Upon the death of Margaret Thatcher I was mindful to respect the lady’s passing.
It was important to give her family the time to grieve and to give those who mourned her passing the time to pay their respects. I can tell you that I did not mourn the passing of the Conservative Prime Minister, nor did my family, my friends or my community.
I was approached to write this piece in the spirit of putting forward my version of the Iron Lady. It is not intended to be an empirical analysis in the way that I am accustomed to be writing. There are lots of reasons why it would be imprudent to take this approach, not least because sufficient time has not yet elapsed from her passing. Therefore, the purpose of this piece is not to provide an in depth exploration into the life and career of Margaret Thatcher. Instead, I have been asked to write this paper from the perspective of someone on the left of the Labour Party reflecting upon the legacy of Margaret Thatcher, but more importantly Thatcherism. It is polemical in style and intended to convey in a conceptual and ideological sense just why we on the left regard the Iron Lady as the most corrosive Prime Minister of 20th Century Britain.
Much of my analysis is informed by a long term examination of the consequences of Margaret Thatcher’s policies and ideas. It is true that I lived through the entire Thatcher era, and was in many senses a child of Thatcher. I recognise that detaching my own personal experiences of the woman, all of which were bad, would be impossible. Instead of attempting to extricate myself from that quandary as a writer I have instead chosen to embrace it. At its most basic, it is my belief that the style employed by Thatcher brutalised and stigmatised my generation of have nots but that the long term effect of her policies are that they have created a whole new generation like me. It was often the case that Thatcher introduced a concept or policy that it might be argued had some short term merits in conception, and even some success in the medium term. The privatisation for example of gas, water and electricity generated the state £25 billion in income at the flick of a fountain pen. It is my contention, however, that the long term consequences of almost all of Thatcher’s policies served to the detriment of the United Kingdom. Now, in the post financial crash era when economists and philosophers are re-examining the impact of free-market economics it is clear to even those not on the left of UK politics that Margaret Thatcher’s policies contributed to the most prolonged and deepest financial crash the UK has ever experienced.
At the outset might I say that regardless of my opposition to the Iron Lady and her politics, it is of course to be recognised that on three occasions the British people were asked their verdict on her, and each time they bestowed upon her a convincing mandate. It is incumbent upon all democrats to recognise this, and give it the due respect which is deserves. No Prime Minister ever acted over such a long period with such undisputed legitimacy. And so the left must reconcile ourselves to the fact that time and time again it was we who lost the political argument during her long tenure as Prime Minister. This piece attempts to explain, as much for my fellow comrades as anyone, why it was the case that Thatcher was on the right side of the UK public for such a long period.
Éoin graduated with a PhD in History from Queen’s University Belfast.
He works as an educational assessor and tutor in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century European History.
Eoin founded The Green Benches website in 2010, and his site has been a regular feature in the UK Top Ten political websites rankings on E-Labz, reaching number 1 in Spring 2012. Eoin also founded Labour think tank Labour Left in April 2011. His motive for forming Labour Left was to work with colleagues to generate policies with an ethical socialist theme for inclusion in the 2015 Labour Party manifesto. To this end, Eoin also co-edited Labour Left’s Red Book in 2012. The policies contained in his Red Book chapter on Housing were presented at a Labour Party’s Top of the Policies event chaired by Shadow Housing Minister Jack Dromey in Westminster in May 2012, and his ideas were voted the most popular by his peers. Eoin is also a regular speech maker, and in the last year has spoken throughout the UK on matters of Housing, Poverty and Health.