Wednesday, 10 April 2013

My experience of "Thatcherism"

As this is my blog, I feel the need to post my musings on this latest development in the history of what was once this great nation.

In 1979, when I was 7 years old, Margaret Thatcher was elected as prime minister.  I was pleased.  My knowledge of politics as a 7 year old was zero, but I remember us holding a vote in our class on who we wanted to win.  Obviously, it had to be her as she was a girl!  All girls together, so to speak.  This will have been the only time I have ever voted Tory.  About 18 months later, my mum became pregnant.  With the same short-sightedness I was keen for her to have a girl.  I was overjoyed when she did indeed give me a sister and felt it was some sort of victory over my brother (who had of course wanted a boy).  Both preferences turned out to be less than the best choices.  In the short term, having a sister meant I had to share my bedroom.  In the long term, Thatcher screwed up the country.  In hindsight, I think the latter choice was by far the worse of the two.

Many people have been talking about the apocalyptic wasteland that was apparently inherited by Thatcher's government and how the measures she took were apparently vital.  Admittedly, I was too young to really recall any of that.  I remember a really long hot summer in 1976, but I don't think that that was very much influenced by the political climate of the time.  I am willing to admit that some of the decisions made  may have seemed right at the time, but it seems to me that the long term consequences have far outweighed the short term measures that were taken.  Obviously there were some winners, but the ultimate losers were all of us as we learned how to be more self-seeking and that caring for others was the preserve of the weak.

Sadly, Thatcher did not turn out to be a trail-blazer for women.  It seemed to me in the 80s, which I do clearly remember, that the only way for a woman to succeed was to be a man.  Look at the shoulder pads and power dressing that became the norm.  It seems to me that using Thatcher's achievement as the ultimate example of womanhood is like using the terrorists of 9/11 as the ultimate examples of Islam.  They certainly made an impact, but neither of these things should be repeated.

I clearly remember in the 80s the very real and tangible fear of nuclear war.  I remember us going to war over an island full of penguins and sheep.  I remember us sucking up to America at every available opportunity.  I remember a lot of bombings in Northern Ireland.  The miners.  Student loans ( I was the first year for both GCSEs and student loans). And I also remember how being "upwardly mobile" was the goal:  the shallow, selfish pursuit of status and money that became the ultimate achievement for us all.  Yes, some people bought their council houses, but no more were built.  We were all expected to own our own homes, drive our own cars, keep up with the Jones's with our tangible shiny wealth and new technology.  My family could not compete.  I did not have new, fashionable clothes.  We did not get new technology until long after everyone else.  Most of the time we didn't have a car as my dad left with that when I was around 11 and my mum never learned to drive.  I opened my bank account at the NatWest and never got further than the first piggy.  My best friend (whose surname was actually Jones) collected all five. 

Now this is not a whine about "oh poor me" because actually I had a great childhood, but once I became aware of what I did not have, it became a bumpy ride.  All of this attitude towards the haves and have nots, the increasing gap between rich and poor, was created by her government and her policies.

And let's not forget Section 28, which restricted my ability as a teacher to talk to the students in my charge in case I "promoted a pretend family relationship" until 2003!  I remember the AIDS crisis and all the propaganda surrounding that, where her government did nothing to dispel the "gay plague" myth.

I do not believe that the values that she espoused were the best for this country and I believe that they have paved the way for the social inequality and financial crisis that we are now experiencing.  The National Curriculum began the devaluing of our education system, so that no-one trusts teachers as the professionals that they are.  Many of our national institutions and provisions were sold off:  it was like a massive bargain basement where everything had to go.  The traffic congestion on our roads; the housing crisis; the fact we have no industry; the worship of money and the banks; the fact that we are all now in competition with each other - no longer a community all in it together, but a bunch of separate individuals slogging our lonely way through life.  All of these things are directly attributable to that woman and her policies.

So, I'm not sad that she's dead, but neither am I rejoicing.  I am glad that she can no longer be wheeled out like a trophy at politically opportune moments.  I am glad that she is outlived by that "terrorist" Nelson Mandela.  But mostly I feel that the battle has not been won.  The agenda she put into place through the twelve years of her reign - and let's face it, it was a reign - the legacy she has bequeathed us is still here.  It is all around us and pervades our whole society from top to bottom.  Until we have thoroughly purged ourselves from the insidious evil that she has inflicted on us, there is no time to be happy.  Yes, Britain is broken, but let's not forget who stamped on it and cracked it to allow the breaking to take place.  We need to get back to a time when it is us and us, not us and them.

In 1991, when Thatcher was eventually forced out, I received a knock on my door of the room of my student residence.  Stefania, my neighbour, was there and she told me that Margaret Thatcher had gone.  Now that was a day for rejoicing.  But, let us NEVER forget what she did to us all, because she could.  She is gone, but she must not be forgotten.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Emma! Of all the stuff said about Margaret Thatcher over the last couple of days, I think this post is probably the most balanced summing-up I have heard, and we have certainly heard a lot of personal reactions from both sides of the divided nation. Nice to hear from you. X

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