Monday, April 08, 2013

On Hating Margaret Thatcher...

I grew up in a largely working-class town in East Yorkshire in the 1980s.

For pretty much all of this time, Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of Great Britain and under her leadership I saw pretty much every industry in my home town, such as the shipyard, the docks and many light industries, close. Then the nearby mines started to shut and we slowly but surely became a country that no longer had much of any homegrown industry left.

Instead, we effectively became a fluffer for the financial services industries. Throw in the Poll Tax and the ever-increasing numbers of jobless among the working class, and it seemed like the poor were becoming even poorer.

Then I went to college in Winchester, an astonishingly wealthy Hampshire commuter town, and I realised the rich were also getting richer. The financial disparity and inequality between my northern home and my new southern base was stunning.

Her defenders always claimed Thatcher was a champion of free enterprise... but her legacy of free enterprise has left the UK with an underclass of families who have never worked and probably will never work. Her true legacy can be seen in impoverished housing estates up and down the country, in privately owned utility companies who continue to hike up prices to deliver profits for shareholders, in subsequent governments being too scared to move too far to the left after her rule effectively shifted the political landscape to the centre right for good.

For a long time, I despised Thatcher for everything she did to the UK and large numbers of its population but now she's finally dead I cannot celebrate the news.

And that's because her greatest legacy is that she demonstrated a stunning lack of compassion for the vulnerable and the poor and those most in need. And if I celebrated her death, I'd simply be proving the ruthless, uncaring, greed-is-good, I'm-alright-Jack, lack-of-compassion society she created is a lasting legacy and I've become part of it.

So I'm sorry a frail old lady who was clearly losing or had lost her mind is dead. And I hope her death offers her the type of merciful release and peace that she never allowed whole sections of society that she victimised while she was in power.

Because compassion is something we should practise every day, particularly as the barbaric acts of her successors Cameron and Osbourne continue to victimise the weakest and most vulnerable members of society. Short of riots or armed insurrection it's one of the few tools we have...

4 comments:

Zelda said...
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Jane said...

As always, Paul, you are the calm voice of reason in a sea of shit. *bows gracefully* x

Rachel Preece said...
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Rachel Preece said...

Compared to the awful vitriol I've seen on Facebook (where else?) today, this is a wonderfully humane post.

Whatever you thought of her politics, an old lady has died, and that deserves some respect.