08/04/2013

The death of Margaret Thatcher

Today a formidable woman has died.  Margaret Thatcher was the first, and only ever, female British Prime Minister.  Throughout her time in Downing Street, and even in the decades after, Mrs Thatcher divided opinion within Britain.  The Falklands War, the miners' strikes, Poll Tax, and Hillsborough are just a few of the controversial events which occurred under Thatcher's reign as Prime Minister.  In the North she was, and to some extent still is, hated.  Elsewhere, opinion is mixed.

She epitomised the rags to riches fairytale - the grocer's daughter who smashed through the glass ceiling and achieved all of her dreams.  An icon for women across the world, Thatcher demonstrated that anything is possible if you dare to dream hard enough.  Her image as the 'Iron Lady' drew admiration from across the globe.  In some respects, Thatcher was an icon.

However, the reaction to her death today exceeds anything that I imagined.  Yes, the negative comments were expected and the celebratory tone was predicted.  But some of the comments I have read on news stories, on Twitter and on Facebook have been disgusting.  She was a controversial woman who changed Britain, changed the economy, and changed the way Britain was perceived abroad.  Those whose lives were changed for the better are remembering Thatcher fondly today.

Nevertheless, the negative comments are appearing to dominate.  The Telegraph has been forced to close its comments on every Thatcher story this afternoon due to the amount of abuse the site was attracting. The editor told of how the email address set up for tributes was filled with abuse.

Understandably, a lot of people in mining communities in the North will not be shedding tears this evening.  They fought a long battle with the government over their jobs; an industrial dispute which got incredibly nasty.  Across the North she is viewed as a hate figure.  In Liverpool, the perception is very similar.  Thatcher was held responsible for the Toxteth riots of 1981 with many in Merseyside today being glad that she is gone.  Resentment lives on in Liverpool, and across the North, towards a woman who was blamed for unemployment, suffering, and rising discontent.

However, the abuse which she is receiving today comes from many who most likely weren't alive during the Thatcher years and/or have no connection to anyone who was affected by any of her destructive policies.  Yes, everyone is entitled to an opinion; free speech is something we are lucky to have in this country.  But to use it in such a malicious way, when the majority of people being so abusive probably have no idea about the history or the political background, is ridiculous.  There is no denying Margaret Thatcher was controversial and I am, by no means, condoning any of the policies that she introduced.  She destroyed the mining community in the town where I am from and I know many people who's families were torn apart as a result.

I think that people need to take a step back and remember that, above all, Thatcher was a human.  She was a mother and a grandmother.  There are family, friends, and colleagues who are grieving at this moment in time.  Yes, you may have an opinion on her and you may have suffered first hand as a result of Thatcherism; and I would not blame anyone for enjoying a drink this evening or for celebrating her death.  But to broadcast such malicious, abusive comments on social media and on sites which are set up to pay tribute is not fair.  What I do find slightly sickening is the people who are jumping on the bandwagon and hurling insults and abuse at a dead woman; most of whom probably did not even realise she was still alive.

Today marks the end of a long period of history - the final end of Thatcherism.  A period which saw industrial unrest, riots, ideological shifts, political battles, and international conflicts.  A period dominated by a formidable woman who showed no mercy and stood strong and firm.  Margaret Thatcher was an iconic, internationally adored woman who was incredibly well received on the world stage; much more so than she was here in Britain.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on Thatcher.  Mine is that she changed Britain for the worse; bringing suffering to hundreds of thousands and changing the way of life for millions.

On the whole, I am sure she will not be remembered fondly.  How history will remember her in years to come will be interesting.  History is written by the winners, after all, so it is possible that she will be painted as an adored heroine who saved Britain and turned it around when it needed it most.  For now, though, I feel it is worth remembering that Thatcher was popular for a time.  To spend nearly eleven years as Prime Minister indicates that there must have been a large degree of support for her.

Thatcher was far from sympathetic towards the suffering of the miners or the victims of Hillsborough, so I find it slightly ironic that people are calling for sympathy to be had towards her today.  I do not think people should be sympathetic or empathise with her, but they should be towards her family and friends.  They were not responsible for what she did and, at the end of the day, they have lost a loved one.

Arguably, and rather ironically, Thatcher was the last Prime Minister to have the balls to stand up for what she believed in.  Her strong, bold, determined attitude will never be forgotten by a nation who were divided during her life and, even more so, after her death.

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