Ding, Dong… Still Divided
It’s amazing how one person – Margaret Thatcher – can cause such division in death as in life.
On the other, the song Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead is soaring up the charts and may reach the No 1 slot by the weekend thanks to a Facebook campaign by some of those who still loathe the woman and everything she did to this country.
I was a teenager when Thatcher became prime minister and it’s fair to say that the British economy was not in a good state, the unions had too much power (and weren’t using it responsibly) and that the previous Labour government hadn’t exactly done a great job of running the country.
There was so much media coverage from politicians and others glorifying what a great leader she was and how she fundamentally changed this country.
I think too many people have short memories. By the time she was kicked out – by her own political party – Thatcher had very few supporters. The majority of the British public hated her and everything she stood for.
Remember the ‘poll tax’, the destruction of our mining industry (as a way of defeating the unions), selling off our nationalised industries, getting rid of council housing, savage cuts to education and health budgets, etc, etc.
Yes, she transformed this country but for the better? I’d be fascinated to see a balanced study that looks at things like how much – in real terms – we pay now for our water, gas, electricity and phones compared to when we had nationalised industries. We should also include a comparison of how efficient/effective the supply of these services is/was and the number of people they employed.
Any study should also look at where the profits now go. One of Thatcher’s mantras was to do with distributing shares in the privatised industries to the whole country. But how many people now own (or benefit from) shares in BT or the water companies? Who benefits from the revenue from these companies now – the British taxpayer, private individuals, foreign companies…?
She did play a major role in supporting Mikhail Gorbachev and thereby bringing about the break-up of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. She did stick up for the people of the Falklands against Argentine aggression.
But she was also the person who did most to destroy old notions of public service and society, replacing it with the ‘what’s in it for me’ ethos. The gap between rich and poor widened enormously under Maggie Thatcher.
Some might point to her ‘landslide’ election victory in 1983. But that’s a fallacy. Our ‘first past the post’ electoral system is not always democratic. Thatcher won even more seats in 1983 than in 1979 – but she actually got less votes. Far more people voted against Thatcher than voted for her.
So is the campaign to make Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead a good thing? Yes, because as Adam Jung writes here in the Huffington Post, it’s one way to counterbalance the revisionist tirade from the rest of the media who are too busy eulogising Thatcher to remember what her legacy really is.
On Wednesday, when the British House of Commons was recalled to debate her legacy, the MP Glenda Jackson went against convention with a spirited and detailed reminder of what she felt Thatcher had done:
I’ve got a little bit of respect for Maggie on the basis that she at least had convictions. But… Ding Dong… I’m one of many who won’t be mourning her passing.