Jubilation and euphoria were witnessed this week when the news of Thatcher’s death broke. Brixton, Bristol and Glasgow were all subject to hundreds of people turning out to rejoice in the death of the woman who had run this country for eleven years. Chants of “Margaret Thatcher, milk snatcher” were heard, along with “the bitch is dead”. Many have commented that the parties were distasteful and that the dead should never be spoken ill of, yet I find myself defending the parties and find the right-wing press and supporters hugely hypocritical.
Those like the Daily Mail and other right wing press calling the celebrations ‘barbarous’ were quick to forget their own celebrations when Hugo Chavez lost his battle with cancer.
What Thatcher did to the industrial north and to the Miners is unforgivable. British manufacturing industry was going strong in 1978, yet by 1983 the manufacturing output had dropped by over 30 per cent. Unemployment rose to 3.6 million and Thatcher had closed down industries that were state run. This in turn affected the unemployment rate and reduced British manufacturing industry production and competition on the world markets. Thatcher believed the future for Britain would be in banks and industries of finance – but lets not get into the 2008 banking crisis, eh?
Before the Miners strikes in 1984 the Conservatives had massacred jobs across the working class industry. Over 80,000 steelworkers’ jobs were lost in 1980 and after the election in 1979, 1,600 jobs were being lost every WEEK, including 100 miners’ jobs every week. In 1974 the government had struck an agreement with the miners but 10 years later they deemed it as out-dated. Thatcher announced 20 mines would be closed and 20,000 jobs would be lost.
The Nottingham miners who had been told consistently that their mines would not be shut were reluctant to join the strikes that had swept the nation, instead prioritising their own needs. Government intentions became clear soon after. Nottinghamshire coal pits were all closed within 10 years.
Communities had been left to rot, the only place for work had been closed and no alternative had been given. Thatcher did not subsidise the working class men who were jobless, she left them devastated. Shanwar Bashan a steelworker said “She fought against the miners, she shut the factories, she shut the steelworks and Sheffield was built on steel, and she put nothing in place instead, no training, no alternative jobs.”
Suicide rose to an all time high in places such as Sheffield, Wakefield and Merseyside as did drug abuse. The suicide rate of men climbed from 140 in 1979 to 190 in 1983 and continued to increase until she left office. The number of recorded drug offences jumped from 605 in in 1979 to 1,308 in 1990 – the average heroin use in ex-mining communities is also documented as being 27% above the national average, with usage in Wakefield increasing by over 3000% between when Thatcher’s era began and ended. Cases of homelessness were a growing problem, rising from 4,676 in 1979 to 9,963 in 1990. Wakefield was classed in a EU report of being one of the most deprived areas of Europe, along with Grimethorpe in South Yorkshire and Knowsley in Merseyside, all ex-mining communities.
For a woman who was supposedly “the greatest patriot” Thatcher sure did like cutting jobs in Britain in favour of imports from abroad. Throughout the 1980’s thousands of jobs were cut across the working class community. She tore away work from the working classes and then sent the police into war with the miners when they made a stand.
David Hopper, the general secretary of Durhan Miners’ Association commented Thatcher “tore” the heart out of the “Northern communities”. Thatcher’s policy of privatisation affects us to this day. State owned industries like Jaguar, British Telecom and British Gas were sold off to the highest bidder without a second thought of what it would mean for the companies employees. Other major utilities included British Steel, British Petroleum, Rolls Royce, British Airways, water supply and electricity.
Thatcher had come to prominence in 1971 when she earned the name “Milk Snatcher” – a name which would haunt her throughout her time in office. As Education Secretary, she decided to scrap the free milk which was entitled to all children. She hoped it would save the government an overwhelming amount of money but, instead of taxing the millionaires of Britain just a bit more, she decided to tax children… on milk and take away what for some was their only form of breakfast. Well at least she wasn’t pretending to be someone she wasn’t, and showed herself as a bitch from the very start, eh?
Margaret Thatcher not only affected our country with her shameful policies but also many others. Perhaps it is telling that Right Wing is calling her a ‘freedom fighter’ and a woman, when she was nothing of the sort. It is delusional to call her so. The Economist magazine hailed the late Tory leader’s “willingness to stand up to tyranny” and “bet on freedom”. Really? Stand up to tyranny? It’s laughable – although those from countries like Chile, South Africa, Indonesia and Iraq would probably not laugh if they read such a statement.
Thatcher backed General Suharto of Indonesia who led a dictatorship defined as “one of the most brutal and corrupt”. His regime of torture and mass killing resulted in around three quarters of a million deaths and around 500,000 of those being ‘suspected communists’. Thatcher referred to the murderous tyrant as “one our very best and most valuable friends”.
How about Britain’s good friend, no enemy I should say, Saddam Hussein? Thatcher not just backed Hussein with words but with 1 BILLION POUNDS  of taxpayers’ money. It is evident now that the Thatcher government began selling arms to Iraq in 1981. When Hussein’s use of poison gas against the Kurds became apparent, the ‘freedom fighter’ that is Margaret Thatcher CONTINUED to back him with Tony Newton, one of Thatcher’s secretaries visiting Baghdad and offering £340 million of British export credits.
In Thatcher’s era, a government that denied millions of black people basic freedoms, and implemented the apartheid was that which ran South Africa. Did Britain’s Champion of Liberty, Freedom and Democracy stand up for the rights of the black people in South Africa? No. She invited P.W Botha to Britain and supported his government whole-heartedly. Furthermore, Thatcher had the audacity (in the worst sense of the word) to call Nelson Mandela’s organisation a “typical terrorist organisation”. I’m not sure how anyone can excuse such a statement especially when you compare it with the crucifixion of Gordon Brown’s after his comments of calling a bigoted woman ‘a bigot’. Pallo Jordan, a South African politician said, “I say good riddance. She was a staunch supporter of the apartheid regime.”
Augusto Pinochet. Tens of thousands imprisoned, tortured or killed and hundred of thousands forced into exile. Yet, when finally in 1999, the dictator was arrested Thatcher called for his release proclaiming his arrest ‘callous’ and visited him in his home. Thatcher thanked him for bringing ‘democracy’ to Chile. Pinochet’s right hand man said Thatcher understood the benefits of a ‘military government’ and that “they had a very close relationship”. These right-wing politicians do love their relationships with dictators!
The truth is, (albeit very hard to take for Thatcher lovers) this woman who has been made out to be a defender of liberty wasn’t. She was in truth a defender of dictators, murderers, racists and tyrants. (I haven’t even mentioned her support of General Zia ul Haq’s military dictatorship in Pakistan or the support of the Saudi Arabian totalitarian government).
I don’t just disagree with her in foreign affairs either.
“Children who need to be taught moral values are being taught they have an inalienable right to be gay. All of those children are being cheated of a sound start in life. Yes cheated” –
Yep, a statement by the great Margaret Thatcher! She and her government introduced Section 28 which was a policy that outlawed teaching in any school that homosexual relationships were acceptable. The law was eventually repealed in 2003 which, by the way, saw Mr David Cameron voting to keep it in place. Again, Thatcher’s heinous political acts seem to be forgotten. The media praise her for ‘fighting for what she believed in’ and ‘never backing down’ yet seem to forget she was fighting for incredibly bigoted policies. I have heard numerous times how Thatcher was an idol for female aspirations. “A great feminist” but it’s not true. She hated the idea of feminism calling it “poison” and I very much doubt she would welcome the claims that she is a feminist icon. She may have broken the glass ceiling for females in politics but I am very much of the opinion she resealed that glass straight away.
Thatcher’s policies devastated the public then and still do to this day. In the Hillsborough Disaster 96 Liverpool fans were sent to their deaths due to Police incompetence, and then those 96 blamed for their own deaths. “Justice for the 96” can still be seen around Anfield today and so too “reveal the lies before thatcher dies”. Almost coincidentally this truth came out not long before her death. The truth exposed how the Liverpool fans were not to blame and that it was the police who were at fault. As Prime Minister at the time, Thatcher helped carried out the cover-up. Through this evil act she tarnished an entire city’s reputation and scarred the lives of all affected. Something which is inexcusable.
Ultimately, it was the Poll Tax riots that brought her down. A tax which meant that whether you were earning minimum wage or millions of pounds you’d still pay the same was introduced. A tax for which many have described as a tax for…existing. The ‘Iron Lady’ never lived the riots down and was eventually brought down by her own party due to how unpopular she had become.
I am 18 years old, so did not live through Thatcher’s government, and I am glad. I am glad that I was not born earlier and I am glad that I did not live through it, and yet I am still affected by her government. We live in country where Thatcherism is rife. It is not an opinion but a fact. Our NHS system, which was something to be proud of, is deteriorating fast and privatised health care is becoming more popular, but that is what you get with austerity.
I’m not sad Thatcher is dead as you may have guessed. My only hope is that her politics and Thatcherism dies with her, although I don’t believe the chances are high. Of course she has a family; children and grandchildren but so did those miners who couldn’t afford to put bread on the table. So did the 11 Irish hunger strikers that died in protest of to her regime and so did those 323 people who were unfortunate enough to be on the Belgrano – a ship needlessly torpedoed under the order of Thatcher. She did not give a second thought to those people so I shan’t give one to her or to her family either following her funeral. At a time where the media are praising Thatcher as a woman who saved Britain and slating anyone who criticises a dead old woman I think they should perhaps show a little respect for her victims. Thatcher did not fight against those who the Mail describes as “benefit scroungers” she fought with those trying to make a living by doing what they know. The people were hardworking, worked long hours and were put out of work due to her policies.
And as her funeral approaches I am confused as to why a woman who is detested in huge numbers is getting a state funeral. A funeral worth 10 million pounds, enough to pay for over 300 nurses salary for a year, the Guardian commented. I am confused as to why the British public have to pay for this funeral, why can’t it be privatised? She’d be happy. Why can’t her son, Mark Thatcher, an arms dealer worth over 60 million pounds pay for the funeral? Russell Brand notes that those who grew up under Thatcher were taught that being “selfish” is good. “That other people’s pain is not your problem”. Thatcher claimed a society doesn’t exist so why is the British Society stumping up this hefty sum? Tony Blair commented that she was a “promoter of liberty” and a “great leader” but he could not be further from the truth if he tried. Thatcher’s greatest accomplishment many have said is Tony Blair and that in itself is an atrocity.
Ding Dong, The Wicked Witch of the Right is dead.
Samir Richards, A2 Politics Student.