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Tuesday 23 November 2010

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

Actually, the anniversary was yesterday: twenty years since Margaret Thatcher left 10 Downing Street after an occupation lasting more than eleven years. To some of us it felt like a lot longer. I have no doubt that many in the right leaning part of the blogosphere are remembering Mrs T rather more fondly, but would estimate that they are in a minority overall.

From the fraudulent 1979 “Labour isn’t working” poster – the Thatcher years saw the 1.3 million unemployed of that year increase by another two millions – to the ineptitude of the Poll Tax, she was cheered by the suitably monied and equally detested by those who had been dumped on the scrapheap.

And it wasn’t just the extra two million unemployed: the number on Incapacity Benefit leapt from half a million to over one and three quarter millions. If anyone is in any doubt as to where the benefit culture and generational worklessness began, they need look no further than the Thatcher years.

What positive things did the UK get from Maggie? Well, we did overcome a tin pot dictatorship in South America, but then, Thatcher and Co effectively provoked the whole business by leaving the Falkland Islands without the means to protect themselves.

Fortunately, the French rode to our rescue by making sure the Argentines did not get any more air launch Exocet missiles, but I don’t recall much in the way of thanks being publically offered to them.

We did get a positive engagement with the EU, contrary to some of the rhetoric and the newspaper reporting. Thatcher played hardball but always stayed positive on Europe, and by doing so, secured a better budget settlement for the UK.

But more than cancelling that out is the demonisation of local Government and subsequent centralising of power. This showed the vindictive side of Margaret Thatcher, as did the grinding down of trade unions and the spiteful removal of Thames TV’s franchise for daring to make a documentary raising inconvenient questions.

All of these minus points contributed to there being no outpouring of sympathy following Michael Heseltine’s supposed act of regicide. Those who still have fond memories of the “Iron Lady” are welcome to their views, but they would do well to wonder why so many others are either agnostic, or opposed.

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