A few words from one of Thatcher’s children….

I was 14 when Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979: to say that she cast a shadow over my youth is to vastly underestimate her impact on my life then, and my life now. When I heard about her death I didn’t really know what to say or to think. Mostly I felt numb – and lots of memories came flooding back. Lots of feelings, lots of emotions. Not exactly anger, just a kind of empty sadness. It’s hard even to write about it now. It’s not sadness about me, or about her, but more about humanity in general – because what I learned as one of ‘Thatcher’s children’ more than anything else was that all too often, the ‘bad guys’ win.

I was a politically active teenager, full of hope and optimism – Thatcher’s victory in 1979, and then even more so her landslide in 1983 did their very best to destroy that hope and optimism. It felt as though everything that I thought was good about people – fellow-feeling, community, caring about each other, even love – was being subsumed beneath things I thought were bad about people – selfishness, greed, hatred, divisiveness, aggression. Pretty much all the things that I liked about the way our country worked – the NHS, the comprehensive education system, the transport system – were being systematically degraded, insulted and taken apart. I remember when the buses were privatised where I lived, and suddenly the last bus home in the ‘evening’ was at 5.20pm. I remember the glorification of war-mongering in the way the Falklands War was celebrated….

I was hugely insulated from the real damage, and only saw it peripherally. I lived in leafy Cambridge as a teen, then went to work in London in 1986, when the greed-riven culture was at its peak. I was an accountant in the City when Thatcher won again in 1987 – I campaigned fruitlessly for Labour, and wore a lapel badge on my suit, to the huge laughter of my colleagues. The seeds were sown then for the disasters that we’re all feeling now – the deregulation that Thatcher began bore its real, poisoned fruit in 2008. Then, though, I was told, again and again – and almost came to believe – that I was wrong about everything. Greed really WAS good. Selfishness really WAS the root to success. There really was no such thing as society.

There was a good side to it too – a side that still gives me pleasure when I remember it. All those protest marches – some great times. Singing ‘Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, OUT, OUT, OUT!’ Picketing Barclays Bank for their involvement with Thatcher’s beloved Apartheid South Africa – and getting a result, much to her disgust. All that brilliant anti-Thatcher music – from the Beat’s sublime Stand Down Margaret to UB40’s Madam Medusa, from the Specials’ classic Ghost Town to Elvis Costello’s excoriating Tramp the Dirt Down – and later that whole genre of anti-Thatcher films. Pete Postlethwaite’s speech in Brassed Off still brings tears to my eyes.

The main lesson that I learned from Thatcher, as I said at the start of this, was that the bad guys do win. Often. And in ways that seem to suggest something about human nature that is, to me at least, hugely unpleasant. And yet even that can be a good lesson – not to let yourself be too beaten down. No matter how badly they hit you, no matter how much of a minority you feel, no matter how much you feel that you’re losing, never give up. I have to remind my self of that now, as the same thing seems to be happening again in so many ways. The echoes of the 80s are all too clear, and not just in the Conservative Party. That’s the saddest thing – but the thing that makes me clearer than ever that I’m not going to give up. Even if everyone else thinks I’m wrong, I’m still going to fight for what I think is right.

Thatcher taught me that – I don’t think it’s what she wanted to teach me, but that’s what I learned. I don’t feel emotional about her as a person – her death leaves me curiously numb – but I care deeply and passionately about her legacy. It’s probably pointless, but I’m not going to give up. I don’t want a society where greed, individualism and selfishness dominate – and I don’t believe that’s the only way. Maybe it’s pointless, maybe we’re bound to lose… but even if it is, I’m not going to give up.

38 thoughts on “A few words from one of Thatcher’s children….

  1. I was 10 in ’79 and received the full brunt of her education cuts in the eighties. One textbook between three pupils – we were without a maths teacher for a month or so in one term and two classes of about 30 each were shoved together by the folding wall between classrooms. We were given worksheets to fill in and that was it for weeks – they couldn’t afford a replacement at that time. Of course, today they’d blame it on “The mess left by the previous administration” probably. I changed schools and in four years time had to come back to the original school after the second was closed down in a search for more savings! I later went to a residential college – but by the end of the eighties the money still wasn’t there and a new policy of the Government meant that the funding for my place at that college was cut – half way through some A level retakes. So from underfunding through to school closures and underfunding again – I am a result of her education policies! Made me the wast of space I am today! 😉

  2. Thatcher changed society socially and morally for the worse. That change also destroyed many peoples lives, their marriages, their children and sadly their children’s children. I sincerely hope that if there is a God she gets her just deserts.

  3. This is a wonderful post. It is passionate and sorrowful, and at last optimistic. I am with you over your reaction to the news of her death. It is hardly something to celebrate and the people cheering the news are quite sickening. Her legacy has been with us since 1979 and will not disappear just because she is no longer in the world. From a distance I will be with you in your fight against selfishness and greed.

  4. This is a wonderful post and I wish I felt differently about it. I was on the dole in 1992, the first general election in which I had a vote. I got up bright and early, and cast my vote enthusiastically for Neil Kinnock (I know I actually voted for the local candidate, the late Roger Stott, but I was voting for both him and Kinnock). That was the last time I cast a positive vote. I understand that people on the left just a touch older than me were shaped by Thatcher and their reactions to her. My main feeling reading your post is envy. Because the person who had the bigger impact on me was Blair, and the way he robbed me of part of my identity (the part that said I was Labour). I envy you your convictions about right and wrong and I wish I shared them. What Blair taught me is the bad guy always wins.

  5. you want to blame Thatcher for Blair….total hypocrite! Thatcheer faced up to the problems the rest of the namby pamby population understood but wasnt prepared to take on! All the miners who lost their jobs bought a council house and made more from doing so than they would have earned from years in the pit! So how is Margeret to blame for Tony’s lies? If anyone is to blame it is the Tory party for getting rid of her six months too soon or she would have made GW Bush go through Iraq in the first place when we had a mandate to do so and all the lives, heartache and destruction of the last ten years would have been avoided. RIP Maggie I for one mourn your loss, she was a grandmother and a mother. My mother died last week…its not nice!

    • “All the miners who lost their jobs bought a council house and made more from doing so than they would have earned from years in the pit!”

      Either you are a liar, or you have been brainwashed by the right wing propaganda. Let me tell you, that is a complete an utter lie. Do you realise how many miners lost EVERYTHING? The lost their homes, some of them lost their wives when they could no longer provide, many suffered depression, some committed suicide. Towns have been devastated by the closure of industries. My blog post on Thatcher dispels a few myths. Maybe you should read it.

  6. We appear to be the same age. My strongest memory is the election after Thatcher, when John Major beat Neil Kinnock by inches. The BBC were following the count by projecting the face of the winning party leader on the door of No.10. Kinnock beamed out at me until the early hours, and then, astonishingly, and against all reason, the smile dissappeared, and up came John Major’s unremarkable image. I remember willing it to change back with every constituency return. It never did.
    It was at that point that I felt a deep sense of betrayal by those who voted, from fear of the new, against hope itself. Subsequently, this lame duck govt privatised transport and destroyed the economy, while miring itself again and again in tawdry sex and money scandals.
    I have always believed that that was the tipping point. The UK would never be a society again, choosing false security over social progress. Little in the Blair years changed my mind, and so cowed have we become that even when capitalism globally imploded, a Tory govt was returned. I believe that Britain IS broken, but not in Cameron’s sense. Somewhere in the latter half of the 20th Century we lost faith in cooperation, and embraced self-interest.
    I have not lost my optimism, but now I support the devolution of the Celtic nations and the Northern regions in the hope that those who still aspire to a just society may build their own, separate from the Tory heartlands of middle England.
    Thank you for reminding me of the tragedy of our generation so eloquently.

    • I agree with all of that – and would support Scots independence just for those kinds of reasons. It would be a bit sad for us in England, but in a way it would serves us right…

  7. As a yank, most of my experience of Thatcher came through the music you mentioned. But I feel quite strongly that her election helped pave the road for Reagan in 1980 — and the “conservative revolution” we are still suffering through over here. So my feeling is, F**k You, Margaret. Have fun ruling in Hell.

  8. You and I are of a similar age, although I lived in a children’s home until I reached 17. It was mining community in the outskirts of Sheffield and what I remember more than anything is the sheer despair of the adults, worrying whether they would be able to feed us kids and provide a future for us. It wasn’t until I was 24 that I managed to obtain meaningful employment.

    What happened to me in 2008 is not dissimilar to many entrepreneurs and don’t wish to harp on about this, however this blog has reinforced three fundamental facts no one, and I mean no one can deny. 1, The deregulation of the banking sector in 1987 allowed risk beyond that we could comprehend, the culmination of which we see today. 2, The reduction of the higher rate of taxation from 83% to 40 % over an 8 year period leaving the loop holes in place that allowed the wealthier among us to accumulate vast sums of additional wealth (Cameron among them) and 3, the most significant impact was the divisive way society became. It has always been my belief people should all share in the wealth of the nation, after all it is ours, not the government’s. I have never really understood how people were naive enough to buy shares in companies that they already owned and now the vast majority of OUR national wealth is owned by foreign companies, who in turn have closed UK sites and transferred much of the employment to country of ownership.

    I have empathy for the family as I am sure they will be feeling quite sad, especially after so many harsh comments. However, the Thatcherite years were and are probably the worst periods in Great Britain’s long history and for that I will never be able to forgive the Conservative administration. All I will add is we should be thankful the Liberal Democrats are in the coalition, I know its not ideal (at all) being in the middle of probably the worst period outside the 80’s, take heed – things would be even worse if they weren’t.

    • Thanks – what you say rings completely true, and however much so dislike what the Lib Dems are doing, I think you’re right, it could be worse. It may yet get worse…

  9. thanks Paul, as a.n.other who was *there* I can feel your words and the sentiment.
    Well done for your sensitive handling of the reply by Bob Partridge…I don’t think he’s very well in the head 🙂

  10. This is an amazing post. Thank you for sharing your experience as a “Thatcher child.” It’s incredibly fascinating for someone like me, who’s American and wasn’t alive during that era. I understand Thatcher’s legacy largely in the way that it has affected American politics, mostly in the sense that she and Pres. Ronald Reagan worked together to globalize neoliberalism. But that’s a very distant and impersonal understanding–I’ve never heard such a heartfelt account of what it was really like living under her reign. Thank you for this insight, and for keeping up the good fight!

  11. Great post, Paul!

    I was born in 1982, so quite a bit younger and was only 3 years old when the miners’ strikes ended. I do, however, remember the depression that filled the house as my father was made redundant three times, and was unable to find any employment for two years. Age discrimination laws did not exist in those days, and anyone over 40 had a difficult time finding work in South Wales.
    I remember the depression that filled the whole town. Shops closing (which we’re seinf again today), young men sitting around the town with nothing to do; feeling as though they had no hope left. I remember my friend’s father committing suicide, as did a number of men at that time. I remember my school having crumbling paint, and the fundraising to buy the school’s second computer. The school had just one BBC computer that was to be shared by everyone. Even when I went to comprehensive school in the 1990s, the school was under-equipped and relied upon fundraising.
    It saddens and worries me deeply that I am witnessing history repeating itself in so many ways today.

  12. My dad was a labour man through and through and a TU rep in the Print. When at a very young age I asked him what the difference between Labour and Conservative was he said “Labour care about the person standing next to them, Conservatives just care about themselves.” Every election he would be outside the polling booth at 6.55am and the first to vote in our village. I remember the day she was elected (I had just turned 11) – he feared for everything and he was right to. From that age I was determined to help the “good guys” get back in.

    At College and then at Cardiff Uni I was very politically active and forged some life-long friendships as a result, how we loved getting on the coach early in the morning, singing our anti-Thatcher songs, to get to London for the countless demos. Most were peaceful some were frightening – being caught in the middle of the Poll Tax horse charge on Westminster Bridge. Still we fought for what was right and because we cared about that person “standing next to us”. Campaigning at election time was exhausting and at times soul-destroying and I remember the sheer desperation and depression that followed Neil Kinnocks defeat.

    I believe that one consequence of her “reign” was the onset of “apathy”, a feeling that “nothing could be done” so why bother. No sense of a community, working for a common goal for the common good. There was only one thing that I took from her – being a woman was not going to hamper me, I even promised my dad at one point that I was going to be the second female PM!! I have to admit that she did influence my view of myself and what I could potentially achieve (but I think that was because of the time I spent fighting against her policies and the confidence it gave me through having the support of other like minded people, not because she was a woman or a role model!!) And unlike her I decided that when I got to where I was going I would encourage and support other women to do the same, not kick the ladder away from underneath them as she did.

    Unlike some I have no feelings of hatred towards her and do not celebrate her death but use it to recall parts of my history that made me who I am today, good and bad!! I definitely do not mourn her but I do mourn society caring about the “person standing next to them”. All I feel able to do now, as I cannot see us regaining this no matter who is in power, is to teach my son how to do that and ensure that just “caring about himself” is not an option.

    Thanks Paul for inspiring me to write my first BLOG post!!!!!!!

  13. 顽石嘿嘿一笑,手掌突然变大,抓住了控制的一团能量,开始炼化,仙界下凡的人,就这样被炼化了。在距离这灵矿不愿的水潭中,和凝诗一模一样的女子出现了,看着顽石的放下眨巴眨巴眼睛:“这下界的人也太强了,居然一下就消耗掉我的一丝能量,这已经不是渡劫初期了,恐怕后期都有可能。不过任务完成,应该已经把黑龙宗得罪了。等他们一起冲突,我们再让冲突加剧,任务就完成了。下一个什么宗??”
    ?????? http://s73.com.cn

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