Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope

I turned on the news halfway through yesterday and there was footage of some striking miners in 80s haircuts so I knew Margaret Thatcher had died. As someone who grew up in County Durham, and had several members of my family who worked in the mining industry, I can't say I'm sorry to see the back of her. I would rather she had lived and her ideology died but instead it's the other way round.

She was a cold bird. Perhaps the country needed a dose of her in 1979, after a winter when bins and bodies didn't get collected. But she went on for too long, much too long. Lucky too, the country was ready to vote her out after one term, with her approval rating being only 23% at the end of 1980. But in 1982 Argentina did her a huge favour and invaded the Falklands. The win, along with an economic recovery helped to swing it for her, and she got in again in 1983. If only she had lost it.

Over the 1980s, the refrain from my parents was "The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer". As "respectable" working class, my Dad worked overtime, ferrying drunks home who refused to pay up, on the late night bus shifts. My mother seemed to spend the whole decade wiping down work surfaces and taking college courses in evenings so she could eventually get a job. Because for families like us where mother stayed at home, the only route was underclass. My father's lone wage got so low in real terms that we had to have government assistance. Meanwhile, in our street, more and more families were placed on incapacity benefit.

After my mother got a job things improved, and you could probably view our family as a Thatcher success story - we even bought our council house, the children got to go to University and none of us have any County Court Judgements. But we were exceptions - and the rule was unemployment, crime, breakdown of families and pound shops. When Charles and Di visited my home town in 1983 to open a factory, the council painted the sides of bus stops on their route so they wouldn't have to see all the graffiti.

So I won't weep for Mrs Thatcher, who died after a several-month long stay at the Ritz - the loveliest old people's home in the country. And on the day she died, the ConDem Alliance started key changes to benefits for disabled people which Scope says will result in 600,000 people losing their financial support. Which her death pushed off the news headlines of course. How deliciously appropriate.

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