The Wicked Witch may be dead, but what has she left behind?
In October of 1926 a baby girl was born to Alfred and Beatrice Roberts, who grew up in a small, tight knit community and went to Oxford University to study chemistry. In 1950 and 1951 she ran for election in Dartford and although she didn’t win, it paved the way for her future political success. In 1951 she married a man called Dennis Thatcher and together had twins in 1953. In 1959 she was elected to Parliament as an MP for Finchley, North London and in 1975 she became leader of the Conservative Party.
It was in 1979 that the Conservatives won the General Election and the ‘Iron Lady’ was born in earnest. I was only 5 years old at the time and so I don’t remember first hand why Labour lost the election, research tells me that it was largely due to the failing economy. The IMF had given the country a loan and had imposed strict rules in order for the Government to put right the mess it had found itself in (sound familiar?).
So the Conservatives won the election and had the enormous task of correcting the economy and getting us back in the ‘black’, how were they going to do this?
Spending cuts, privatisation and the closure of coal mines followed, people lost their jobs, children went hungry and then there were the strikes!
Although I was only about 10 when they happened, I do remember the strikes. Every day the news was showing more pickets, fighting with the police and general anarchy in a time when people should have been pulling together to ride out the storm.
People were angry that their Government could do this to them, leave them with no job and no means to support their family, and rightly so. In times of national crisis and instability people need to know where their next meal is coming from, they need to have a roof over their heads and they need to be able to feed their children. The unemployment figures were growing and there was still more to come. Is this when Margaret Thatcher earned the title of ‘The Wicked Witch’?
In 1982 the British military was sent to recover the Falkland Islands from Argentina who had tried to take the Islands as their own.
The conflict cost the lives of 277 British troops, 649 Argentinians and 3 Falkland Islanders and again caused the Thatcher Government some controversy.
The next thing to fall under the Thatcher scythe was national infrastructure, mainly British Rail. In order to cut costs, British Rail was privatized, meaning more people lost their jobs.
In among all of this was the ‘Troubles’ in Ireland and the constant threat of the IRA bombings. I remember these quite well, I suppose it may be because they were quite frequent and always in the news. The IRA were different to the terrorists of today, they were not about causing the most casualties, it was about making a statement. This is apparent as there was always a warning, there was usually enough time to get as many people out of harms way as possible, there were often some casualties but I think they would have been far worse without the warnings. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t in any way condone what they did anymore than I condone terrorists today, there is always an alternative way to make your point. Margaret Thatcher took a hard stance with the IRA, but it was only after she lost power that the peace talks came about under John Major and then the Labour Government and the IRA was technically disbanded.
It was in 1989 that Mrs Thatcher made her most unpopular decision, the Community Charge gave local councils more control over their income, they hiked up local taxes and blamed Margaret Thatcher. This caused major upset among the population and the ‘Poll Tax Riots‘ occurred. this also cemented her title of ‘The Wicked Witch’.
Of course there had been protests and marches in retaliation to privatization and other controversial measures brought in by Thatcher, but this was the worst violence the city of London had seen in over a century. It was soon after this that Mrs Thatcher lost the vote within her party to retain leadership, given the scale of the protests and the public mood there was no chance of Margaret Thatcher winning another election which meant she had to go. John Major took over at the helm of the Conservative Party and soon scrapped the Poll Tax, this was an obvious good move as he went on to win the next election and stayed in power until 1997 when ‘New Labour’ won under the leadership of Tony Blair.
So, what has Mrs Margaret Thatcher left behind? The answer to this question largely depends on your views, some would say that without her reign, British politics would not be what it is today and the Labour Party wouldn’t be what they are today. The 11 year reign of Thatcher made the Labour Party address the issues of why they failed to be elected for 19 years and forced them to re-evaluate what they stand for. There are many people who own their own home following Thatcher’s ‘right to buy scheme’ who would previously have had to continue to rent their home from the council.
The privatization of British infrastructure has caused some problems long-term, with increased rail fares and less accountability and of course she has left behind a lot of bitterness and hatred from those whose livelihoods she took. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like the Conservative Party learned much from Mrs Thatcher’s reign, they continue to make policies which will make them unpopular and are less than firm on the things which truly matter to the electorate. People are again becoming disillusioned with our Government, the Occupy movement outside St Pauls Cathedral and the August Riots of 2011 are testimony to this. I am not sure if the Conservatives will win the next election but with history repeating itsef, even if only in part, anything is possible.
There’s one thing that can be said about Margaret Thatcher. Love her, or loathe her the lady had balls.
By Emma Pollard.