Tag Archives: Thatcher

At last, it’s all over. For now.

I’ve been waiting a long time to write that headline, or something like it. The recently held, unnecessary, ego-driven election to determine who runs the UK seems to have gone on forever; like some kind of degenerative, wasting illness that has to be endured.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve heard politicians speaking (or in some cases, barking) about almost everything, but we haven’t heard any of the detail we want to hear. For example, there’s been virtually no mention of the kind of country we can expect to be living in. None at all. At least, none that I can relate to.

Instead, we’ve heard only that we can expect ‘strong and stable leadership’ from an administration led by The Maybot, Theresa May, (what a joke that empty mantra seems now, after so many climb-downs on her part!) or one that’s ‘for the many not the few’ from ‘Jezza’ Jeremy Corbyn (at least that one sounds plausible, even though it seems to have been invented by a marketing guru).

It’s still a great shame we were not offered a No Confidence space on the ballot paper. For all that the turnout was encouraging to those that would clutch at any straw blowing in the wind, that’s where a great many Xs would’ve ended up.

After all, do we really want a government lead by a woman who looks and sounds as if she is the product of a machine? One that was made on the home counties production line, with all the small-mindedness that that implies? Do we really want to be governed by a person who, at the outset, looked like a young middle-aged woman dreaming of past glories and future triumphs but, by the end, looked like an old middle-aged woman, broken and sad, contemplating her own mortality?

Do we want a government led by a person who was once described by Ken Clarke as “bloody difficult”? By someone who refuses to debate matters on tv? By someone who tells us that ‘strong leadership’ will be needed in the now-stalled negotiations with the European Union, when we must know (unless we are all ostriches) that She Who Tells Us will not be at the negotiating table herself (just as she wasn’t in the tv debate), but that a person with the mindset of a man like David Davis, who describes Brexit as “the defining issue of our age”, will lead the team? Or might it be a member of the DUP?

Or do we want a government led by a person who, at the outset, looked like a broken old milddle-aged man not knowing what to do with retirement but now looks like a young middle-aged man rejuvenated by the thought that the even younger civil servants will do most of the heavy work, and that there are equally pressing issues, other than the dreary one of  leaving the EU, that have to be attended to?

The Conservatives made almost no mention of Britain’s housing crisis, our failing mental health provisions, or child poverty.

They didn’t even have the guts to present themselves as a team. The Supreme Leader was the only one we were asked to think about.

And now we are stuck with that thought; with her. For another five years, or for as long as it takes for her to change her mind – yet again.

Those of us who can’t abide the woman will – like my late mother who used to turn off the telly every time Mrs Thatcher hove in view – have to bear her as we bore Mrs T and survived. I guess we’ll survive Mrs M.

But will she be remembered? Margaret Thatcher

Now that the election is all over, we can only hope that she will disappear into obscurity.

I doubt there’s much hope of that. We all still recall ‘That Woman’. But Mrs May is likely to be remembered as The One That Got Away. For now.

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Vote, don’t shout

It’s been a while now since those of us who count ourselves as UK citizens first heard we were going to get a vote on staying in or leaving the European Union.

Since then and more recently, there has been a lot of shouting.

But not a lot of speaking unto truth. Even now, with less than two weeks to go, no one is telling us how things will be. They’re all willing to say – or, rather, shout – “If we stay it will be so and so”, or “If we leave it will be so and so”, but no one is prepared to tell us how it will really be after June 23.

I tend to agree with one young person who, it was reported a few days ago, said that it sounded like a lot of old men shouting at each other.

For that’s what it has been: a lot of middle-aged, if not older, people shouting at each other, here and elsewhere, in the press and on the television as well as on the radio.

People shout at each other, instead of having a rational, even quiet debate about the issues. Someone said the other day that Hillary Clinton won’t get elected because she doesn’t shout enough, and because she’s not good-looking enough.

Was Mrs Thatcher good-looking? She was glamorous, for sure, but I’m not sure if she shouted. She did, at least, sound strident.

Was Golda Meir good-looking? That depends on your point of view, but I don’t recall her shouting.

Angel Merkel is neither a hot-looking woman, nor given to shouting.

Hillary Clinton is good-looking enough for me.

But doo we have to have a good-looking person in charge of the leading nation in the Western World?

And do we have to have a voice in what’s being said, despite being “the fifth most prosperous nation in the world”, as one shouty middle-aged man put it?

Of course, we want to be taking part in the world. Who doesn’t, or wouldn’t?

But, do we have to shout about it? Can’t we just vote?

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The passing of a life

In the strange short week since the announcement of Margaret Thatcher’s death, we still haven’t heard or seen anything like enough words about her or her works to fill the emptiness created by the many now-disused, Thatcher-closed coal mines scattered across England, Wales and Scotland.

Nor have we heard enough that will bring true life back to the many communities where hope lies cold, like dead ashes on the remains of once lively fires.

We have, of course, learned beyond all doubt that Mrs Thatcher remains in death as divisive a figure as she was in life.

For myself, I have one abiding memory of her impact on my own life and times.

In 1984, when the effects of Mrs Thatcher’s policies were at their rampant worst for people like me, I was working in an advertising agency just a few yards from Fleet Street.

On the day the striking miners’ protest march reached London, I was moved by a not-to-be-denied sense of sympathy for their cause and left my office to stand on the pavement as they passed down the street, which in those days was still lined with newspaper offices.

What I remember now is the quiet dignity of the men and women I saw pass by.

Not for them the contentiously raucous cries of “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, OUT, OUT, OUT” that I’d heard so many times before.

The almost silent nature of their moving protest gave it – and them – more power than any hand-held tannoy system could muster.

Quiet defiance

To see them – to be almost amongst them – was to experience something of the half-hidden desperation of their cause. Exhausted after days of marching, they were like warriors in a battle they long-since knew they could never win, no matter what their leaders may say.

Yet, defeated though they seemed, they were still quietly defiant.

Later that day, as I cycled home from work, I passed through Hyde Park, where many of the miners and their families had gathered to listen to music before dispersing to their communities, almost all of them threatened by the life-bleeding effects of pit closures and the heartbreak of mass unemployment.

Many years earlier, as a boy only lately out of short pants and attending an Eisteddfod , I had been thrilled by the sound of a Welsh brass band. And I had experienced that hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck feeling as I stood surrounded by the rising, falling, echoing voices of a male voice choir.

But this was different.

This day the sound I heard seemed to be that of an entire people mourning the passing of a way of life; men, women and children united in one voice, chorusing their sadness as if its very singing would somehow soothe it out of existence.

Never had a trombone cried so piteously or summoned such emotion in me.

I had, after all, been down a coal mine as a boy. I had seen in the eyes of miners the blazing pride as they toiled like animals in their underground work, seemingly hewing their very lives from the coal-face far beneath their valley homes.Coal 4

I had, too, been to a valley steel works where leather-clad men, their eyes narrowed against the glaring heat, had puddled molten steel as it roiled in the roaring ovens.

And, as a teenager in the merchant navy, my ears had been rattled by the jack-hammer rat-a-tat-tat of riveting machines in a Jarrow shipyard on the Tyne.

I believed I had seen the places where men made the real, hard-earned wealth of the nation.

Now I was witnessing the squandering of that power and energy by a government led by a woman whose market forces mantra allowed no room for the sentimental preservation of industries that had been the bedrock of Britain’s standing in the world.

A hopeless cause

Only a few years earlier, we had been described as the sick man of Europe.

The Thatcher remedy seemed to be to cut out the perceived cause of the illness, in the hope that the wounded body would recover.

Tragically, in doing so, she cut the heart out of countless communities, leaving them directionless, workless and – for a generation and more – hopeless.

There are, of course, many who say that what had to be done had to be done.

That you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.

But who’s to say that Britain even needed an omelette just then?

It’s true things had to change; that the country needed fresh ideas about how to sustain its place and make – and pay – its way in the world.

Perhaps a different diet would’ve achieved the same ends. Something more digestible might’ve served the patient better.

Certainly, a more ameliorative approach might’ve cured our ills without leaving us with the scars inflicted by a woman whose heavy handed methods spoke more of butchery than surgery.

As it is, we struggle on, still trying to shake off the worst effects of the disease that became known as Thatcherism.

May the self-appointed doctor rest in peace. And may we never see her like again.

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