Monday, 8 April 2013

Thoughts of the death of Margaret Thatcher

There are some of us who owe our political existence to the recently deceased Margaret Thatcher. As with all political opponents I do not think she is the incarnation of all things evil, there were indeed somethings that she did which should be applauded. But it is in the areas that we disagree Poll Tax, student finance, sacrificing jobs for low inflation, some illiberal social attitudes etc that I learnt to fight my first political campaigns.

Whatever your view of the Falklands conflict, her decisive action 31 years ago this month was to liberate those who self identify as being British. She along with Ronald Reagan did a great deal to bring to an end the Cold War. Also she stood up to terrorism in Northern Ireland, signed into being the first all-Ireland agreement (which of course the Unionists objected to by resigning on mass) but it was a step forward toward the peace that Northern Ireland witnesses today. In fact on that last point she almost paid for her involvement in dealing with the Northern Ireland situation with her own life in the Brighton Bombing.

But going to University in a Conservative held seat and council it was natural that my first Lib Dem battles were to replace Thatcherism with social liberalism, making sure that nobody was enslaved by poverty which she seemed to want to create while letter the richest get more and more out of her. There were also many social issues on which the Conservatives took the conservative approach which I just could not and wound not agree.

So I took my stand and signed up to student politics, yes there was Militant Labour activists on campus but you also had to learn to deal with politics in the real world and on the doorsteps around me that meant telling those who lent their vote to Thatcher of the worse excesses of what the Conservative party were doing.

She has some amazing achievements and no matter how you look at her these can never be taken away. She will always be known as the first female Prime Minster of the UK. She will always along with a selct bacd of others won three General elections in a row.

So the Rt. Hon. Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, PC, FRS has passed away. There is going to be a state funeral, the necessity and merits of which are going to be debated long and hard over the coming days.

But whatever you think of her policies she overcame the misogyny of the 1950s to be selected then elected as the mother of two young children to the safe seat of Finchley. That was on her third attempt to be elected to Westminster she'd stood for Dartford in 1950 and 51 reducing the Labour majority on both occasions, did stand in 1955 having only just before given birth to the twins and narrowly missed out on selection for the 1955 Orpington by-election. She then became for many the surprise candidate who not only challenged Edward Heath in 1975 but out polled him though short of the two thirds of MPs required to win on the first ballot, then beat Willie Whitelaw in the second round.

So she most definitely was a shrewd political operator. Praising her for being such does not necessarily mean I applaud her method, nor execution, nor policies. But she was of her time, of her party able to push back so much of the glass ceiling that before her had precluded too many women from actively being involved in research, science, politics or business. She wasn't so much a feminist as a female who wanted equality because she was the best person for the job, knowing the costs involved for her and being prepared to pay them.

She may have inspired many to get involved in politics (though not all of us on the side she may have wanted).

Baroness Thatcher (Margaret Hilda Thatcher née Roberts) 1925-2013

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