I was born in 1979, so my first eleven years were spent in the shadow of The Iron Lady. I vividly remember the arguments, the divisions and the speeches. I can still feel the passion and emotion in the voices of people – both for and against her politics – in my home, and elsewhere. Both sides equally vehement. Both sides with the strength of their convictions. Since she resigned in 1990, we have had several more Prime Ministers and Governments to argue about – but none seem to have inspired the same level of impassioned discourse. Even Tony Blair and his wars. Even the current Cabinet, who have apparently been intent on returning us to Thatcher’s heyday of a divided nation, returning us to her political ideology as quickly as possible.
Then, Margaret Thatcher died, and suddenly, we truly have been thrust straight back into the 1980s. We are literally having the same arguments. The nation is once again completely divided in a way that no other public figure could have achieved – between those that think she was Britain’s saviour, and those that think she destroyed it. And, of course, the media are enthusiastically perpetuating this national self-flagellation.
But here’s the thing. Whether you love her or loathe her, she left power twenty-three years ago. There are fully grown adult people – eligible to vote – who did not experience life in Thatcher’s Britain. Her politics divided the nation back then – you are as likely to find someone that agrees with your view on that time as disagrees. If you disagree, it is almost certainly because your respective personal experiences of that time were different and, because of that, neither person can be wrong.
It is the simple fact that Thatcherism benefitted some people and disadvantaged others. Each camp is now trying to silence the other when, the truth is, the minds and opinions of those that are shouting cannot be swayed, just as these past events that are being discussed cannot be changed. These were very real events that had very real and lasting impacts on entire regions. But it happened, and it happened a long time ago. Living in the past does not help us make the future any better.
Though the nation is apparently stuck in a timewarp of its own making, life continues apace. There are current, very real issues to argue about. The NHS, the welfare system, the education system, the ‘Bedroom’ tax, equal rights – the list goes on and on. Instead of arguing about the past, about things that cannot ever be changed, how about we argue about the changes we can make – right now?
How about we take all of that passion that has spewed through the nation since Thatcher passed away, and use it today? If we don’t do that, then thirty years from now, we will be having exactly the same arguments – just with different names in the headlines. Let’s put the past to rest by using it to inform the future. Now.
Margaret Thatcher is gone. It’s time to break the cycle.