Ding Dong! The Witch is dead: Thatcher’s legacy

As I was thinking of a title for this post about my thoughts over the death, announced yesterday, of British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, the song from Wizard of Oz popped into my head and I thought it appropriate. I did a quick research on the internet just to make sure I was quoting the words correctly and was shocked – yet not surprised – to find there is a Facebook campaign to make the song number one in the charts in ‘memory’ of Thatcher.

Great minds think alike?

It would appear the campaign is working with the song already in the Top 40 download chart. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but then I’m not sure how I feel about ‘Maggie’ in general.

I won’t go into a full history of the woman or all she did – good and bad – here. There are plenty of blogs and websites that will give you that information much more accurately than I. I do want to highlight some of the things that touched in my life and the legacy she left as I see it.

Growing up in 70s Britain, Thatcher was the first Prime Minister I can remember. She took away our milk drinks at school. That was ok, no one died from that. But it was the sign of things to come. She did that even before she became PM.

Her stance on immigration paved the way for the National Front to gain popularity. I watched NF activists in my hometown of Coalville, beat the hell out of a black guy selling burgers in a stall and no one stopped them. I saw the only Indian/Bangladeshi restaurant in the town repeatedly smashed up by NF youths so that it never succeeded in opening up. More than 10 years later the restaurant “The Rose of Bengal” was still boarded up and looked derelict but I was informed that the family, who lost everything to that shop, still lived there in abject poverty.

Her policies resulted in 3.6 million unemployed – the highest figure in British history. You still hear the unemployed being referred to as “Maggie’s Millions” from time to time. My hometown was severely hit and depression hung in the air so thickly you could cut it with a knife wherever you went. A whole generation grew up believing themselves to be worthless.

She closed 150 coal mines across the country bringing the industry to a close after years of fights with Arthur Scargill and the trade unionists. My hometown again – remember its name? Sure enough, the pit closed. Looking back, I can’t believe how destitute the town was yet at the time I just took it for granted. It is little wonder the depressed lyrics of Pink Floyd were so popular at the time. “We don’t need no education” was the mantra of every angry young man – and there were so many angry young men back then.

The list goes on (I’m referring to a list I read on Facebook which has 42 points on it) but I just wanted to bring up the ones I remember. She did good things too but, if I am honest, it is difficult to quantify just what those things were. Some are things that would have happened anyway.

She was known as the ‘Iron Lady’ and this was for good reason. She didn’t budge, she didn’t compromise. “The lady’s not for turning” was a very famous expression of hers. Even then you either loved her or loathed her.

My mother admired her (my parents were always Conservative voters) and constantly pointed out she was one of the most admired women in the world. True. She was certainly a true ‘rags to riches’ story.

My Physics teacher would hear nothing of praise for her. He would allow no other opinion in the classroom other than she was “pure evil”. All other thoughts were banned he hated her that much. The schools were constantly on strike and some teachers were even on social benefits in order to survive. It was a dire situation for education that only just began to recover as I began classroom teaching myself in the late 90s.

I finally watched the film ‘Billy Elliot’ last year (I know, I know – how could it have taken me so long?) but, unlike the majority of people who are adoring fans of the film I couldn’t be one. Not that the story and the music wasn’t wonderful. It was the setting, the background. Billy Elliot’s life was my life (sans dancing admittedly). I grew up in that and it was ugly, vicious and just about as depraved a history I hope the UK ever has to go through. There was nothing pleasantly nostalgic about the film for me. It was like reliving a nightmare.

May you rest in peace Mrs Thatcher, but may we all never need peace so much as we did after you were thrown out of Government. It took your own party to do what Labour and the rest of the country failed to be able to for eleven long years. I hope we never have to have that situation again.

About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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16 Responses to Ding Dong! The Witch is dead: Thatcher’s legacy

  1. chair-through-the-air says:

    Please explain “may you rest in peace.” I do/can not know whether MT is in heaven or in hell now, but I do know her eternal destiny will have been determined by whether she trusted (before death)in Christ to save her from her sins. So, either she is resting in peace now, or she isn’t, but no “may you rest in peace” from anyone will every change her eternal state.

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    • As I have stated many times, this blog is not for the airing of religious views – mine or anyone else’s – but, for the moment, I’ll entertain this one.

      I don’t think my wishing a fellow human being a hope for future rest is suggestive of having any power to alter his or her ‘eternal state’ whatever that may or may not be. As I am sure you are well aware, the Christian faith makes it clear that no one knows that fate of any others no matter how ‘pious’ or ‘sinful’ they may appear even right to the end and for that reason we are to ‘judge no one’. Therefore my wish for Thatcher is the same I would wish for any human being, that their future state be one of peace. The ‘may’ is indicative of the doubt about their future abode, the ‘rest in peace’ is a hope for a good one. I don’t see anything objectionable about that…

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      • chair-through-the-air says:

        Am I the “stupid blog commenter” (returned)?!! (Don’t bite the hand that feeds!!!!)
        I was not saying your use of the conventional saying RIP was objectionable; rather I was saying it was illogical. I personally, as a Christian, would not use it because I would consider it (saying R IP) a denial of my faith, for the reasons stated in my original comment, ie my wishing can’t change the situation.
        I did not post this to be obnoxious or objectionable, but to seriously question the logic of using this phrase. And to have a bit of fun!

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        • I don’t know: Are you the stupid blog commenter? I have many and almost all of them don’t make it to being posted on this blog but are censored by me. If your comment made it through you can make whatever assumption you like. “Don’t bite the hand that feeds” – is that a threat? You forget, as owner of this blog, I get to know who you really are…

          No I’m sorry but I see no logic to your argument. There would be no denial of faith issue here. I wished Thatcher well for whatever the next life holds for her. It was not a statement of faith.

          If your statement was ‘obnoxious or objectionable’ it would not appear on this blog. Such things would be considered too stupid in my book and I too, like to have fun…

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  2. Andy W says:

    Ken, how many of Thatcher’s reforms were reversed by subsequent Labour governments?
    Change is often a partner with pain.

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    • As I say, she did good things too though they are difficult to ascertain exactly in real ‘on the street’ terms. I think you could ask that question of any PM and any new Government. It is rare that something introduced by one Government is then instantly scrapped by the next. That leads to chaos.

      Instead, things gradually adapt or phase out or are replaced by modifed versions of things. There are many of Thatcher’s reforms still in place today and one could argue that most of those are like scars that have never healed completely.

      This piece by The Guardian perhaps is more helpful to see what things under Thatcher were like:
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/datablog/2013/apr/08/britain-changed-margaret-thatcher-charts

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  3. I couldn’t right much about her when I blogged about her death yesterday, mainly because either I was too young to remember her, until her final hours in power or because as I grew up (and as you correctly point out) she had many political views and policies which I don’t or didn’t agree with. I do, however, call her a great leader in my post, not because she lead this country successfully but the mere fact she was the only ‘female’ leader. That on it’s own deserved some recognition.

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    • Yes you are right and, I have to admit, the discussion about the level of ‘State’ or otherwise funeral she should have is right and proper. She was a major figure in modern history and I’m a far cry from calling her ‘evil’ as some did and still do. I also think that those who say ‘good riddance’ about her death are uncharitable at the least and downright inhuman at the worst. We also have to remember that Thatcher didn’t work alone – she had a full cabinet of ministers doing her bidding too. Her crimes are their crimes too.

      But – overall – I think I come down firmly in the ‘not in favour’ camp rather than the ‘she was a Mother Teresa’ camp. So far, I haven’t found anyone who hasn’t joined me…

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  4. Marie Mee says:

    Couldn’t have put it better myself

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  5. renxkyoko says:

    I don’t know if I should tell you, but US papers have so many articles written about her, and 90% aren’t very complimentary.

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    • That amuses me considering how Thatcher is famous for cementing the relationship with America that still dogs the British now – we still believe that we jump like a good dog whenever the US calls us. That all started with Thatcher and Reagan…

      I don’t think there are many newspapers or blogs saying how wonderful she was though, in fairness, some things she did right…

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  6. Addie says:

    I didn’t know much about MG, good or bad, until after having watched The Iron Lady which starred Meryl Streep. Even then I don’t remember having been impressed by her – or maybe it’s the movie, what do I know.

    “She took away our milk drinks at school. That was ok, no one died from that. ” HAHA. Thanks to this post – I am educated. I find this eulogy/dyslogy lovely in more ways than one.

    Rest in peace, Mrs Thatcher.

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