Photo from Reuters shows a carton of milk placed outside the home of Margaret Thatcher after her death was announced
Margaret Thatcher’s personality is probably best embodied by her refusal to make any U-turns. “You turn if you want to”, was one of her most-often quoted quips, followed by the famous line, “The lady’s not for turning”.
While differing political analysts (for example, in The Guardian and The Telegraph) continue to debate her legacy, it is when you hear interviews with ordinary people that you can really understand why she continues to be such a divisive figure. Much like Mintoff in Malta, Thatcher evokes violent reactions in the UK.
Watching Northerners being interviewed on the news yesterday, as they spoke about how their lives were ruined, whole communities destroyed and their spirits crushed by Thatcher’s extreme right-wing policies, it is easy to empathise with those who “raised a pint” at her demise. In typical sardonic British humour, there were those who called for a glass of milk, a reference to the time when Thatcher, as Head of Education, removed free milk from state schools, earning her the nickname “Thatcher the milk snatcher”.
In contrast, it is interesting to read comments all over the Internet by those who openly admired her because she was such a bulldozer when it came to implementing what she firmly believed was the best way forward. The fact that, as a woman, she seemed to have more “balls” than many of her male colleagues is a very salient point. Women in decision-making positions who demonstrate the kind of gung-ho fearlessness which is usually associated with the masculine, are looked at with fascination, and even awe, because they blow apart the stereotypes we inevitably carry around in our head. I wonder whether she would have been as admired if she had been a man, or whether it was her very gender which made her nerves of steel appear so formidable?
I was never a fan of Thatcher myself, not only because I did not agree with her politics, but primarily because I do not think it is necessary for any leader (no matter their gender) to cast aside their compassion and humaneness when they are implementing policies for the country. Politicians affect our every day lives with their actions and it is no wonder that there are those who will forever blame Thatcher for encouraging a hatred of the working class and for ushering in the culture of greed with the 1980s yuppie “me” generation.
Governing is not just an academic exercise. Whatever one’s good intentions are, and regardless of one’s firm convictions, admitting that one is wrong, and even making a U-turn, should not be something to be despised.
After all, one’s legacy comes to nothing if on your death there are people who organize street parties and openly rejoice on websites like http://isthatcherdeadyet.co.uk that, yes, you are finally gone.