So, she’s finally gone.
"Ding-dong, the witch is dead!" my husband sang, bouncing into the living room. It’s the reaction of almost everyone I know. Among my acquaintances are those that hated Thatcher, those that REALLY hated Thatcher, and those that REALLY REALLY FUCKING HATED Thatcher.
One shirks from rejoicing at anyone’s death, but this woman was a figure so divisive, so nasty, who did so much damage – the consequences of which we are still living with – that any other reaction seems impossible.
Let’s remember 10 things about Thatcher, just in case we get sentimental.
1 She called Nelson Mandela a ‘grubby little terrorist’, refused to support sanctions against South Africa and continued to trade arms to an Apartheid government that tortured and murdered its own citizens.
2 In order to get herself re-elected, she ensured that a peaceful solution to the Falklands issue failed, thus leading directly to a war in which over 900 people died and 2,000 more were injured, some of them horrendously.
3 She closed 150 coal mines, many of which were profitable, leading to the loss of thousands of jobs and devastating entire communities, including the one I came from. Those mines that remained, she privatised, and they still run today, making profits for private individuals and recklessly disregarding issues of safety and welfare for their non-unionised workers.
4 She introduced Clause 28 (Section 28), which forbade local authorities from ‘promoting homosexuality’, thus causing many organisations that counselled young gay people to close.
5 She supported the retention of capital punishment – the right of the state to kill its own citizens.
6 She forced councils to sell their housing stocks and forbade them from using the profits to build new housing, hoping to boost the private-let market (ie: properties owned by the rich), leading directly to the terrible social housing shortfall currently afflicting the UK.
7 She introduced the financial deregulation of the City that led directly to the current banking crisis and contributed to the bitter, double, near-treble-dip recession in the UK, not to mention the Black Wednesday of the 90s that wiped £3.5bn off Britain’s wealth.
8 She privatised Britain’s national industries such as telecoms, power and rail, promising a brave new world of share-owning democracy. In truth, working-class people could never afford shares, and most of those institutions are now owned by either foreign governments or finance houses, thus leaving any profits in the hands of a rich elite. Scottish Power is owned by the Spanish firm Iberdrola, Thames Water is owned by Germany’s RWE, London Electricity was bought by France’s EDF. All of these companies have a record of hiking prices to British consumers, who are powerless to affect the running of firms headquartered overseas.
9 She opposed the indictment of General Pinochet – another man who tortured and murdered his own people.
10 She banned members of trades unions from working for GCHQ, thus equating union membership with treason in the public mind.
I could go on and on: the poll tax (and subsequent riots); her support of the Khmer Rouge; the doubling of the VAT rate, which came to encompass almost every item rather than just luxury goods, thus disproportionately affecting the poor; her creation of a social divide in the British population wider than at any time since the Victorian era; 3.6 million unemployed (actually 5 million once you account for those shovelled onto incapacity benefit in order to massage the figures); the wiping out of Britain’s manufacturing base, leaving us the one of the few countries in Europe that doesn’t even have an auto-industry.
But I’ll stop here. Suffice it to say that Thatcher and her cronies changed Britain forever – the current dismantling of the NHS and the welfare state (the two things that Britain ever had to be proud of), and the demonising of the poor by the current bunch of arseholes in government could never have taken place without her influence on the present generation of Tory politicians, schooled and tutored under her leadership.
Thatcher made me ashamed to be British. And in the end, she and her legacy made me emigrate from a country that I feel has had the heart and soul ripped out of it and can never recover.