Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Maggie, Maggie, Maggie...

I must admit, my primary emotion at hearing of the passing of Margaret Thatcher was a stab of exhaultation.

Isn't that awful?

On reflection, I think she did some good. From reading the history books, the UK couldn't have gone on in the way it had been. Industrial reform was inevitable, and was inevitably going to cause some pain. The council house buyout allowed millions to buy property, giving them a more secure foothold in society.

Which brings me to the bad points. Like her not believing in society.

But above all, what she did was to make society less equal. Those who ended up on the bottom rung during the 1980s have become less and less likely to move up the ladder. Entire communities were thrown on the dole queue, and became far more susceptible to the ravages of drugs, unemployment and poverty. Some of them are within a few minutes of where I stay, and have not recovered from the dismantling of heavy industry.

It wouldn't have been so bad if there had been more invested in alternatives. We didn't stay in a town dominated by heavy industry, but, during the 80s, I remember my older siblings spending months, even years, being firstly unemployed and then under-employed. Mass unemployment hurt graduates as well as ex miners, particularly in areas outside the South East of England.

For every good policy effect there was a bad one. The council house buyout wasn't just about a family buying a house; some families managed to buy several and then make a fortune. Which means that now, some households live in terribly cramped conditions, unable to afford to buy or rent commercially, but stuck in a tiny council house.

Perhaps some sort of counter balance to the policy would have to have reinvested the receipts for sales in new council housing, or only allowed, say, 50% of houses in a community to be sold.

I think I'd have felt slightly... well, "sad" isn't the right word. But possibly find the celebrations of her death a bit more distasteful, if this horrible government, full of her political children, hadn't chosen this month to step up their persecution of disabled people. Food banks are opening everywhere, the government cuts benefits as an incentive to work, then announces it is also going to cut the minimum wage. And they try to justify reforms by using the deaths of six children at the hands of their father.

That's her legacy - that "the devil take the hindmost" is an acceptable government policy. Well, he's taken her, now.

1 comment:

  1. I've found it really fascinating watching the comments from my UK friends (on blogs and Facebook) and my US friends on her death.

    Regardless of whether we agreed with her politics, she was a woman in a position of power at a formative stage of my life, and had an impact because of that. She made me think, and I remember debates in the early 1980s at university that it seemed wrong that women might only achieve if they are tough and combative in the way she seemed to be.