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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Passing Thoughts

When I first came to Britain to live September 1, 1980, Margaret Thatcher had been The First Among Equals for 16 months. My very first visit to Britain has been from mid November 1978 till early December of that year. Little did I know it at the time, but negotiations between the unions and the government over the amount of pay rises were critical at that time and would eventually lead to the devastating strikes that would become known as 'The Winter of Discontent'. Strikes that would arguably lead to the unexpected election of The Iron Lady.

Upon my first visit I was warned that the unions had a habit of one day strikes -- especially affecting public transportation -- and indeed that did prove to be the case. However, in general I was not unduly affected by industrial action. My love life brought me back to Britain only 6 months later -- in June. So in the interim, Mrs. Thatcher would have been newly elected -- but  on that visit political history made no impact on me at all! I had to live here before that would happen.

The move to England came in September 1980. This novice American had quite a shock as she watched the annual political conferences shortly after arrival! Words like 'manifesto' instead of 'platform' were used by both parties without the innuendo of 'communism'! The Labour party conference addressed its delegates as 'comrades'. You don't hear that word used by the Labour Party  any more!

Then in November Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States -- and 'the die was cast'...

Around September 1981 we moved to the town of Southport in the north west of England from Diss in Norfolk -- just after the Toxteth riots in Liverpool. Margaret Thatcher and her government were facing down the unions and the battles had begun. A newcomer to British politics, I was an enthralled witness to a very different kind of political drama than what I was accustomed to in the United States. Battles between the 'right' and the 'left' would be violent and prolonged. The miners were convinced they had the power to bring down the government -- as they had once before. Mrs. Thatcher was determined to stand firm and she did not flinch. The cost to the miners is still being felt today.

My politics do not coincide with those of Margaret Thatcher. I did not like her stridency. Her hectoring voice could give me a headache, while her attempts to sound calm and reasonable seemed false and insincere. But I did admire her forth right candour and her toughness. . She was right about Gorbachev, who I greatly admire, and I give her credit for the influence she had on Reagan.

There were moments when she took my breath away -- such as her strength of character after the Brighton bombing. I agreed with her when she demanded that Europe pay back the money Britain had owing -- and which ironically still has not been paid. Her appearance when she appeared in Parliament for the last time was phenomenal.

I believe that Mrs. Thatcher exhausted those of us who had to live with her. I can remember the feeling of relief when John Major with his authentically calm voice became Prime Minister. The arguments prevailing over her upcoming funeral bring it all back -- Her premiership was eleven years of that kind of vitriol -- and whether she was right or she was wrong, it was exhausting.But I don't believe she was 'evil'. Perhaps her policies were a necessary evil -- and even though I and many others think there could have been 'better ways',  we will never know, because things just are what they are.  She was a force of nature and she changed everything. I do believe history will be kind to her.

25 comments:

  1. Sorry, but I have to mention 'winter of discontent', which is meant as the fruition of discontent, not an ordinary winter. It's a bit of a thing with me. I found her exhausting too, and I think she exhausted an entire nation so completely, that it will take several generations to get the energy back - long after I am dead.

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    1. Thanks for that input, Tom. When I hear people talk about this period it's usually about the 'result' -- bodies not being buried, garbage piling up, etc. and not the cause...

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  2. Thanks for this inside view of Mrs. Thatcher.It's always easier to admire someone else's leader instead of your own.

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  3. A very fair summary, Broad, and one with which I largely concur. I too didn't share her politics and found her manner and voice intensely off-putting, but at least some of what she did really needed to be tackled. With all her faults, she was a woman of conviction and immense force of character and will not easily be forgotten.

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    1. In fact, it seems to me, that you'd think it all happened 'yesterday' and not 30 or more years ago!

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  4. I knew very little about her until I saw the movie with Meryl Streep playing her in Iron Lady. Then I researched quite a bit of the history and learned that she was a divisive figure but, like Reagan, quite influential in moving her country in a particular direction. Thanks for this inside look into her effects on you.

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    1. Meryl Streep's performance was astonishing.

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  5. I found her utterly exhausting, extremely off-putting and certainly didn't agree with her politics. Her policies still cast a long and divisive shadow.

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    1. That long and divisive shadow is still very much with us, I'm sad to say.

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  6. Her kow-towing to business interests brought us to the disastrous state we are in today.

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    1. I agree that it began with her, but Labour had the chance to make things better and only made things worse...

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  7. Exhausting. A good way to describe her. And so insincere in interviews with the media. She routinely began by ever-so-sweetly attacking the person interviewing her, in order to cow the reporter.

    It will, indeed, take Britain a long time to recover from "she who must no be named," as Tom identified her.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!
    Bears Noting

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    1. It's a funny thing how so many reports talk about how she had to get rid of the shrillness in her voice and learn to speak in a different way -- as if it was a positive thing. I always thought it sounded artificial and very irritating.

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  8. I wouldn't deign to pass judgment, not being a voting resident of the country she governed. I do have to say, however, that the tone of some of the people celebrating - and I do mean celebrating - her death is infantile and entirely disrespectful.

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    1. I agree it's infantile and entirely disrepspectful ... but it is also, unfortunately, understandable. Scars have not healed and may continue for generations -- and much of that which is attributed to her is not actually valid...

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  9. I can just imagine how tired you would have been having to live with here on the telly.

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    1. Just the sound of her voice could do it -- didn't matter what she was saying ...

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  10. I'm exhausted just thinking about Mrs Thatcher. My first impression of her, growing up in the same town in the South Wales valleys as Aneurin Bevan and Neil Kinnock and with Michael Foot as our MP, was “Thatcher, Thatcher, the milk snatcher” as Minister for Education! As a female scientist she did little to encourage science in schools. I have no love for what she achieved and even less for the way in which she did it. I think she actually set back the cause of women by showing that in order to achieve anything you couldn’t do it with compassion. She left us all to the whim of ‘market forces’. Some of us (including me) did well under her leadership but this was at the expense of those who didn’t.

    She was a remarkable individual, and some of her achievements would have been because of the ineptitude of some of her opponents – Arthur Scargill et al. She did change the face of politics. The jury is out on whether this was for the better.

    The drubbing the Tories received in 1997 was part of her legacy. I had such hopes in 1997 that things would be different, because after all “Things can only get better…”! In some ways they did, but then I was disappointed

    I have sympathy for her family and friends and for the way in her later years her mental capacity was diminished. I hope she was accorded a respectful and civilised funeral.

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    1. Her funeral was certainly respectful and civilised. And as an exercise in 'people watching' absolutely fascinating...

      Thanks for your comment, Gaynor. Since I was living in the North of England for most of her premiership, I can understand much of the animosity felt for her. I feel much more toward Tony Blair, however. Thatcher had a kind of integrity about her politics -- Blair lost all of his...

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  11. my daughter advanced to Nationals in a history competition by playing Margaret Thatcher...so I like her!!!

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    1. As good a reason as any, Annmarie!

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  12. Thanks for giving us a fuller glimpse of this woman. Your descriptions are richer than anything I ever heard from the news channels back then.
    So much for objective reporting.
    It all goes to show that the media shape opinions and perceptions all around them.
    Only ordinary people can tell us how political decisions affect them.

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    1. Objective reporting is a hard act to accomplish! And a lot of time when we hear it, we don't recognize it -- especially if it goes against what we want to believe!

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Receiving comments is a joy and I thank you all for taking the trouble and showing your interest. Makes me feel all gooey and stuff!