The Iron Lady was truly a controversial lady –that is for certain. Many mourned the death of Margaret Thatcher, but not everyone. Some were left on the fence. It seems Tories were saddened, while Whigs celebrated. Deafening chants of “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” were repeatedly heard in the streets of Britain. As pitiful and pathetic as this may seem, it is the fact of the matter.
Some people felt her time was due long ago. In October of 1984, Patrick Magee, a member of the Irish Republican Army plotted to assassinate Thatcher and her entourage. The Brighton bomber launched a time bomb, killing 5 and injuring 31, but the Prime Minister only sustained minor injuries.
Infamously known for her conservative economic policies, coined ‘Thatcherism’, she encouraged low inflation rates, preferred free markets with little state intervention, and aimed for limited flow of money in circulation. In sum, she opted for the privatization of industry, which inevitably displeased and limited the potential of many. Thatcher indiscreetly weakened and dismantled trade unions; this, among other things, inevitably led to clashes and feuds with the Labour party. Her efforts to abolish the Greater London Council in 1985 were another unpopular decision. One of her more humorous nicknames, ‘Margaret Thatcher Milk Snatcher’, was created in response to one of her rather contested policies. Prior to the days as Prime Minister, when Thatcher was the Secretary of State for matters related to Education, she ordered for the removal of free milk for school children, in an attempt to cut back on government spending. People were not about to quickly forget about the unkind decision that deprived elementary scholars of their daily complimentary milk.
We are taught not to speak ill of the dead; this logic certainly applies to mockery as well. Milk cartons anonymously and mysteriously appeared on the front steps of the late Margaret Thatcher’s former residence. Whether it was a sign of disrespect, or an act of ridicule, particular individuals wanted unpopular events of her past to resurface. There is a fine line between celebrating a Prime Minister’s life and celebrating her death. Laborers, unionists, and blue-collar workers, to name a few, all had a personal vendetta against the Iron Lady, feeling nothing but contempt.
For the longest time, Britain has been considered the economic hegemon of Europe. Now, the question must be asked: Was Britain better off prior to her reign, throughout her governance, or in its post-Thatcher days? It would be foolish, and frankly incorrect, to dismiss Britain’s thriving economic success during the 1980’s owing in great part to Thatcher. However, along with financial blossoming come unfortunate consequences. Those in the lower echelons of society thought her policies simply fueled the fire, as poverty and inequality skyrocketed. Although average income did increase during her ruling, unemployment rates practically doubled, rising from 5.3% to 9.5%. On the other hand, the wealthiest 1% of Britain’s population, which accounted for 6% of the UK’s entire income in 1979, accounted for as much as 10% of the UK’s total income upon Thatcher’s dismissal in 1990. Correspondingly, the transition in industry that occurred within the UK, namely from manufacturing to finance, was one that anchored and confined the financial district within London; despite the fact that London might be prospering, the banks are in a monetary deadlock.
While it is certainly true that Thatcher had her moments of glory, she also undoubtedly had some less favorable ones. Labeling Mandela as a terrorist and supporting white supremacy were not her finest judgment calls. Many South Africans see her death as a “good riddance”, as they firmly believe she was a proponent of the prolonging of Apartheid. Her foreign policy with regards to sanctions, or lack thereof, was misguided. It was only acknowledged, and publicly declared, in 2006 by the incumbent Prime Minister David Cameron, that her ignorance for the cause was ethically problematic.
Despite the unpopularity, Margaret Thatcher was an influential and iconic leader, who will not be soon forgotten. An honorary State funeral for the Iron Lady is indeed scheduled for April 17th. A nationwide protest is however also being organized a couple of days prior. They say time heals all wounds, but it seems that over the course of the last two decades, people didn’t forget the sour taste of Thatcher’s policies. Scotland Yard has agreed to let the planned April 13th civil disturbances unfold, but is taking precautionary measures to ensure that not too much thunder is stolen.
– Chloe Giampaolo
Featured photo: BBC Radio 4, Creative Commons, Flickr
Photo 1: License sofiaignatidou, Creative Commons, Flickr