Thatcher should be championed, not derided

10 Sep 2014

 

On Saturday 6th September at a pro-NHS rally, Owen Jones again claimed that the people of Britain booted Mrs Thatcher out of government over the controversial Poll Tax. This is simply not true.

(See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4l3ZuaSFTZw&feature=youtu.be1.06 onwards)

 

Margaret Thatcher won three general elections on the trot, and would have won a fourth if her party, not the people, hadn’t stabbed her in the back and given her the boot. As a matter of fact, it was Lord Geoffrey Howe who metaphorically back-stabbed Thatcher, after she refused to give him a set timetable on her plans for Britain to join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. In his resignation speech to the House of Commons in 1990, Howe described Lady Thatcher’s stance on Europe: 

It is rather like sending your opening batsmen to the crease only for them to find the moment that the first balls are bowled that their bats have been broken before the game by the team captain." 

Howe, being the Deputy Prime Minister and Thatcher’s only original Cabinet member, resigned in such a public fashion that it damaged her leadership to the extent that she lost in the second leadership ballot by four votes, causing her Cabinet to persuade her to withdraw. Thatcher’s resignation was tough on her; she left Downing Street dressed in red, eyes misted up, and the pain of the betrayal was visible on her aging face.

However, Mrs Thatcher remained in the House of Common’s as a backbencher for two years, causing a few rifts in Major’s Cabinet. She resigned from the Commons in 1992 and set up The Margaret Thatcher Foundation, the first former Prime Minister to do so. She also wrote about her time in government with two books; The Downing Street Years; and The Path To Power.

Margaret Thatcher achieved many things in her 87 years. By becoming the first female Prime Minister she proved that politics wasn’t just a man’s game, although many feminists write her off for some of her comments about the movement. In many ways she was at least a champion of women, and despite personal politics, as women, we should be proud of her achievements. In a very male dominated world, she conquered, and led the Conservatives to three consecutive victories, became a formidable leader within international politics, and gained the respect of her peers around the world.

Mrs Thatcher even had the respect of old time rival Tony Benn, who obviously despised her politics, but admired her conviction. During her time as Prime Minister, she won a war; ensuring the people of the Falkland Islands remained under British rule as they wished. She also, along with friend and peer Ronald Regan, was instrumental in bringing an end to the Cold War and the dismantling of the Soviet Union.

Without Mrs Thatcher, working class men and women wouldn’t have had the chance to buy their own house through the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme. However, many on the left disagree that this scheme was beneficial to the thousands that it helped. Lady Thatcher gave people that chance to take their lives into their own hands, to make their own way in life.

She also handled the Trade Unions of the 1970s and 1980s - who got too big for their boots - very well. Jim Callaghan’s Labour government had let unions run a riot in Britain and allowed the Winter of Discontent, where grave diggers, bin men, and teachers were constantly on strike. During her second term in office, Thatcher took on the notorious Arthur Scargil, who was leader of the National Unions of Mineworkers. The NUM strike lasted a year, from March 1984 to March 1985, and saw Scargil succumb to Thatcher’s strength. 

So, when it came to people wanting to boot her out of government, there were plenty. But not nearly enough; all three of her election victories demonstrated majorities, the largest in 1983 with 144 seats (with a turnout of 72.7 percent). Mr Jones, no, it wasn’t the people who removed Thatcher from government; it was the resignation of a member of the establishment, a member that betrayed his leader in the most public way possible.

By Rebecca Sword

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