An eighties babe

No-one living in the UK in the 1980s can fail to have an opinion of Margaret Thatcher – former British prime minister (1979-1990) who died today.

I distinctly remember the moment she was elected as leader of the Conservative (Tory) Party, in 1975.

In my chemistry class, at an all-girls’ private school, our teacher came in to announce the decision of the leadership ballot when Thatcher won control of the Tory Party.

Our teacher, Mrs Crabbe, wore very smart clothes, lots of make-up, bleached blond hair, slim as a rake, and was always sneaking out for a fag. We all loved her to bits. There weren’t very many of us, around ten or so, as doing physics and chemistry for ‘O’ level was not popular. The other choice was doing physical science and biology which most girls chose. Two sciences were required at our school, and physics and chem was regarded as the harder option.

So there we all were, pens poised at the ready doing our chemistry equations and doing the periodic table, while Mrs Crabbe was busy filling her lungs with smoke out in the corridor. Or in the science block teachers’ staff room.

‘Girls!’ she announced, on her return from the fag break. ‘I have some great news. Margaret Thatcher has won the leadership of the Conservative Party.’

‘Hurrah!’ we all shouted in unison. We spoke like that back then. We were a posh school, technically direct-grant/private/independent (which is far too difficult to explain for non-UK readers – but it is basically partially paid for by parents, partially funded by local taxes, and partially funded by trustees).

Some of us were from working-class backgrounds, others from professional ones, all aspiring to get somewhere, and here is a woman chemist who has just acquired the leadership of a political party putting her in the running to lead the country.

No wonder we all shouted HURRAH!

Before that, her fame was as the milk snatcher when she reduced free milk to schools when she was Secretary of State for Education. Thatcher Thatcher, Milk Snatcher. No doubt if she had retained her maiden name of Roberts no-one would have made anything of it, but the rhyming was too good an opportunity to miss for a bright journalist.

And did anyone actually care? All those of us who had freezing cold milk that was at least half ice, at our mid-morning break, or worse, freezing cold milk warmed up on cast-iron radiators and tasting disgusting, or ghastly warm milk in summer, would have been extremely grateful had the bloody stuff never been a part of school life.

My partner told his teacher he couldn’t possibly drink it or he would be sick. ‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ said his teacher. He drank the milk and vomited all over her. Thatcher the milk snatcher did a hell of a lot of kids a favour. She put academic quals before free school milk and so would I. Any day.

But moving onto my university years, I made my first vote in a general election in 1979. I voted Conservative. I was surrounded by students who wore badges saying ‘Don’t blame me, I voted Labour.’

This may come as a shock to those of you who are possibly aware of my rather more left-wing views. But there you go.

Thatcher years were marked by union disputes. While she was leader of the opposition before she came to power, we had the Grunwick dispute (photo-processing in a London factory).

Later we had Wapping (newspapers) and the miners’ strike.

In the UK at the time, it was always held that the three powerful unions were mining, print and publishing, and teaching. So let’s get rid of at least two of the big three unions – mining and printing.

Thatcher wasn’t content with having a go at mining and printing, she also went for the health service, wanting to privatise that on an American-style model.

The biggest dispute was of course, the miners’ strike. I lost interest in it. I cleared off around the world. It was still happening when I was in Australia.

Meanwhile I met my partner out there. He’d previously been working at a British Leyland car plant spray-painting in the UK. Being a union delegate he’d challenged Ian MacGregor, who managed to decimate not only the British steel industry, the coal industry, and the car industry too.

‘Will the plants be closed?’ asked the Union Activist Partner.

‘I have no knowledge that will be the case,’ (or some such shit) said MacGregor.

Made no difference to Partner as he was off to Australia. Within two or three months the plant was closed. As were a load of pits and steel plants.

Signs of the times. Or rather the eighties in the UK.

But when we returned from Australia, we reaped the benefits. Oh, the lovely Nigel Lawson and the economic boom if you lived down south. Although only if you bought and sold houses at the right time.

Perhaps one of the most defining moments of Thatcher’s rule, was taking Britain to war. Over the Falklands. I thought at the time it was a totally political decision to win the next election. How I criticised it. These days, living in Gib, I would love a Thatcher. How we change in our old age.

So my views of Thatcher. Great on foreign policy and nationalism. Did nothing for a lot of people in the UK, shagged British industries in the arse, destroyed the trade union movement, council housing, the benefit system, and tried to destroy the National Health Service (but medics rule OK).

First British woman prime minister and first woman leader of the western world. Longest-serving Brit prime minister of the 20th century. Obama’s tribute about shattering the glass ceiling rather misses the mark however.

Seriously stuck to her guns, so to speak. Got to admire that.

I ended up not admiring her policies, but did admire her conviction.

There are many tributes and quotes kicking around, but my favourite was always:

‘Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.’

Whatever your view of her, as others say, the greatest British post-war politician.

Sweet dreams, dear. Even if you did stuff all for feminism.


77 comments on “An eighties babe

  1. I did physics and chem too. Don’t know what I was thinking of as I was rubbish at both. Failed them both at O level. But I can’t blame Thatcher for that.
    Had to admire her, in a grudging sort of way.


    • Anything was better than doing biology! Our bio teacher in the only year or two I did it, was keen on making us wave our arms like birds and hop around on the floor like frogs. Very trendy, but I happened to be bookish and just wanted to absorb whatever I needed to pass exams not play at being a bird or a frog.

      If you look at the calibre of PM that has followed her, she stands out. I also think she had lost touch with what was going on though. One minute mixing with Reagan and Gorbachev, the next your own country is rioting over poll tax or poverty. As with Spain and Argentina, when you have internal problems, much easier to focus on something external (Gibraltar and The Falklands). And of course, the Falklands did give her a massive opportunity to boost her flagging standing at the time.

      All national leaders are what they are, political, human – and therefore all have their flaws as well as their good side.


  2. I didn’t realize she was a chemist. Doesn’t surprise me. (The education system there is confusing – thanks for clarifying a bit)
    The 80’s were really hard times for us.
    Falklands, yes remember – but not the union busting.
    More people should follow that quote.
    You had to admire her toughness.


    • Our schools are simple enough, or were, but obviously not to anyone outside the UK! I never understand the American year thing, and sophomores and freshpeople.

      Anyway, we have state schools, ie free to everyone, then there are/were some private/independent schools like mine which charged fees, but free places and scholarships were made available either by trustees or local authorities (local government of the area). At the top level we have public schools. Only the British would call elite snobbish schools public which charge vast sums of money, eg Eaton, Harrow, Westminster, St Pauls, Cheltenham Ladies College, Benenden, Roedean. There are of course different levels of public school too. Depending on how money you have and whether or not your parents went there.

      You can tell I studied education a) at school for history O level and b) as part of an option for a journalism course.

      The 80s brought a big divide in the UK. Or maybe it was always there, just not so obvious, and her politics exacerbated it. Amidst the affluence, there was poverty, riots and huge unemployment.

      To me, the unions never recovered their power. The only thing she didn’t manage to achieve was to privatise the health service and follow the American model which would have been a total disaster.

      It’s slightly misquoted. It was a reference to one of her cabinet ministers, I think it was a David, but I may be wrong, so it was actually ‘he doesn’t bring me problems, he brings me solutions’. The idea is the same though.

      I think her strength of character and resolution was admirable, even if her policies were poor and detrimental to so many people.


      • The 80’s were a nightmare. I’d just as soon forget. The unemployment hit younger workers hard – there and here. And salaries went down/work piled on those who were left working.
        Our education system is based on every single breathing kid gets the same education – only now the “needy”/ “difficult”/not engaged kids get more so the smart ones get less ( they don’t need it, they learn anyway). There is some federal money for schools ( with strings) but the states really control and fund the public schools. You pay property taxes if you own home/land and that goes to the local school district – the state distributes more tax money. You pay school taxes even if you don’t have a kid.Your kid is basically assigned schools by the local district. You can send your kid to private schools(none are not funded by state/fed), but you pay both taxes and tuition. There’s move towards a voucher system where each kid will have designated money and the family can send kid to church schools/private schools/public schools and pay the one they pick. Many don’t like vouchers because they do not want tax money going to support churches. But the idea that all the smart kids will leave the public schools hasn’t really proved correct. Other states that tried voucher found the majority of parent don’t want to be bothered with change – to lazy to do the paperwork/decide which school to use – so they all stay where they are. So that destruction of public schools argument doesn’t fly. Change is hard, but the schools here are becoming more social engineering than teaching facts. Poorly educated make manageable workforce, but bad decision makers.


        • The 80s hit older people too in the UK. People thrown out of traditional working class industries (shipbuilding, mines, steelworks), and lack of apprenticeships for young people. Depending on your view, there was a very serious attack on the working classes (traditional Labour ie socialist/left wing) voters by a number of means.

          I forgot to mention religious schools, although I intended to, but back when I was young, they got state money too. When I say state I don’t mean state like you do, I mean public funds, ie state in the UK = national.

          Hey, we’ve never had kids, and the three biggest consumers of local taxes were housing, social services and education. None of which I used. I did try and use local swimming pools (rather than private expensive ‘leisure club’ ones) as much as possible. Got to get my money back somewhere. And the library of course.

          There are similarities. State schools in the UK are/were also allocated by where you lived, hence kids in rich areas get decent schools, and kids in shit areas get crap schools. Nothing new there. People moved houses to get into a decent catchment area for their kids. And, if you pay for private education, as my parents did before I was given a free place for senior school (ie 11+) you certainly didn’t get anything offset against your local taxes.

          I’m a terrible dinosaur about schools. I think you should shovel as much info as poss into young minds. I was too young to learn to think for myself, I just wanted to absorb knowledge. Thinking comes later. Much later.


  3. Had to laugh over the ‘Milk Snatcher’ bit – that bit didn’t hit my world I guess. She made enemies – but also seems to have at least stood for something. In a day that it would be novel to stand for anything, that seems rather lovely, doesn’t it?


    • Isn’t that the case with world news? We never heard half of what was going on elsewhere, and even now, with the internet, it’s even more impossible to keep up. In the scheme of things, was free school milk important? I would say no. My partner, of the vomiting incident related above, actually said it was even though he refused it. He came from a poor area, still one of the most deprived in the UK, and there were kids who needed that milk.

      Because of some bright spark, virtually all of Britain knew her by that name however, equally as much as the Iron Lady.

      You’ve summed up what I was trying to say. There is a significant difference between conviction politics, flexibility and just floundering about.


    • I see you have the gun out for the poor sad fish again. I’ll rise.

      The idea of a historical analysis of a leading politician/world player is to look at their achievements and failures. I’ve actually criticised everything, with particular emphasis on her appalling, and in some cases, extremely poorly thought through domestic policies. An economist she was not. My simplistic and extremely superficial reading of the affluence in part of her period in power was due to the North Sea oil income and the soaring inflation. And in the part of the world where I came from, the butchers’ shops were empty, ie of meat, let alone customers, and families were reeling from the effect of a) the miners’ strike and, further south ie Sheffield b) the decimation of British Steel.

      Whether she was a dreadful woman or not isn’t the point. Perhaps you would have got on well with my father who said ‘Better a poor male prime minister than a good woman PM.’ However, despite his Liberal politics, he did vote for Thatcher. Probably because not only being sexist he was also homophobic so Jeremy Thorpe rather let the side down.


          • You did. I congratulate you on the elegance of your bait taking. I’m afraid I never took to Maggie. Never voted for her – on the rare occasions I was in the UK to vote I probably voted Liberal. Blair was elected on my 40th birthday and I am happy to say he never got my vote either. I am hoping that by the time I die somewhere in the world I shall find a politician worthy of my vote. In the meantime I think “No suitable candidate” is my best offer. I’m afraid all politicians who live by the sword die by the sword. She and Grocer Heath were a pair of muppets. They deserved one another.


          • Thank you. ‘Twould be no fun for you if I didn’t, and I aim to please. I’m not sure whether I voted Conservative once or twice, and I’d been vastly influenced by my parental upbringing in terms of politics and I was rather slow to think for myself.

            Mostly I think I voted Green or if there wasn’t a Green candidate, then Flying Yoga Party. Or anything that wasn’t one of the main ones. I don’t think I screamed for Lord Sutch.

            Blair was elected when we were in the Algarve so I didn’t vote either although I was rather pleased at the result. As were many of my colleagues. The euphoria didn’t last long. Obnoxious man policies. And as for praying to God for guidance before taking decisions to kill people? Seriously loopy.

            Aun San Suu Kyi has always fascinated me. A bit like the Bhutto of Burma. Permanently under house arrest in case, heaven forbid, people actually support her. I’ve met a couple of decent local councillors, from either side of the political fence.

            Here is an extremely sycophantic article about Thatcher:

            I actually don’t remember much about Heath. Well apart from the yachts and the three day week. And his cheesy grin.


    • Thank you. More of a personal reflection than a tribute, but her years in power were, well, distinctive, to say the least. They were also probably the years when I was growing up and starting to take an interest in politics, from mid teens to late twenties.


  4. I knew you would post on this. Cannot admire her at all. She is responsible for the modern Tory political dogma of self interest politics – the self interest of the few. Makes my blood boil to even think of the suggestion of a State Funeral! In short I agree with Andrew! Partially (grudgingly) in her defence she only stopped free school milk for eight to eleven year old’s because Harold Wilson’s Labour Government had stopped free milk for secondary schools two years earlier in 1968 but you’ll notice how ‘Wilson, Wilson Milk Snatcher’ just doesn’t work either.
    I failed chemistry with physics as well and biology and general science – I did not progress to sixth form science!


    • Actually I was just about to put a short post up saying that I was taking a blogging break, and I knew if I did, there would be something I would want to write about!

      I’m not sure that you can blame one woman for the selfish attitude of the following generations. I was trying to do a fairly honest brief summary from my perspective of a world leader, which you must accept she was, unlike Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron (who have I missed?) and as a historian I would have thought you would be able to do the same ;)

      She specifically didn’t want a state funeral, so you can’t blame her for that either.

      The milk one is interesting, it is perfectly clearly on record about Wilson’s govt starting the snatching and yet she was the one everyone remembers. Made no difference at my school ‘cos we had to pay for it anyway being a private school.

      I always thought physical science was a stupid name, don’t know whether it got introduced in my year or the one before – obviously the age difference between us is coming into play here as ever :) – I might have considered something called chem with physics, although I thought it was physics with chem. Anyway, at our school, biology was regarded as a soft option anyway. The bright kids were told they could do physics and chemistry and be able to catch up on the biology for A level if they wanted to do three sciences.


      • Thatcher still feels like an open wound to me but I will avoid the newspapers for a day or two, resist the temptation to write a post and move on.
        Whatever they called the exam made no difference to me. Not only did I fail the soft option of Biology I also bombed in General Science which was the easiest of the lot. I remember being genuinely disappointed about Biology and GS because I thought that I done rather well. I didn’t get a bunsen burner or a microscope as a well done gift that’s for sure!


        • I’m genuinely sorry you feel so sore about her so many years later. What’s done is done and irreversible. That’s life, politics, and now history. I’m probably more griped that she had so much influence over Blair and the so-called Socialist (ha!) party, and that he even admitted to modelling himself on her. Now he really was a power-grabbing, money-hungry, religious fruitcake. He wasn’t even born in a grocer’s shop (so to speak). He came from a privileged background, did the dirty on Brown initially, promised loads, delivered nowt, and sent far too many British people to war to help Americans get oil. Or something like that.

          I didn’t agree with Thatcher’s policies, but for me the problem with Blair was disillusionment. Bring back Tony Benn, I say.


          • I saw Tony Benn make an election speech in Derby Market Place, literally standing on a wooden box! – he was electrifying, I have never experienced anything like it.
            I agree with you about Blair as well. I think I also agree with Billy Connolly who famously said “the desire to be a politician, should ban you for life for ever being one”


          • One of my university friends adored Benn. I was horrified. I thought my uni friend was a subversive Russian spy! This of course, was all due to my father’s paranoia about communism, hatred of Benn who he thought would nationalise the banks and steal my father’s 2/6 in savings (and look what happens in Cyprus …).

            I think the day of serious oratory has died :( The problem with Benn was that he was too intellectual for most folk – a bit like Powell, and interesting that they actually agreed on a number of issues.

            Anyway, as I’m bombarding you with links today, here is a Benn/history related one:


            I don’t like Connolly, probably because I can’t understand the accent, but that is an extremely good quote. Rather like Groucho’s about club membership.


          • Thanks. Really? I thought everyone knew that no-one was ever successful in Afghanistan. Or did you mean the detail in the vid – did you watch it? I thought it was very good.

            Or did you mean about Burke and Santayana? Those who don’t know history …

            I first learned about that quote at university from a vet when I left my diary behind at their flat (not a clever idea given what I had written!), so it has stuck with me ever since.


          • I meant the vid, I watched it, it was good. I was never especially interested in colonial history and rarely strayed outside Europe. I did watch ‘Carry on up the Kyber’ once!


          • Think we did a bit of colonial history for O level. And I do still have Muir’s historical atlas which never fails to fascinate me regarding boundary changes and ‘ownership’.

            Do you know we have a Khyber Pass in Whitby? :)


          • You should know by now there a number of topics not to argue with me about. Or at least to tread very lightly. One is Yorkshire. (You can work out the other topics for yourself).

            But on the bright side, at least you had the sense to google it before you disputed it. I holidayed on the Yks east coast (stupid statement as Yks doesn’t have a west coast) as a kid, and worked and lived there as an adult.

            I never thought about anyone thinking I was joking, it’s been a part of my past for so long – everyone in Yks who has been to Whitby knows about the Khyber Pass, and the whalebones at the top of the cliff, and the abbey and the 199 steps and all the rest of it. Oh and jet. None of which I have bothered to google to check. So if you can find any errors – go for it!


          • And now I will have to visit Whitby just so I can say I have been up the Khyber Pass.
            Odd name for a street in Whitby don’t you think? Almost as odd as the stand at the former Leicester City football ground at Filbert Street which was called the Spion Kop because it was started in 1900 and named after the Boer War battle.


          • See my comment to A above (and you might want to check the link, the video was so thoughtful and insightful), but I think the problem these days is that people don’t want thinking or principled politicians :(


          • I don’t even know how I found it. Probably back then read something on FB, maybe even your page, but it just made me look up history of Afghanistan and foreign invasions and up came the vid.

            I thought it was a great potted history from a totally biased perspective – but isn’t all history that?


          • You mention Enoch Powell, I remember the uproar around his famous speech, though admit to not taking much interest in it at the time.
            Looking back now though, he was way ahead of his time.


          • Somewhere I read that he wasn’t aware of the content, and that it had been done by his speechwriter. Given his intellect, I doubt that. I don’t think he was racist, he was too clever for that, and wanted to be viceroy of India (see the wiki entry for him which is fascinating).
            I am just blown over by someone who was so clever. And interesting that Heath sacked him, most British people agreed with him, and Heath later admitted he was right (grudgingly). I think what Powell was looking at was the increasing clash of cultures and second generation immigrants. It happened – frequently, including in my home town.
            You can hardly blame it on him. He was correct. Full marks. Although exactly like Benn, too intelligent and too outspoken.
            No-one like that around these days.


    • Thank you. I enjoyed yours, it was a good summary (which was why I linked) and brought back a lot of memories.

      What I wanted to do, was write how her policies and government affected me and communities I knew, and also add how I thought about her then and now.

      I did want to see a British woman prime minister. But after I left university and started working in journalism, I quickly decided I didn’t like her policies. Because they were basically hers. But, I don’t think you can knock someone personally just because you don’t agree with what they did. She achieved most of what she wanted to. That makes her a good prime minister.

      While I have criticised her domestic policy, and at the time her decision to go to war in the Falklands, other people would applaud her successes because they agreed with right to buy for council houses, destroying unions, going for a free market economy etc. You’ve had people on your blog saying how good she was.
      I obviously don’t have any Thatcher fans on my blog!

      And if – at the time – I thought she was wrong about the Falklands, look how many times Blair took the UK to war helped to support America in virtuous activities and a lot of peacekeeping. There’s a big difference between supporting British Overseas Territories and invading somewhere that has nothing to do with you, except America tells you to do so.


      • Thanks. I do agree with you. Especially with regards to retaking British Overseas Territories and invading places for no real reason.

        All these reports have brought back memories of when I was growing up. It was a mad, crazy and unhappy time but it all seemed entirely normal as a kid as one way or the other the country was right up the proverbial creek.


        • I knew you were younger than me, but it’s interesting to read the point of view of someone who basically grew up under Thatcherism, compared with my readers, a lot of whom are a similar age to me, ie late 40s, early 60s.

          I’ve tried not to butt into your blog too much on the debate but it is interesting to see how the comments have gone on both blogs.


  5. Now that was fun to read–comments and all :>) Came at just the right time too; I needed a short break from what I’m otherwise doing today (BLUEGH!). Regarding Mrs. Thatcher, I have the most vivid memories of what she did during the “Falklands War.” Perhaps, more than anything else, that particular set of happenings caused me to be much more skeptical of world events and to always try and dig into the back story before offering an opinion. And with las Malvinas there’s quite the back story indeed…
    Anyway, three things:
    -I will agree with you when you say you admired her for her strength of will–I do too.
    -I am not sure of what to think of her overall effect on the country’s economy and society in general. In my opinion she was as much a product of her times as she was an influence upon it. She only deserves partial credit…or blame, take your pick.
    -The last part is the part that intrigues me the most. I am not as well read as many on her influence on feminism. I have heard, down through the years, arguments made on whether, (A) as the ‘Iron Lady’ she demonstrated that women and capable of standing up there with the ‘old boys’ or (B) essentially she ditched her femininity (or whatever is the correct word) and just acted as a quasimodo. I do know where I stand on this one. I’m solidly in A. People can not pick all they want but to me she will always be the iron LADY.


    • Comments are the best part of my blog posts.

      I have some informed, thoughtful and opinionated readers and while I may not agree, I like that they take the time to comment.

      Interesting my cousin’s kids born in Brazil, and speaking Portuguese, referred to the Falklands as Las Malvinas and my father went ballistic.

      Anyways, not like you to agree without provoking a debate :D

      I do think the strength of character/will/whatever you want to call it is admirable, hence my comment. Regardless of whether or not I agreed with her policies.

      But I say what I think too, so I’m hardly going to disagree with her approach.

      Your second point is a very fair and objective one. I don’t see why the despicable vilification continues for a dead woman who has achieved more than most of us. Regardless of what anyone thought about her deeds.

      My personal view is that she looked for simplistic monetary answers to industrial problems that could have been solved better. Getting rid of a load of pits and importing cheap coal from elsewhere was absolutely crass. Change working practices, but why import from elsewhere and savage local communities by making them all unemployed?

      Same with Brit Steel. Same with shipbuilding. Same with ….

      Sometimes becoming a prime minister as a grocer’s daughter isn’t the best route. But, hand on heart, I may have been the same. As you say, product of the times. Plus, she took on Heath’s values and exacerbated them.

      Ah the feminism debate. Oh dear. That one merits a post in its own right. The Brit view was that she manipulated the men in her cabinet extremely skillfully. She had ONE WOMAN minister in all of her period of power. A queen bee par excellence.–1990#Cabinet_May_1979_.E2.80.93_September_1981

      Baroness Young. Homophobic, apart from anything else. Not sure what else her claims to fame were.

      I’ll leave it at that. For now.


  6. Some legacy… of council houses instead of shaking it up so that people who could afford to buy didn’t have to, leaving others on a housing list for years: the Big Bang in the City letting the banks get their claws on the other financial institutions: waste of North Sea revenues by giving the companies a fairly free ride and blowing the proceeds on covering up the unemployment figures by putting people on invalidity benefit….

    But I was and am all in favour of going to war with Argentina over the Falklands.


    • Council housing got up my nose. As did the railways. As did well, virtually everything that was done to every British industry. I’d forgotten the big bang, and didn’t know enough about finance for the North Sea.

      Unemployment figures were rather inventive back then were they not?

      As for the Falklands, I wasn’t in favour of it to boost her electoral standing. I am now, in terms of self-determination (absolutely no self-interest here at all).


  7. I guess we’re around the same age. I remember being thrilled that a woman had forged her way to the top in a very male world and then felt increasingly let down as her policies unfolded. I’m sure a lot of people of our generation share similar thoughts, but whatever thoughts we have, one thing’s for sure – she won’t be forgotten!


    • That is absolutely spot on. Yes to her achievement on rising to the top, not just of the country but as a world leader. And nooooo, to her appalling destruction of the domestic economy, I’m just glad she never massacred the NHS, but who knows what will come? It seems to be a permanent one on the Tory agenda.

      Because she had so much impact on so many people, as you say of our age, I just couldn’t let her death go by. Very much the end of an era.


  8. Interesting historical backstory you present I enjoyed how you started out from the perspective of your early school days.
    I don’t remember much along the lines of political topics from my youth other then being in school and getting the announcement that U.S. President JFK had been shot. Guess I’m dating myself now though.


    • The school days memory was because it actually still remains vividly imprinted on my mind. Historical/political/journalistic analysis should be made up of a mixture of factual events and personal perspective. At the end of the day, history – and journalism – is always written from a perspective of some sort. Others have done the factual events nicely about Thatcher, I wanted to describe how she first featured as a national leader to a young girl, and how my views about her changed. And why. And the impact she made. For good or for bad.

      I don’t remember hearing about JFK although one of my other Brit readers does (maybe they all do!). I do remember hearing about the Russians invading Czechoslovakia, Neil Armstrong on the moon, and a couple of other isolated world events, and some earlier Brit politics.


  9. I haven’t noticed mention of the poll tax. All the hereditary tory peers bussed in from their stately piles to vote through legislation in the House of Lords that meant their contribution to local council funding was the same as a person living in a bed-sit. To be fair Labour did get rid of most of the hereditary peers soon after coming to power, but they never finished off Lords reform.

    In my humble opinion, Thatcher only did two good things, the privatisations of British Airways and British Telecom. Without the latter, the development of the Internet would have been severely stunted in the UK as BT would have fought the development of broadband to preserve its inflated dial up internet call revenues.

    I’m not sure if Master Partner would agree with me, but during the Thatcher years British Leyland was a death waiting to happen. Did anyone actually want a Morris Marina or an Austin Allegro. That said the destruction of large parts of the industrial sector in favour of service industries is something even George Osborne would admit was a big mistake, and whilst some of her moves against the unions were justified she went too far, which is why so many minor work place disputes now end up in tribunals.


    • In retrospect although the poll tax was a major issue, it didn’t have a lasting effect. Waste of space reform really. What is council tax apart from another name for rates? We still have rates in Gib. Mine are cheap.

      Decimating British industry and trade unions did change our country. And had the health service gone down the American road, that would have been another disaster.

      I don’t agree with any privatisation, contracting out, or anti-union legislation.

      I’ll accept you know more than me about internet development in the UK, but I’m not a fan of BT anyway. But I thought BT was privatised a zillion years ago, well before internet usage started coming around. Wasn’t it originally part of the GPO before 1984? It was OK then and provided a perfectly good service. Have to say my last dealings with BT in 2000 and something were crap.

      As for BL, we both disagree with you. And actually, while you may not have wanted a Morris Marina or an Austin Allegro, other people did. I bought a Metro. Ran it for years. We’ve both bought British vehicles all our lives. Shame other people didn’t. One thing to learn from Americans, they buy vehicles made, designed and built in their own country.

      BL was no more a death waiting to happen than the coal industry, the ships, tendering out of local government services or anything else on the same theme. They were all totally political decisions based upon the fact that subsidised/in-house labour was inefficient and unproductive.

      What a waste of everyone’s time to have workplace disputes ending up in tribunals. And how much money does that cost? I had a work colleague who went to one after two cases of sexual discrimination. Unions have their place, and actually did achieve results. Now? I don’t think any of Thatcher’s anti-union legislation was remotely justified. Secondary picketing for example?

      To me, the UK political system, the economy and the life, is an absolute mess. Which is one reason I left. But I don’t blame that on Thatcher.


      • I might have to do a post on my blog about British Telecom. However, as the state telecoms monopoly, it would have had total control over the development of broadband internet in the UK.

        As for Americans, as far as passenger cars are concerned, the Toyota Camry was the best selling car there for most years between 1990 and 2009. Ford dominated the truck market, although Toyota did well there as well.

        Initially the Camry was designed and built in Japan but production quickly moved to the USA; design however stayed in Japan for many years although eventually designs were moved to the USA too.

        It may only have lasted for a few years, but I consider the Poll Tax to be the worst political decision of the last 100 years.


        • BT would be interesting. But when I was a kid, (and part of the GPO of course) it was good. It was good for a lot of years after. I’ll wait for your post before I comment more about telecoms.

          Never heard of the Camry. Partner had a Landcruiser in Aus with which he was rather impressed.

          It wasn’t as though the poll tax was a new idea though. I don’t have a view either way about it. It’s basically a debate about whether you go for per capita (ie normal state tax returns) or on property size/value.

          What I thought was far worse was the destruction of British industry. How about some of the deals made during WW2? Accepting the Marshall Plan? Stiffing up Poland?

          If you mean poor presentation, fair enough, but it was used by political opponents to bring down the government. If it hadn’t been that it would have been something else.


  10. Iron lady Thatcher. I admire her courage and stature as leader but have issues with her policies I consider as against democracy.


    • Thanks Vishal for your views. I think yes, status as a leader was strong, but she damaged a lot of British society. Against democracy? Debatable. Her party was democratically elected. However the policies they implemented harmed people. Does that make them undemocratic though? And these days, democracy seems to be ever-increasing lip service.


  11. I’ve never had a great interested in politics.
    I can remember being dragged along to the local polling station as a child, so my parents could put their cross against the chosen ones.

    I do remember the ‘Thatcher, Thatcher, the school milk snatcher’ slogan, and did feel sorry for the school children at the time, as I’d thoroughly enjoyed the milk throughout the whole of my school life, even though the chip in my front tooth was caused by one of the bottles when a boy called Graham had rammed it into my face as he ran past.

    In the early 70’s I was swayed quite strongly listening to T’s beliefs.
    Although he himself had been swayed by his private school education, becoming the TGWU shop steward at the haulage company he worked for had seen him switch allegiance.
    After the ’79 election, I proudly stuck the sticker in our car ‘Don’t blame me I voted Labour’
    Continuing in this vein, we both voted for the apparently vibrant new blood Tony Blair, but soon became disillusioned.

    Nowadays, I’m back to being a non voter (sorry Emily), and T has switched allegiance again.


    • I was interested in politics at one time. No longer though.

      Remember those schools eh? My dad even went to pick people up to vote! Who knows what they voted, but he picked up people from the council estate to go and place X on the spot.

      I did like milk at home, but not at school. It needed to be cold, not icy, and definitely not warmed up or left outside in the sun and tasting rancid.

      Nasty Graham. Didn’t you smack him?

      Isn’t it odd how our political beliefs or views initially come from others? When I went to hospital and my father paid for private treatment, I complained that I thought it was unfair that I jumped the queue in casualty. That was blamed on my boyfriend at the time. But maybe it was my view. Why should I take precedence? It was also embarrassing.

      I could never understand the fact that people disclosed their political viewpoint for many years. In my experience though, it’s always been socialists who have been more up front about their opinions and conservatives who have been rather more secretive. If you look at the link I posted on Andrew (HK) ‘s comment, there is an interesting post about how one doesn’t call oneself socialist anymore. Reminds me of the old ‘I’d vote Labour but I’m a socialist’ which is ever more true these days.

      Tony Blair is unbelievable, he has eight or nine properties and earns a quarter of a million bucks for speaking engagements. And prays to god to send British troops to war. Yeah. Right.

      Poor Emily. You could at least consider voting for the least worst. Looking at my record over the years, I would never have thought I would have become a floating voter as such, but I have voted for at least four or five parties.

      I still go with the principle that you vote for the person so if I know someone and think they are ok, I will vote for them regardless of party politics, equally so, if I know them and don’t like their personal stance, they don’t get my vote, even if I agree with the party view.

      At the Gib election, A voted straight socialist/lib alliance. I didn’t. I couldn’t bear one candidate’s anti-cycling stance (!) and I also happened to know someone who I thought was a sound candidate from another party. Would my vote have made a difference to a change of government? It was that close it could have done. But I couldn’t have supported the candidate who said cycling in Gib was dangerous and blah blah. We get ten votes here by the way :D

      You are not saying T supports Cameron??!!!!!


      • He does appear to have gone full circle, saying Blair and Brown have put him off Labour for life. A very tunnel visioned attitude as far as I’m concerned.
        Being older and not quite so influenced these days, I’m staying out of it, until someone comes along who is interested in the the country and not their own fame.


        • I genuinely thought Blair had some great ideas/proposals for improving the country and peoples’ lives. When Diana died and he gave that vomit-inducing speech that was it for me. Either be a politician or an actor, but clearly he was both.

          That’s before we even get into Cherie scamming her rail tickets.

          There isn’t anyone around though is there? [I am now ordered to go to bed!]


          • I can see why Blair/Brown have put him off. To be honest they all need a total shake-up. Fighting for the middle-of-the-road political position, and performing on television (which can be blamed on Thatcher) should not be what politics is about.

            I’m out of touch with British politics so you may know more than me, but the wiki entry on Blair was enough to send my bp soaring. I suggest he flog eight of his nine residences and give the money to bloody charity, instead of farting around with the Tony Blair Foundations for this that and the other – especially the religious one.


  12. Helen has said it for me. I too couldn’t stand her and think her legacy of greed and selfishness has deeply damaged British society. I could no sooner have voted for her than fly to the moon. :-)


    • The attack on the working class to change voting patterns eg right to buy, savaging trade unions, and totally destroying traditional industry because they weren’t competitive was I how think British society was damaged. A little more thought about changing working practices rather than putting millions on the dole might have been a better idea.

      But I don’t blame her for the current greed and selfishness within the world. I seriously can’t. That is an individual choice and responsibility down to each of us.


  13. I’m not sure I should weigh in on this because I have only superficial knowledge of UK politics. I just know that I would not have voted for her if she wanted to destroy socialized medicine and the unions and a whole lot of other things.

    Here in the states I have been and always will be for the working class. I wish that we had socialized medicine. Thus I am a liberal. However, the government in general has gone overboard in handouts to those that are flagrantly abusing the system.

    Getting back to political parties. I am also aware the republicans are only about protecting the rich that helped them get elected. Too many politicians are “in bed with the super rich” and so your post today is most interesting.


    • Of course you are welcome to comment Yvonne. As is everyone else who isn’t British and who already has done. Just as I would comment about American politicians, albeit from an extremely ill-informed point of view.

      This isn’t an academic post, rather my personal view of her, starting from when I was a teenager.

      I was brought up in a basically working class family, as in traditional terminology, although my mother was borderline However, they had enough money to send me to private school, so it was all a social mix. Their politics were, like most people, influenced by their parents – mother’s family Conservative (Tory) and father’s Liberal. In terms of Brit politics, we used to have Tories right wing, Labour/socialist left wing, and Liberals swinging somewhere in the middle.

      What my parents had in common was anti-socialist views. Partly I guess due to the fear of Communism that was part of their generation. So I grew up with that too.

      In the UK, we don’t have the whole presidential election shebang which I never understand. A political party chooses its own leader and at a general election (every four or five years depending on when someone thinks they will win) we actually vote for our local candidate – in theory. So when I voted, I voted for whoever the local candidate was, rather than for the prime minister. As with politics in the US I guess, people really vote for a party rather than a person.

      I wouldn’t have voted for a party that wanted to destroy unions, the working class industries, our health care system either. Mind you, I was only 19 and, as I said, influenced by my parents.

      I have read so much on the internet about American health care and it leaves me tearing my hair out. I don’t want to rack off my American friends, but really, it is not the way to go. And I worked in the UK health service so I know its good and bad points. You also know about health care.

      Your last point is very percipient. That is politics these days. Run by money.


      • Thanks for the explanation. I fear dictatorship. In the US the poor, middle, and upper class or the elite if you prefer, is growing further apart each year. We are in a mell-of-a-hess and I see that politicians do not give a rip.

        But our world is fast falling apart and I see gloom and doom. I wish I did not feel that way but if one reads then one becomes aware just how dire the situation is for our planet.


        • As I don’t understand American politics, education, or really very much about America (I’ve never been), I’m happy to explain where I think our countries have different systems and different terminology eg we call our free schools state schools, and our posh private schools ‘public schools’. There will be a historical reason for that but I forget what it is right now.

          I wrote a post last year about colonialism and imperialism

          My take on it is that it still exists today. I’m not talking about the old colonies from former world powers eg France and Britain, but when countries are invaded in the name of peace-keeping, human rights, wars on terrorism, that is colonialism by another name.

          Similarly, I think many of us live under dictatorships by another name. Yes, we all claim to have wonderful demoncracies democracies, and there is no one person in power, but when individual rights are curtailed, freedoms are taken away, and the state assumes ever more control, that is virtual dictatorship.

          And the dictators are the ones with the money who run the world to their liking and buy the governments.

          I too am depressed about the future. I think the world has been going downhill for some time, although slowly. Recently it seems to have speeded up. I wish I had been born earlier in a simpler age.


          • I see from Andrew’s that you have comp problems again. Sorry to hear that and appreciate you taking the time to reply from your library stint. I do recommend a Mac though … (I always say that)


          • I don’t think that I am smart enough to use a Mac. That is for brainy people. :-)

            My computer was filled with viruses, etc. I failed to renew Norton.Very stupid of me. Now I have a virus – same one that is rearing its ugly head again. I can barely type. It is taking a very long time and the cursor just hangs for minutes at a time.

            Got my computer back 419/13 6pm. I am very ticked about the vorus problem.

            Thank for the reply.


          • Macs are actually incredibly simple to use. Much easier than windows. I was trying to help a friend with a ‘phone problem yesterday and I couldn’t cope with messing around with the computer. Far too complicated so I had to tell her what I wanted doing. And sloooooooow. It was faster to come across back to my flat and look something up on the internet than wait for hers! So sorry you still have the virus problem though :(


  14. Interesting times when someone so controversial dies. As I commented to Postcard Cafe, Margaret Thatcher was an icon, the likes exactly of which – she was very much of her time, we’ll probably not see again, for good or bad. And, I think partly due to, as Bob Carr commented “…there was an old-fashioned quality to her that was entirely out of touch and probably explained why her party removed her in the early ’90s”
    Milk at school in the old days! Originally there were bottles, then cartons and then weird plastic sachets that needed little plastic holders. I lived in a rural dairy farming area so most kids had no shortage of milk at home, getting it at school was weird. At one stage we were also given fluoride tablets, and of course immunisations. Looking back it seems like we were lab rats for government experiments…


    • I had to laugh at your lab rat comment. School milk was bad enough – we only ever had bottles – but fluoride tablets?! Don’t start me on fluoridation. I avoided BCG/tb jab. Seemed I had enough natural immunity. Interesting that as most kids had to have it. Must have been all the milk I drank. At home. Gold top with cream on.

      I’ll read the article. Interesting that people of all ages from all countries are writing/commenting about her.

      But to me, she had definitely lost touch. From getting people behind her at one point, the domestic deterioration was enough to combat her foreign policy/stance. People were unemployed and struggling to survive and all she does is talk about the royal ‘we’ and hobnob with similar like-minded isolated world leaders? Politicians don’t seem to learn that you can’t do domestic and international at the same time. At some point you have to fix the problems at home and not create more of them.


      • I do wonder if her comment was subconsciously echoing Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech, which so far ahead of its time and vilified, getting him basically sacked by Edward Heath – actually came to fruition.

        I don’t get all this accusation of prime ministers being accused of war crimes. Making wrong and stupid decisions to send troops to war is one thing, but it’s hardly rounding up every Jewish person in the country and gassing them.


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