Last week I wrote a blog on the day Margaret Thatcher died and got a lot of feedback, everything from people’s own reflections on her, some complimentary and not so complimentary comments on my piece, and all of them demonstrating what I said at the end. She will be remembered.
Watching and listening to the news and current affairs programmes this week, it amazes me more and more each day just how many people still have a woman who retired from public life 25 years ago residing firmly in their memories and boiling away in their hearts. Last week I was, apparently, too reasonable and even handed altogether, but it was said by many that I had missed the point of all the damage she caused to the British economy’s manufacturing base, the misery she brought to the steel and coal industries, the divisive nature of her leadership, the tragedy of the Belgrano and many other sins.One could argue a bit about the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano, as the decision to sink it was made by the commander of the submarine that fired the torpedoes and last I heard that man stood by his belief that it was not sailing away, That said, certainly I never heard Thatcher criticise the action or show any remorse for it or indeed for any of the other things she did that harmed this or that sector of society (and I should add that she was the one who said there is no such thing as society which is just blatant nonsense). She didn’t do remorse, did she?
But those who think there is no good word to be said for her simply did not live through the 1970s, trying to raise a family and make a life while inflation ran at up to 26% per annum, and Union leaders had a free pass to Downing Street and appeared almost daily on the TV news, though even at the height of their power they did not represent more than 15% or so of the working population. A change was needed, and it was the Tories’ turn. The same thing happened in 1997 and we got Blair, and in 2012 when we got the confused coalitions of Fine Gael and Labour in Ireland, and the Liberals and Tories in Britain. Voting for change for change’s sake is never a great idea.
Mrs. Thatcher was elected in the hope she would rescue the country from this domination of the unions and the miseries of inflation, and she did, but in the process she unleashed the free market in financial trading and ruined the middle classes in Britain as Reagan did in America. Bad decisions were made, but I would suggest they were made in an effort to bring the world into a new reality of economics that persists to this day though we have still not got it right. I’m not an economist and I don’t have a solution that doesn’t sound Luddite, but something had to change and whether right or wrong, those two led governments that tried to achieve that.
You will notice I say governments. Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the current public noise over her death is the implication that she somehow did it all on her own. But at the time we blamed Dr. Beeching for destroying British Rail, and McGregor for destroying the coal industry, and so on through every suffering moment and collapsing industry, just as we blamed General Galtieri and his Junta for starting the Falklands War by invading South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, an act of war that the Thatcher government responded to by sending a task force to drive them off, with the approval (as proved by her unanticipated election victory after the war) of a majority of the public (though by no means all).
To paraphrase the Wikipedia entry on the Falklands/Malvinas War, three hundred and twenty-three members of the Belgrano’s crew died in the sinking. Over seven hundred men were rescued from the water by ships of the British task force despite cold seas and stormy weather. I have heard it said this week that over a thousand men died in that sinking. This is how we rewrite history. Any death is a tragedy, but war is like that – people die. The total number of people who died in the Falklands War was 907. Keep this figure in mind as you read on.
On the day she died I was with some friends near here and they were more or less as one in blaming her for everything (one of them even suggested that the Argentines only went into the Malvinas after the task force arrived, a nonsense too ridiculous to contest), and were ready to party. There is something just plain disgusting about dancing on anyone’s grave, no matter what they did. Even Hitler’s death was only greeted with relief, there was no joy, no dancing in the streets. It meant the war would soon be over and he was relevant to that. In the case of the passing of Baroness Thatcher I really can’t see what they’re so worked up about. As I said, she is long gone from our lives. Do we really care that much? Just as bad or far worse governments and Prime Ministers have been and gone since then.
Will they dance on the grave of Tony Blair when he dies? He helped to launch an illegal invasion for no good reason (Iraq offered no threat to Britain or America), a conflict which, according to official figures, has already cost three hundred and fifty thousand lives. Or will they dance on the graves of Gordon Brown, or Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen, all of whom can be placed squarely at the centre of the causes of our current economic woes? I don’t think so.
Surely one has to feel some sort of admiration for a poor old woman, lost to Alzheimer’s Disease and a distant memory in politics, that she can still command such virulence. But I cannot find a single good word for those who partied last week, and will riot in London on Wednesday and turn their backs on the cortege as she passes, nor do I think much of the fact that they even bother to attend.
As I said before, it is something to consider, that she is and probably always will be remembered. Those self-congratulatory protestors, all nobody’s with no great achievement to boast of (though they probably think they are doing a marvelous thing with their protests) might also give a moment to think about the hurt they cause to her family. Write a book about her, write a blog, go into politics and make a change half as affective as the changes she made, good and bad, but to sing “Ding Dong The Witch is dead” and think it’s funny or clever is a pretty pathetic thing to do if you ask me (I said if).
And now, as written at the top of this, enough said.