Tim at work said when he first heard that Mrs Thatcher had died, he thought “Derek will be pleased.”
It’s true. I was. I opened a bottle of champagne and toasted her departure. Amongst the “vitriolic hatred” on Twitter, there were calls to “show some respect for the dead;” that she was “a mother,” or just a “sick old lady” and that we should “think of the family”. (To that last point, if I knew them, obviously I agree my reaction would be different.)
Clearer writers than I have pointed out that if the only people who are allowed to speak are those who admired her, particular those in power or who own newspapers, then the wrongs she did would be swept under the carpet. I refuse to be cowed by “petty” or “lefty” tags.
My younger cousin (although he is old enough to remember her) asked on Facebook what good she did. I could think of nothing, other than the inspiration to my favourite Alexei Sayle joke:
In the olden days, people were named after their jobs – smith, if you made horseshoes; cooper if you made barrels; thatcher if you made people SICK.
And I left it at that for a day, but the praise continued. People forget, or don’t know, or think that because Labour would have been worse then she was good for the country. That’s how we ended up with the horrors of the present Government, but that’s a different argument.
So I wrote this:
A lot of things which changed under Mrs Thatcher would have had to change anyway, this I will concede. The unions were undemocratic, and our industrial base was never going to continue as it was.
Things did not have to change in the callous and unsympathetic way that Mrs Thatcher chose. Germany and Norway managed it without the destruction. Now, without effective unions, we have a “flexible workforce” with zero-hour contracts, multiple part-time jobs, enforced weekend hours and a minimum wage which isn’t enough to live on.
She had more interest in 3000 people on an island half way around the world than the many British communities which were destroyed by her vendetta against the miners; the resulting Falklands War cost many lives and won her the election for her second term. We now import coal.
She sold off council houses and stopped the councils using the money to replace them; now we have a housing crisis.
She started selling off all the utilities, so now the French own the electricity, the water is owned by Middle Eastern and Chinese companies. They dodge tax on their profits, but claim that upgrades and maintenance must be paid for on the bills.
She “liberated” the financial markets and we all know how that ended up. Nobody can afford to buy a house in London as the bonus-driven price inflation spreads out across the country. Successful British companies are bought by multi-nationals, often with loans which they struggle to repay so that production has to be moved overseas or the factory they promised to keep open is closed because it is “unprofitable”.
She made the market “king” – private always better than public – which saw NHS cleaners re-employed by the lowest bidders, paid so little that they didn’t care about the job, and people died from infections in filthy hospitals.
Most of all, she created the me-first, money-is-everything, screw-you-if-you-can’t-afford-it attitude which pervaded the eighties and still drives the politicians of today. The rich own more and the poor own less but David Cameron still insists we are “all in it together” whilst his chancellor cuts the tax rate for the richest 300,000 people.
I’m glad she’s dead, because of what she stood for, because of what she did and because of what is still being done in her name. I wish that Thatcherism had died with her.