Category: Society

Snippets Of Thatcher

Faces Of Margaret Thatcher
Faces Of Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher died on the 8th April at the age of 87.

She was the UK Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990. She was also, without doubt, the public figure more than any other in living memory who divided a nation into those who loved and those who hated her.

Her passing and her funeral last month reignited the debate about whether she was good for Britain and/or whether she jettisoned part of the population on the altar of economic progress.

A Whole Raft Of Articles

Her death prompted a whole raft of articles on her and her times. Tamara collected many articles, and these are some of the reports and quotes that captured our attention.

8 April 2013 The Guardian

Mikhael Gorbachev:

“I met Margaret Thatcher in late 1984 when I visited Great Britain at the head of a Soviet parliamentary delegation. We arrived in London on a Sunday, warmly welcomed by members of the British parliament. The following day, Alexander Yakovlev, Leonid Zamyatin and I were invited to Chequers.

After the welcome and introductions, for Margaret was with several ministers of her government, we were invited to lunch. The conversation that began was without precedent. It was open and friendly. Nevertheless, our ideological differences immediately became apparent. Sometimes jokingly, and sometimes more seriously, unflattering remarks were made about capitalism and communism.

It was clear even then that this was a woman of character. At some point, our conversation became so tense that some of those present thought that it would have no continuation. And then I said to Margaret that I had no instructions from the Politburo to persuade her to join the Communist party of the Soviet Union. She broke into laughter, and I hastened to add that we respected her views and I was hoping that she would treat my views the same way…

But in her book, Statecraft, Strategies for a Changing World, Margaret, for some reasons, would not give full credit to the role the Soviet Union’s new policies played in the global transformation of the late 1980s.”

9 April 2013 The Guardian

Shirley Williams (Labour MP):

“The principal of her college, Somerville, the distinguished, radical haematologist Janet Vaughn, dismissed her as “a second rate mind”, the ultimate academic put-down.

Like Tory part grandees 25 years later, the dons at Oxford underestimated her. They failed to see the engine that drove her, the single-minded passionate will to power.

To determination was added resentment; as prime minister, she cherished no great affection for the ancient universities.”

9 April 2013 The Guardian

Lord Powell (Private Secretary to the Prime Minister):

“Ceaseless activity went with excessive punctuality. Her official car often had to pull into the side on approaching a town because we were too early and the police escort was not in place, leaving startled citizens wondering what the prime minister was doing in a local layby….

She could turn almost anything into an argument because that was how she arrived at her views.”

9 April 2013 The Independent newspaper

Thatcherism was a national catastrophe, and we remain trapped by its consequences. As her former Chancellor Geoffrey Howe put it:

“Her real triumph was to have transformed not just one party but two, so that when Labour did eventually return, the great bulk of Thatcherism was accepted as irreversible.”

10 April 2013 The Guardian

Before moving to the Ritz she lived in Chester Square, Belgravia. It is unclear whether this property will form part of her estate. Sir Denis took out a 10-year lease on the house for £700,000 in 1991, which was renewed a decade later. According to the Land Registry the property was bought in 2006 by Bakeland Property Company Ltd, based in the British Virgin Islands.

[Our comment: The significance of this is that the current government (which is principally made up of the same party to which Thatcher belonged) has made a point of condemning schemes that seek to avoid taxes and duties or property. The suggestion in the Guardian article is that a company owning property in the UK would probably be registered in the British Virgin Islands for matters of privacy and tax avoidance.]

13 April 2013 The Week magazine reporting on The Daily Beast website

Ted Heath made her Education Minister because he needed a token woman in his Cabinet, at which Willie Whitelaw said that if they took her they would never be able to get rid of her.

13 April 2013 The Week reporting on The Daily Telegraph newspaper

In 13 years she appointed only one other woman (Baroness Young) to the Cabinet.

Her puppet in the television satirical programme Spitting Image peed standing up in the gents.

13 April 2013 The Week reporting on The Guardian

“She has the eyes of Caligula and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe,” said President Mitterand.

13 April 2013 The Week reporting on The Daily Telegraph

It was a Soviet newspaper that branded her the ‘Iron Lady’ in 1976.

[Our comment: The name stuck, and she was known throughout Britain as the Iron Lady – a reference to her immovable stance on a range of issues – from political status for IRA prisoners to pit closures in the mining districts of Britain.]

16 April 2013 The Guardian

The aim of her government was supposedly to take the state out of people’s lives. Yet, during the Thatcher years, central government established tighter control over schools, colleges and universities than ever before.

16 April 2013 The Guardian

As an inexperienced minister, Thatcher was patronised by the education establishment. When she became prime minister, her revenge transformed education at every level and the treatment of universities was compared to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries.

18 April 2013 The Guardian

George Osborne tweeted “A moving, almost overwhelming day” shortly after leaving St. Paul’s Cathedral after the funeral.

18 April 2013 The Guardian

In the former mining community of Goldthorpe in South Yorkshire, an effigy of Margaret Thatcher was put into a mock coffin and carried to wasteland where it was set alight to cheers and cries of “Scab, scab, scab…”

18 April 2013 The Guardian

The address in the cathedral was given by Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, who wrote Archbishop Runcie’s 1982 Falklands speech that upset Thatcher.

[Our commment: The 29 November 2000 online edition of The Guardian reported that Runcie referred in his Falklands speech to “those who stay at home, most violent in their attitudes and untouched in themselves.”]

David’s Personal Memories

I was a well-paid professional during the Thatcher years. However, I had close friends who were poor. And I saw how they were driven to the margins and abandoned by her rhetoric.

My favourite recollection from the time is of a satirical, fictional account of the battle of the Left and the Right.

At the end, the character played by Robbie Coltrane breaks the pole holding the Union Jack and throws it.

He spears Margaret Thatcher, who deflates like a punctured balloon. Her face, contorted like Dracula, relaxes.

And with her dying breath she thanks Robbie for releasing her.

It was satire; it was funny; and it was painful.