Yesterday the news broke that former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had died and the UK was instantly united in conversation and divided in opinion. ‘Divisive’ is already an overused adjective in the debate but I’m not sure that anybody could claim to embody the word quite like Maggie did.
I’m not sure that I have much to add to the discussion as I was born two weeks after she left Downing Street and my opinions of her can’t come from personal experience but from the opinions that she inspired in others.
I can look to the current government though to understand a little better how accurately public opinion can assess what a government does. I don’t think it’s too controversial to suggest that bad news is more likely to be discussed and remembered than good. I don’t think anybody coming to power in 2010 could have been seen in a very positive light as the situation required (and still does require) a lot of difficult decisions to be made. When talking about Maggie, my mum pointed out that “it’s almost like people have forgotten how bad the ‘70s were” and I think that sums up a lot of how I feel about Thatcher. I don’t believe that any Prime Minister in the 1980s could have been remembered positively because the choices then were similar to those that we face now.
That’s not to say that I think she always made the right choices, far from it, but her reputation was doomed from the moment she took the job and it was never likely that her good decisions would dominate the headlines or stand out in hindsight.
She inspired some while inspiring hate in others. Some mourned the loss of a great leader while some partied in the streets last night. To get reactions like that over 20 years after last being in power, and from a lot of people too young to even remember her time in office, confirms at least one thing: she will be remembered.
I don’t intend to list the good and bad things she did but I do think that both sides are wrong. I think the good and bad were a lot more balanced than many are suggesting.
I will say, though, that whatever you thought of her or her politics, she died an elderly widow with a family that she loved and it is never ok to celebrate the death of a human being. RIP.