The legacy of Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher


Unsurprisingly, there has been a lot of outrage in the Twitterverse over the past two days. Outrage at the shocking disrespect people on the Internet are showing for a great stateswoman. Outrage at those people for suggesting that she deserves respect. Outrage among lefties at how best to proceed so as not to make everyone look like a dispassionate arsehole. Outrage by older people at younger generations for not even really knowing who Thatcher was. In death as in life, then; dividing people left, right and centre.

I really am sorry Margaret Thatcher’s dead. I’m sorry in the same way I would be at the death of any 87-year-old who had been suffering ill health and had finally succumbed. I’m sorry for her family and friends at the awful loss they must feel. But this question of respect is a thorny one. I’m not going to make crass jokes on the Internet; all it’ll achieve for those with genuine criticisms is make them look like ignorant plonkers with too much time of their hands. I respect and mourn her suffering as a fellow human being, but that has to be separated from her politics. I struggle to see why we should show respect for someone who in life showed so staggeringly little for so many in society. Johann Hari tweeted yesterday that rather than gloat, fellow lefties ought to redouble efforts to support victims of her policies; links followed to Stonewall and a children’s charity in the Welsh valleys among others.

That seems the best way to me. Because ultimately I’m less concerned with what Thatcher did in the 80s than with what the government are doing to us now, often in the name of that legacy. Yes, her success as the first female Prime Minister deserves a heck of a lot of respect for the sheer fight it took to get there. It should probably also give progressives pause that she sprang not from a well of supposed (if not actual) gender equality but from that bastion of upper class male privilege, the Conservative Party. So for that, bravo. At the end of the day though, she didn’t half pull the ladder up after her.

We should show Thatcher the respect she deserves as a human being and a servant of her country. But decent human compassion has to be separate from enforced respect of political ideology, and that seems to be a distinction that’s getting a bit blurry on the Internet today. Too often a call for ‘respect’ is used to stymie legitimate debate and critique. We – those with a less rose-tinted view of her premiership – shouldn’t let ourselves be told to sit down and shut up, to show some respect, rather than continuing to acknowledge the damage, as well as the good, that she did.


One Response to “The legacy of Margaret Thatcher”

  1. Matt Gilley

    Apr 10. 2013

    This is pretty much exactly my thoughts on the matter. Well said.

    Reply to this comment

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