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Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher: divisive to the end

This morning while hospital visiting I overheard an elderly couple telling anyone who was prepared to listen what a wonderful person Margaret Thatcher was. Clutching a copy of  the Daily Mail, the essential guide for working class Tories, they were pressing all to agree that Port Stanley should be re-named Port Margaret in recognition of Mrs Thatcher's conquering of the "enemy without" adding that she had "done more for the working class than all union officials put together".  The only response came from a frail old man as he shuffled away reminding them that the "enemy within" were the successors of the Bevin Boys who helped us win the real war.

Margaret Thatcher could claim some remarkable achievements but that unguarded comment about the enemy within was not one of them. Her policies split the country and problems created for the mining communities linger on today as families continue to pay the price of their convictions. At the top of the scale those who were to gain most from the Thatcher revolution have learned nothing as they continue to line their pockets while the rest of us are told to tighten our belts. At the bottom of the scale people worry not only about the cost of living but about the cost of dying with the average cost of a funeral exceeding £3,000. It is understandable therefore that people regard spending £10 million of tax-payers money on what appears to be a state funeral in all but name as a grave error of judgement

But at the end of the day this is what politics is all about. There have been many fulsome tributes and some entertaining speeches in both Houses showing parliament at its best. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition set examples of propriety in the Commons while Baroness Shirley Williams, another remarkable female politician, gave us a woman's perspective from the Lords where Mrs Thatcher's ever faithful servant Norman Tebbit expressed his profound regret of having "left her at the mercy of her friends"

Mrs Thatcher served her party well but she was dropped when she became a burden to them. Now, in death, her image is being restored, projecting her as the person who "saved" Britain and made Britain "great" again. That's politics for you but apart from the enormous cost of this exercise it sets a dangerous precedent by drawing the Queen into the political manoeuvering. The Queen's attendance at the funeral appears to endorse the suggestion implied here that she gives royal approval to a period of great divisiveness in which we still live today. That is a matter of great regret.

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