The only time I saw Mrs Thatcher in the flesh, was at her maiden speech in the Lords, not that long after her ruthless abandonment by the Tory party. In those days you could basically walk in off the street and hang around the visitors’ galleries. Next door was my first sight of Gordon Brown, lurking next to the late John Smith in the Commons.
Having grown up in the 70’s I knew what was rotten in the world, from the TV news and my own experiences – Soviet communism, Northern Irish terrorism, and and a hopelessly class-ridden failed economy with power cuts killing my tropical fish. I wasn’t a politics geek then, that was just everyday life to the averagely interested schoolboy. Maggie helped solve all three, and lots more besides. No-one has come close to her since, and all the middle class Maggie-haters who are allegedly planning their parties now – somehow I doubt it, talk is cheap – are precisely the people who have personally benefited from what she did. I know loads of these folk, and it kills them to admit it. As Maggie herself pointed out:
“I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left”
and it does create at least one interesting problem:
..now that Thatcher is dead, who will the Left blame for the indifference and even hostility it is met with in communities up and down the country?
Despite the ogreish image promoted these days, she was a humane and serious leader. I always admire this telegram – said to be unsent for some reason – to General Galtieri on the eve of the Falklands war:
“On my side, grief will be tempered by the knowledge that these men died for freedom, justice, and the rule of law. And on your side? Only you can answer that question”
The internet is teeming with Maggie articles right now, the three best that I’ve seen** are Iain Martin, Harry Mount and Mumbling and Stumbling.If you read all three you’ll get a nuanced and balanced picture. I’ll take the liberty of quoting Harry Mount in full:
And so, the fondest, most respectful of farewells to the greatest Prime Minister of this country since Churchill.
She will, naturally, get her due praise from a large section of the commentariat. And bucketloads of nasty bile. Rather than being offended by the evil criticism, I will take it as what it really is – an accidental tribute to her power.
With the greatest of respect, no one would be really rude on the death of John Major, Gordon Brown or even Tony Blair – or at least not in great numbers. But that is because their achievements are relatively minor. Who would bother to decapitate a statue of any of them?
Lady Thatcher’s were momentous, epic, country-changing. That is why she will be praised and criticised in equal, enormous measure. The praise will not only be more dignified – it will be correct.