Margaret Thatcher didn’t suffer fools gladly. She out played the men at their own game (Politics was always a boy’s game) and won three consecutive elections for the Conservatives. She was the UK’s first and only female Premier. She never tried to be a man and she didn’t care about being popular. She wanted to do what she thought was right for the country. And for the longest time, the electorate were on her side. In fact she never was voted out, she was stabbed in the back by her weak and venal compatriots, fearful of their own positions and power. It was a Julius Caesar moment for Margaret and not one anybody could really be proud of. She changed the face of Britain, she was brave, fearless and had the courage of her own convictions. The Trade Unions were a powerful force in Britain in 1979. Previous prime ministers Harold Wilson and Edward Heath had run from conflict with them, their tails between their legs. Unions held the country to ransom demanding 40% pay rises and inflation was running at 27%. There were power cuts and bins weren’t emptied for weeks. I remember the miner’s strike and lived through it in the North East of England. My grandfather was a proud man who had worked as a coal cutter – the most dangerous and dirty of all the mining jobs – until he suffered a spike through his leg during one shift. He retired on a pittance after a life time of terribly hard work. But by the seventies things were different. The miners were very well paid and we all knew lads who spent the night shift asleep on the belts and took home a fine pay packet every week. A lot of coal went ‘missing’ from the pits and it was no surprise that they quickly became unprofitable. The real villain of the piece was the vain and egotistical Arthur Scargill who sought only personal glory and could not bring himself to contemplate negotiation to save the industry and the workforce. Until just recently he enjoyed a grace and favour apartment in London, all paid for by Trade Union subs decades after he ceased to have any working role within that Union.
Where’s fifth gear on this thing?
I didn’t agree with her going to war over the Falklands but I understood why she did it. People are always united in the face of a common enemy and even the Russians admitted that it change the way they viewed Britain. We became a force to be reckoned with after that. She was nicknamed the Iron Lady by a Russian journalist in 1976 for her opposition to Soviet communism. She got on with Boris Yeltsin and helped to bring about the end of the Cold War. Another hardly insignificant achievement. Contrast this if you will with Tony Blair’s effusive Middle Eastern promises. Margaret was a woman who believed in hard work. Daughter of grocer Alfred Roberts (not to be confused with the Alf Roberts of Coronation Street fame) benefited from a good Grammar school education and gained a degree in Chemistry at Oxford University, where she became president of the university’s Conservative Association. She also enjoyed a special relationship with Ronald Regan who was president during her time in the highest office. The actor and the grocer’s daughter got on well.
What a lark!
She liked men and I think she probably understood them. One of her more famous quotes is ‘If you want something said ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.’ She got us a rebate back from the European Union which stands to this day ‘I want my money back’ she said. How many of us would have liked a Margaret in there battling for our money back from the European Union since then? The far left vilified and hated her, they always blamed her for destroying Britain but in many ways she saved it. I always remember my mum who came from a mining community quietly saying to me ‘I think someone needs to stand up to the Unions.’ It wasn’t a sentiment I heard her say in public though. And I remember her asking me ‘do you think I should buy the house?’ when the opportunity for ordinary people like us to buy our own council house came up – and me replying – ‘Of course you should!’ I may have never owned my own house if she hadn’t been brave enough to buy hers by herself all those years ago. It saddens me that girls today take what they have now so much for granted. They all want to be famous or be a footballer’s wife. The explosion of social media means that risking unpopularity is practically worse than death. Margaret never feared that. You can turn if you want to, but she never did.