The Independent today has excellent coverage of the late Baroness Thatcher and her legacy. I would thoroughly recommend it to readers.
One particular piece is the one I have posted extracts from below, addressing ten things we all know about her and her policies, which turn out to be wrong. The full piece is well worth a read and it can be found here.
Remember when reading this that the ten bold headings are the myths.
And, especially when we come to the last one, can I ask that any discussion does NOT descend into a tit for tat abuse session? I have added some comment about that one at the end of this piece.
1 She commanded the support of the silent majority
Margaret Thatcher won three elections, two of them by large margins, but she was never as popular as her ardent admirers imply.
She set a record for unpopularity as PM that has not been matched by John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown or David Cameron: 16 per cent satisfied and 79 per cent dissatisfied in March 1990 (Ipsos Mori).
2 She called Nelson Mandela a ‘terrorist’
We have searched the record and spoken to one of her most recent biographers and can find no such comment.
Also, she did not, as frequently maintained, say: “Anyone who thinks the ANC is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land.”
There are plentiful records of Thatcher condemning apartheid; … and her government’s efforts in lobbying for Mandela’s release were crucial.
3 She was a dyed-in-the-wool anti-European
She said in 1988 – “Britain does not dream of some cosy, isolated existence on the fringes of the European Community. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the Community.”
No other British politician “surrendered” more sovereignty to Brussels than Thatcher.
Her simplistic rhetoric, and the anti-European Thatcher myth fostered since she lost power, have framed, and diminished, the European debate in Britain ever since.
4 She was no democrat
One of the very first things she did as an MP was to introduce a Private Member’s Bill to open council committee meetings to the press, thus shining a light on these hitherto murky gatherings.
5 A true Conservative, she cut tax and slashed public spending
Despite the fury of opponents over “Tory cuts”, and the ardour of supporters of tax cuts, Mrs Thatcher while in No 10 was notably unsuccessful on both scores. The tax burden (measured by the Institute for Fiscal Studies in the form of total government receipts as a share of national income) started at just above 40 per cent in 1979, peaked at 45.4 per cent in 1982, then fell below 40 per cent in 1990. Similarly, public spending rose as a share of national income, then fell to a level below that which Thatcher inherited from Labour in 1979. For all her time as Prime Minister, public spending rose in real terms, but after 1982 it rose less quickly than the rate of growth of the economy as a whole.
6 Thatcher won the Cold War
Well, not exactly
The truth is that, although Thatcher was even more of a Cold War warrior than her partner Ronald Reagan, the unravelling of Moscow’s external empire in Eastern Europe and the disintegration of the internal empire that constituted the Soviet Union was brought about by none other than the Kremlin itself.
And, as history has repeatedly shown, once authoritarian regimes stop being authoritarian, they collapse, almost by definition.
7 She was a strong champion of grammar schools
The truth is that, as the Education Secretary in the Heath government between 1970 and 1974, she was responsible for the closure of more grammar schools than any other holder of that post in history.
8 She transformed Britain into a property-owning democracy
Thatcher famously gave council tenants the right to buy their homes (at a discount), thus becoming, in the eyes of her mythologists, the leader who hugely expanded “the property-owning democracy”.
As new research shows, a large number of these homes ended up owned by wealthy private landlords and property companies. In the London borough of Wandsworth, the GMB union has found, nearly 40 per cent of the 15,874 homes in council blocks where tenants acquired the right to buy are now owned by private landlords.
9 She was rich beyond the dreams of avarice
Thatcher was not personally rich. Sources close to her have indicated that she was supported by wealthy friends.
The house in Chester Square, where similar properties sell for more than £6m, was bought … for £2.4m by a company based in the British Virgin Islands, presumed to belong to a friend, and it’s unlikely to pass to her children.
In the end, it may turn out that the grocer’s daughter who encouraged us all to make loadsamoney omitted to do so for herself, and certainly not on the Blair scale.
10 She never had any dealings with the IRA
She twice authorised extensive contacts with the IRA via both the intelligence services and senior civil servants.
In her memoirs, Thatcher wrote: “It was possible to admire the courage of Sands and the other hunger strikers who died, but not to sympathise with their murderous cause.”
In 1990, not long before her resignation, she authorised secret contacts with Martin McGuinness and the IRA while the republican campaign of violence was still going on. … The exchanges came to be regarded as an important component of the peace process.
Regarding point 10, it does make one think that, if the former Prime Minister had sung the sentiments quoted in her memoirs in a Scottish football ground now, she would have run the risk of arrest!
Her sentiments expressed in the last section put it very well. “It is possible to admire their courage whilst not sympathising with their cause”.
Maybe some commenters here could pay attention to that – and as Baroness Thatcher herself nearly fell victim to that struggle, her opinion is one well worth considering.
Posted by Paul McConville