Monday 8 April 2013

Margret Thatcher 1925 - 2013

Where do you begin when looking back at the career of former Prime Minister Margret Thatcher?

One blog will never be enough. I'd need to write at least 10 blog posts to cover her impact on Britain as Prime Minister. If I had one sentence to try and sum up her career I would say this:

She was the most influential, controversial, divisive, and successful Prime Minster the country has seen in the last 50 years.

If you look back at the 20th Century, only Winston Churchill could be said to have had a greater impact and influence.

One of 'Thatcher's Children'

I'm an 80's child and I grew up with Mrs Thatcher as Prime Minister. Growing up in a household where my Dad was very anti the Conservative Party, I saw Mrs Thatcher as the enemy.

Some of my earliest political memories from the early 80's was hearing about the 3 million people who were unemployed. It seemed her economic policies were detrimental to many working class people around the country.

Her time in office was defined by her battles. Whether it was with her own party and the Tory 'wets'. The trade unions, the Miners, The Falklands War, battles with Europe; there was always conflict with Mrs Thatcher.

Towards the end of her period in power she'd won many of these battles, but this may have given her a false sense of invincibility. She thought she could win any battle - but as we saw with the Poll Tax riots she was beginning to think she could do anything.

By the time I reached my teens, I thought Mrs Thatcher would go on forever, she seemed so powerful nobody would ever topple her.

It was my 15th birthday when she finally left Number 10. Her leaving office was a significant moment and today feels the same.

Her legacy

I was talking about Mrs Thatcher last week with one of my friends at work. He asked me whether I thought Mrs Thatcher was a successful Prime Minister.

I said it all depends on which part of the political spectrum you stand on. For many particularly on the Left she was a disaster for Conservatives she was and remains a hero.

My argument was that in terms of implementing her policies and the affects those policies had - she was the most successful British politician of the 20th Century.

Her influence is significant. Conservatives see Thatcherism as being the defining feature of Conservatism. In truth Margret Thatcher was not a typical Conservative.

She wasn't what was known as a moderate traditional 'One Nation' Tory. She was actually a radical. Tearing up the post war consensus politics and moving the Tories to the Right.

The problem she left for the Tories is that she was so divisive - many people today simply refuse to vote Conservative. The party is still trying to 'detoxify' the Tory brand.

Secondly, she's made the Tory Pary too ideological, they've forgotten the art of winning General Elections through pure pragmatism. This was what historically made the Tories such a successful political party.

Her influence means many Tories seem unable to move on, and accept that her policies may have been right for the 1980s but now the Party needs to find a new way of connecting with voters.

The Labour Party

She didn't just change the Conservative Party, Labour were hugely affected by her time in office. Without her there simply wouldn't have been New Labour.

After a series of election defeats she essentially pulled the Labour Party to the Right of the political spectrum and many of the policies that she introduced and adopted were carried on by New Labour.

Many old Left traditional Labour members would argue this wasn't a good thing - but the party had to adapt to the new political landscape she created.

A changed country

There's so much more I could say, and in the next few days and weeks more reflection and analysis will take place on her period in office.

There's no doubt that in terms of British politics, she will go down as one of the most important and influential politicians this country has ever known.

She changed Britain on so many levels: Economically, socially, and culturally. Being a history graduate and understanding what Britain was like during the 1970s. I understand why she came to power.

I understand the battles she fought and the policies she implemented

Was Britain in a stronger position in 1990 when she left office than when she arrived in 1979?

I would say yes. She gave this country a very tough medicine to take and it wasn't always nice.

Many people will never forget the harsh treatment dished out and it's this lack of compassion and harshness that I'm probably most critical of when it comes of her years in office.

What I can say is that it doesn't matter whether you liked or hated her nobody can argue against her incredible impact on Britain as a country.

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