same joke can (and maybe should) be applied to John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron...actually, it's a very adaptable joke indeed and that's why I like it!

But back to Mags...the Iron Lady...The Wicked Witch of the Right...Scourge of the Argentinians...Scourge of the Unions...the best thing that could have happened to Britain...the worst thing that ever happened to Britain...
And that, more than anything, is what is just so great about Maggie, the fact that, even in death, the old lass is still capable of doing that which she was so adept at in life...polarising opinion.
Maybe that statue they unveiled of her in parliament should have had her holding a bottle of Marmite because people either love or hate her...indeed, there's very few (younger than 35 anyway) who would be happy to stand in the middle ground of ambivalence when her legacy is being discussed.

So what do I think of her? After all, she was a major part of Andy's Universe during my formative years at secondary school and my early years of employment.
I guess I would describe myself as having a grudging admiration for her - after all, she was all kick-ass when the Argentinians tried to bully us off the Falklands, and she did turn us from the economic basket-case we were in the 70's into the strong economic power we were in the 90's.
It's just a shame that such a high price had to be paid for the latter.
Yes, the power of the unions needed controlling, but they didn't need to be smashed.
Yes, British manufacturing had to be made leaner and more competitive, but it didn't need to be cut down to the marrow, let alone the bone.
And I;m afraid that that's where my grudging admiration turns into disdain...disdain for her arrogance, for her false sincerity, disdain for her clear disconnectedness with 'ordinary' people - let's not forget, this is the woman who actually stood outside 10 Downing Street and said “Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.” Oh brother, get me the sick-bucket...quick! The scary thing was, she actually believed what she saying!
And let's not forget the things she got wrong (the legacy of which we are very much living with today):
  • privatisation, particularly of energy production and distribution which has left us all beholding to a cartel of 6 major power companies all seemingly headed by swindlers and cheats;
  • moving an economy towards financial services and away from manufacturing (true, we needed to get away from low-tech manufacturing, but even our hi-tech, high profit manufacturing was virtually crippled), leaving us exposed to the sort of financial chaos we found ourselves in in 2008 (though let's not forget that successive governments did nothing to reverse that trend!)
  • the idea that it's good to keep several million people on the dole;
  • the list goes on and on...
  • and then there's the poll tax - well, I guess enough said about that, the better...but that won't stop me asking how anyone thought it was a good idea that an old couple living in a one-bedroom flat should pay the same amount for local services as a large family with five kids living in a 10-bedroom house with 5 acres of land and a fishing lodge with swans on it...Christ alive...how did that ever compute in their brains as being reasonable?!?
So, in summary (because I could go on and on).
Maggie did a few good things and I, for one, am willing to applaud her for those.
But Maggie did quite a few bad things as well and I, for one, quite dislike her for those.