Saturday 28 November 2009

Raising a glass

When I was reminded that today is the anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's resignation as Prime Minister, my first thought was "How do we celebrate?" And I will be raising a glass tonight in memory of having finally got rid of her as PM. But overall I think it's occasion for a more sober and reflective reaction. Because although we got rid of her, we didn't get rid of her legacy. We didn't then and we still haven't now.

She did some good things - freeing up the economy in general was a good thing. She went too far in this. An example is the licence given to bankers to drive us into recession by not giving a damn about prudence. Her opposition to Communism was a good thing - and eventually vindicated - but again she went much too far in vindictiveness towards any philosophy that didn't chime with hers. Women's rights didn't get too far under her reign.

But overall the worst part of her legacy is one we have hardly escaped at all, and it doesn't look as if we will in the foreseeable future. That is the pernicious poison that entered the nation's soul - a philosophy that greed was good as long as you could find a way of dressing it up, a view that the only person that counts is "me" (while all the time pontificating about family values, as long as they were for other people - remember Cecil Parkinson and his secretary). The sheer nastiness and hypocrisy of her reign was mirrored in the actions and activities of thousands of others, and was worked out in the enrichment of half the country at the expense of the other, poorer half. That viciousness is still alive in the attitudes of many people in this country today - not just Conservatives, though sadly many of them seem to echo those ideas and nonprinciples.

I will raise a glass to the end of Thatcher's reign, but unfortunately not to the end of Thatcherism.

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