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Margaret Thatcher is dead - now the inquest must begin on her life and influence. Printer friendly page Print This
By Paul Routledge
The Mirror
Monday, Apr 8, 2013

8 April 2013

If anyone is inclined to remind me one should not speak ill of the dead, let me remind them she had nothing good to say about us while she was alive.

Margaret Thatcher will not be mourned by everyone.

She changed everything, and for millions it was change for the worse.

There was nothing like her before, and there has been nothing like her since. Thank God.

Margaret Thatcher’s death is mourned by half the nation, and celebrated by the other half. Never can there have been such a divisive figure in British public life.

A Great Maggie Myth has grown up in the two decades since she was forced – in tears – out of Downing Street by her own Cabinet colleagues. Those pygmies were not worthy of her, goes the script. She bestrode politics like a Boadicean colossus. What a woman! What a ruler! What a Brit! What a warrior!

And it has become fashionable to offer unthinking praise at the altar of this myth.

Every premier since she was in power has invited her back to Number Ten for advice and a photo-shoot. Every Tory MP worships “the blessed Margaret.”

She is the only Prime Minister to have a statue in the House of Commons while still alive.

She is the heroine of endless TV and motion picture films, a legend in her own lifetime.

But now that the Iron Lady – so called by a Russian Communist leader, remember – has passed away , we can, and must, begin the necessary inquest into her life and influence.

Cameron is the son of Thatcher

You don’t have to look far for the evidence. It is all about us.

She decimated our basic industries of coal and steel. Shipbuilding virtually disappeared, along with much of heavy engineering. She tried to destroy our free trade unions through repressive legislation, and damn well near succeeded.

She branded miners fighting for their jobs and communities as “the enemy within”, a foul slur on decent working people and their families for which she will never be forgiven.

She made mass unemployment respectable, and used it as a tool of government. The dole queues were “a price worth paying” under her regime – once described as “an elected dictatorship” by one of her own ministers.

She created a new underclass of jobless men, took away their status as breadwinner in the home and forced millions of women back into the workplace so that families could make ends meet. If she was a women’s champion, I am Meryl Streep.

She sold our basic utilities – gas, water, electricity and telephones – and prices soared. She flogged off the buses and railways, and fares went through the roof.

She sold off the council houses and built no new ones, so there are now more than two million families on housing waiting lists.

She enthroned the profit motive, and unleashed the spivs and speculators in the City of London. She surrendered economic policy to the mysterious dark forces of “the market”, which led UK plc into one recession after another that led to the mess where we are today.

She imposed the hated poll tax on the nation, first in Scotland where she made the Tories unelectable for more than a generation. She then thrust it down the throats of the English, prompting the worst riots in London since the disturbances of the early eighties.

She took us into war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands , when her popularity ratings were rock bottom, to save an isolated British colony - and her own political face.

On the back of that operation, she won a cynical landslide in the “khaki election” of 1983.

Her enthusiasm for war initiated a new era of British militarism that has yet to run its course.

She hated Europe, shouting “No, No, No!” at every opportunity and made Conservatives think and behave like Little Englanders.

She took the UK to the sterile margins of the European Union, but in the end the issue did for her premiership.

As it may well do for her greatest fan, Dodgy Dave Cameron.

Yet she took Britain into the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in her last year in power at too high a rate of exchange, leading to our humiliating withdrawal on “Black Monday” two years later after the loss of billions of the nation’s reserves.

She tied the nation’s international policy like a tin can to the tail of the attack dog in the White House, President Ronald Reagan, backing his outlandish “Star Wars” system, which came to nothing.

She flirted obscenely with the racist apartheid regime in South Africa, opposing UN sanctions and dismissing Nelson Mandela as a commie terrorist. She opposed the reunification of Germany.

In Northern Ireland, she sanctioned a dirty war against Republicans, faced down hunger strikers so that 10 of them died, and delayed the onset of the Peace Process that could have come earlier but had to await the arrival of her successor, John Major, who initiated secret talks with the IRA.

She did her level best to wipe the Labour Party off the face of the political map, and only failed because the British people wouldn’t stand for it.

She derided Michael Foot, a man with more decency in his little finger than she had in her whole body.

And, let us not forget, she started it all many years earlier in the 1970’s by stealing the school milk from children in her first Cabinet post as Education Secretary to Prime Minister Edward Heath. She saw him off, too.

Now that she’s gone, it’s fashionable to say that “whatever you think of Maggie, at least you have to admire her for sticking to her guns”.

I repudiate this modish claptrap. Look where she pointed those guns – at those who couldn’t defend themselves, their jobs and their way of life.

The pitmen, the steel workers, the rail employees, the hundreds of thousands of employees in state sector business thrown on the scrapheap in the name of privatised profits.

Businesses now – like water and electricity – largely in the hands of foreign owners ripping off the British consumer.

I lived through the Thatcher years as a London-based journalist for The Times and The Observer, when I reported on all the major industrial, political and social upheavals of her rule.

I do not look back on those times through the rose-tinted spectacles of her admirers. I remember instead the young lads throwing themselves off the Tyne bridges in Newcastle because they had no work.

I remember instead the despair in the inner cities that triggered riots, the hopelessness of the industrial communities devastated by her policies, and the social alienation caused by her “me first” selfish individualism.

And I reflect today on the social and cultural impact of her long rule, a decade that subverted the British way of life vastly more effectively than any of her imagined “enemies within”.

Her baleful political influence spread far beyond her own party. It infected Labour, creating a generation of leaders who largely accepted the Thatcher legacy and built on it.

So, even after she blubbed her way out of Downing Street in November 1990, her domination of public life continued.

It is still with us today, in the cuts strategy of the Tory-led government and its relentless attacks on women, working people and the poor.

Thatcher may be gone, but Thatcherism flourishes.

Labour has still not disowned her baleful inheritance. Now would be a very good time to start, when she can no longer be wheeled out like a ghastly spectre of yesteryear.

And if anyone is inclined to remind me that one should not speak ill of the dead, let me remind them that she had nothing good to say about us while she was alive.

Any man over 25 who travelled by bus was a failure, she once remarked, dismissing at a stroke working people who have to use her privatised public transport today.

That was classic Thatcher, from a woman who famously said “Home is where you come to when you have nothing better to do.”

How many homes felt the lash of her “winner takes all” view of the world, I wonder?

It all seems a long time ago, and they say the past is another country. But it wasn’t. It was right here, and my generation had to live with it.

Those coming after us, particularly today’s jobless young people and students crushed under a burden of debt, should know how this commercialisation of our way of life came about.

It began with Margaret Hilda Roberts, born into a grocer’s family in 1925 in Grantham, who never saw beyond the bottom line and turned the nation into a cash-cowed society.

Rest In Profit, Iron Lady.

What Do The People Think?

Editor's Note: Below, we republish readers' comments that follow Paul Routledge's article on Margaret Thatcher. We haven't selected these for content nor have we omitted any of those that appear on the first five comment pages. While some took offense at this article, most of the comments demonstrate that Mr. Routledge is not alone among the British People on his view of "The Iron Lady."

- Axis of Logic

Sheila Adams
8:05 PM on 8/4/2013
Very well written Mr Routledge..I agree with every word, and I remember all too vividly the hard times under Thatchers rule..I remember having benefits for the miners so they wouldn't starve, and the way she demonized the working classes..Much like Cameron and Gideon do now..

Rick Saunders
 8:01 PM on 8/4/2013
Yet she didn't open up our borders , she didn't invade Iraq illegally, she didn't sell off our gold reserves for buttons, she never would have allowed Brussels to dictate to us , she never allowed the banks to run riot , she would never have allowed benefits to be a way of life, she never would have paid off our soldiers after they had fought two wars for us....such a biased article it makes me sick.

Joanne Rogers
7:50 PM on 8/4/2013
What a fantastic article ! Well done for telling it like it was. I could not abide this woman.

Fabián Itu
7:45 PM on 8/4/2013
Satan took her preferred child with him... May she rest in HELL.

Dan Storey
7:40 PM on 8/4/2013
Excellent article. Astonishing to think any of her legacy can be defended by anyone

Tommy Howell
7:26 PM on 8/4/2013
Talking about truth, could we please have those Iraq War fake photos published again?

Steve Trotter
7:26 PM on 8/4/2013
I have seldom felt such hatred for anyone more than Thatcher. I have witnessed the steady decline of my country since her coming to power all those years ago. I was at that time a young telephone engineer living in the "affluent" south, not yet aware that I and 60 000 colleagues would be ousted from Post Office Telephones after privatisation.

I remember only too well the "boom and bust" economy that led me to leave UK for a life in France. I continued to watch the decline from a safe distance.

I celebrated the news of Thatcher's downfall by the hands of her own "faithfull" with champagne when I heard it on french radio. I considered myself lucky in that I had had the means to get out of Britain. Not so lucky for the millions of ordinary working people and families who continued to suffer the consequences of a vile and vicious woman and her cohorts.

I cannot forgive nor forget what she did. She does not merit any form of a respectful funeral with military honours and I sincerly hope that historians and journalists will have the courage to speak their minds in the future.

Tommy Howell
7:25 PM on 8/4/2013
If she was SO BAD and 'The British People' saved the Labour Party... how on earth did she win 3 elections? Why on her 3rd election was voter turnout higher than her 1st election? If she had been SO BAD?

Stan Ogden
7:23 PM on 8/4/2013
It's perhaps the perfect barometer of where the standards of this newspaper lie when it takes just a few hours for its political hack, Paul Routledge, to conjure up such a subjective and vitriolic piece.

Frankly, you lost me when you wrote off the Falklands War as an attempt to save an 'isolated British colony'. Argentinian junta invades British territory, British government deploys army to remove invaders perhaps? But the truth has never suited this paper. Look at the testimonials of people who really matter, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama who have spoken with praise of what Thatcher (who was so bad she was elected 3 times by the nation) did for Britain. The Daily Mirror is the nowhere paper of British media and the Labour Party in the nowhere party of British politics. Its crime is to publish this deeply offensive article about a deceased human being as if she were Pol Pot or Mugabe - not a democratically elected leader, and also to attempt to mislead those who are too young or naive to see through Labour's lies. I have lived through two Labour governments - they have been found out on both occasions. Never again.

Paul Swallow
7:21 PM on 8/4/2013
Disgraceful article. Educated version of those pathetic creatures who spoke for years of dancing on her grave. The Greatest PM of this or any other century. All I see in the above article are vindictive excuses. She made people accountable for their own lives; something many including the author of the above seem to be unable to handle.

John Day
7:17 PM on 8/4/2013
Mr Routledge; The reason Margaret Thatcher was elected as prime minister was due to the inept performance of the labour government at the time with a country having been through a union organised winter of discontent with rubbish piling in the streets, bodies not being buried. The architect of this was Jack Jones revered by both the unions and the Russians who claim to have him being on their payroll for 20 years as a spy. She came in with the mandate of removing the strangle hold the unions had over the country and was duly elected. Arthur Scargill can complain now from either his luxury Jaguar car or the sunlounger of his expensive Yorkshire farmhouse but the alternative was too horrnedous to contemplate. So the left wing can complain all it wants but may ask the question why did they elect the hopelessness of Michaal Foot and Neil Kinnock to take her on and get well trounced over the dispatch box.

I for one as a Yorkshireman was dubious about some of her actions but at least she was honest unlike the prime ministers that came afterwards. If Gordon Brown was in charge in 1981 the Falklands would still be flying the Argentinian flag and Harriet Harman would support it in humanitarian grounds!

John Coles
6:44 PM on 8/4/2013
Would Britain not have been a better, happier,a more contented place had this woman had never been born?

Carol Bunk
6:40 PM on 8/4/2013
Excelent article Paul! very enlightening indeed!

Chris Newbon
6:26 PM on 8/4/2013
Whatever people may think of her she was still someone's mother and grandmother, my thoughts are with them at this time, RIP Mrs T

Wilson Black
5:54 PM on 8/4/2013
If her people see her as an incredible persons, then we have always had to wrong impressions about her

Elvis Dark
5:40 PM on 8/4/2013
I thought i heard thunder last night....musta been Satans stomach growling

Christopher Bergner
5:14 PM on 8/4/2013
Well I remember her closing down pretty much all the manufacturing in my town. People living in the South East never felt this destruction. Her nick name "Milk Snatcher" remains embedded in my mind. When she broke the unions she really broke the country and manufacturing has never recovered, too high a price to pay, and a good contributory factor towards the economic mess we are in today. I do remember that after persecuting the long suffering unemployed, she eventually suggested that in the new world, we would all be working a 3 or 4 day week. Well some normality returned and now under Camoron its all part-time work.

Now we buy our coal from abroad and most of our businesses are owned by foreign companies. The there were the riots in the streets, chaos and real sense of depression, sorry but I will not miss you

Driffield Dave
5:03 PM on 8/4/2013
And the two recent leaders of your party - how do they fair under such criteria. One was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people - the other very nearly reduced the status of this country to a third world potato republic.

Denis Toms
4:56 PM on 8/4/2013
Well i cant believe the nonsense of most of the comments on here, i did not go along with a lot of her policies but there is no doubt she was the best prime minister since Churchill by far, an the people who keep saying she ruined this country have short memories, no body has done more to ruin this country than the last government and i voted for them, she made Britain Great again in the 80s we need a person like her today who will have the guts to stand up to EU, RIP.

Cal Barnes
4:51 PM on 8/4/2013
I'd invite anyone who says she was a good prime minister to Middlesbrough or anyone else in the North East at that matter to show them what life is really like after Thatcher. Back then we had jobs and prosperity. Now we have whole families out on the street. The same people who allowed mines, steel works, shipyards, railway works etc to close are the same people who complain about there being 'too much dependency on welfare'. theres simply no jobs out there for us. im not happy shes dead, im just going to show her the same respect as she showed my family when she was in government.

Cronos W.Spoiler
4:46 PM on 8/4/2013
I remember Thatcher for Destroying Britain's Healthcare System and for bringing in the Poll Tax.Bet the Labour Party is ever so ''Broken Hearted'' over Thatcher's demise.

Seannie Price
4:46 PM on 8/4/2013
"Where there were jobs, you brought despair. Where there were communities, you brought division. Where there was compassion, you brought greed. And where there were penguins, you brought aircraft carriers. ." St Francis of Assisi.

Charlie Alan Fleming
4:37 PM on 8/4/2013
FINALLY! Somebody NOT putting her as the greatest person ever lived! The people who loved her in the same breath wonder why bills are so high and cant get a council house! Thanks Paul for not chatting rubbish like the other reporters and papers! This was my reaction when I found out!

Barry Corker
4:37 PM on 8/4/2013
When Maggie turned up at the Pearly Gates, there stood God with 96 of his mates "Your not welcome here " God said, we dont Accept those who lie of the Dead, so due to her poisinous prime minister spell, They sent her packing straight down to HELL !!!! Justice for the 96

Derek Lavery
4:35 PM on 8/4/2013
no doubt routledge you were also celebrating mrs tebbitt being paralysed due to the ira bomb,the poll tax protesters didnt want to pay for owt just like they wont pay council tax. at least thers been no fatalities down the pits either.

there were more job losses in the private sector in west cumberland than at any other time under the last labour gov ,get your facts right,millionaire socialists have never wanted for owt. rip mrs thatcher.

Steve Beardsmore
4:22 PM on 8/4/2013
The so called Iron Lady blubbed on her way out of Downing Street ans according to one French Minister burst into tears when Mitterrand called her bluff. It's easy being tough when other people are the ones that do the suffering.

Mark Dunlop
4:12 PM on 8/4/2013
Lets be absolutely clear on what she did for this country, she destroyed the manufacturing base, she sold the family silver and she created the myth that the money markets were the root of our economy, so when they got caught with their pants down, we were royally screwed. In my opinion she should be held accountable for crimes against humanity. And I haven't even mentioned Pinochet!!!

Darren Portz
4:11 PM on 8/4/2013
Good Riddance she wont be missed

Peter Gledhill
4:05 PM on 8/4/2013
Rejoice, rejoice!

Gary Pritchard
4:04 PM on 8/4/2013
She forced the Poll Tax on the Welsh too ...

Mandy Baker
4:00 PM on 8/4/2013
Well said. The best think piece I have read today.

Brenda Spencer Miller
3:55 PM on 8/4/2013
Brilliant article Paul , well said

Adrian Copley
3:43 PM on 8/4/2013
I am now experiencing the same joy I felt at the end of apartheid, when Black south Africans queued for miles just to vote, when the divisive Berlin Wall crumbled - and now this.

Janette Gosling
3:42 PM on 8/4/2013
Meg McAllister.......should we all show the same respect she showed us when she brought us to our knees struggling to pay poll tax having bailiffs knocking on the door because she put your husband out of work making it impossible to make end meet on 42 pounds a week for 6, or the little girl who died because she closed the hospital wards so meaning there was no bed for that child yet spending thousands of tax payers money on a search party for her son, the horrors people endured at the hands of Maggie Thatcher,s government should be put into print and believe me it wont make for nice reading.

Janette Gosling
3:38 PM on 8/4/2013
es her legacy lives on, the present Torie government are the low lifes of the country, labor ....Tony Blair was always a Torie in disguise, what has become of this proud country...between Tories and Labor that have done what Hitler failed to do, they have destroyed this country and not a bomb has been dropped, and shame on the people of this country including myself for sitting on our backsides and letting them do it, as for the unions ......i wish that once more just to up tip this lousy government they would shout EVERYBODY OUT.

Meg McAllister
3:35 PM on 8/4/2013
Mr. Routledge, as yours is an opinion column, you (as everyone else) are obviously entitled to your opinion. But as a journalist, I think you should be ashamed at your obvious complete lack of objectivity and perspective. It's obvious that you were no fan, and from the length of this piece I can only assume it's one you've been preparing for a while, just waiting for the day you could vent your opinion in the guise of obituary. But I personally am offended by your minimization of Margaret Thatcher's benchmarks, your total lack of journalistic balance, and your utter disrespect.

Ian Young
3:31 PM on 8/4/2013
And her high standing abroad is another calculated myth.
The man who did more to end the cold war and shape its peaceful transistion, Helmut Kohl, once famously left a private meeting with Thatcher an hour early, only to be spotted by her in a cafe eating buns and reading the paper

Angela Cheesmond
3:25 PM on 8/4/2013
This is the fairest obituary we are likely to read about the old witch. As someone who lived and suffered under her rule, I celebrate her death and; though normally tea total, I will drink champagne tonight.

Source: The Mirror (UK)

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