It's time for Maggie Thatcher's haters to move on

I used to joke that when Margaret Thatcher died, I'd go dance on her grave. But I didn't live in Britain at the time she was in power and was too young to know what she or her government did. I've learned since, and I would disagree with much of it.

Decades on, a great many people still hate her, and violently so. "Ding dong the witch is dead," wrote one of my friends. In fact, there's a campaign to get that song from The Wizard of Oz to number one in the charts. Scotland in particular hated her, despite helping elect her in the first place.

Former British PM Margaret Thatcher. AP

Former British PM Margaret Thatcher. AP

In fact, for all the vitriol against Thatcher, she kept getting elected, and her colleagues won again after she was pushed out. The changes she oversaw - and you could argue many of those would have been brought in by any member of a Tory government - were sweeping and are still felt today. The privatisation that still prompts rising energy and rail prices, the demise of manufacturing and many others.

Part of the hatred of Thatcher comes from the aversion to change. I'm not saying all the changes were necessary and a great many were ideological, but there's no denying the 1980s were going to have change from somebody no matter what. Just as austerity measures by various governments prompt backlashes and elections of new socialist or even far-right politicians, change brings change. We don't like it, and we repel against it.

To some, Thatcher was the authoritative mother they craved. To others, she was the patronising father that became a symbol of teenage-natured rebellion. She cozied up to dictators, but name me a politician who hasn't done the same since. She nearly wiped out coal mining, but would it have avoided change once climate change fears gained political weight? She introduced the hated Poll Tax, but has anyone managed to reform the alternative council tax as yet? Nope.

Hating Thatcher won't undo the change or all the past.

"Yes" proclaimed the website www.isthatcherdeadyet.co.uk, adding, "This lady's not returning", playing on one of her most famous political lines. I laughed when I first found that site in 2010. My response today has to be: "Now what?"

People love to have a figure to hate, to direct anger against. There are and have been a great many bad people in the world who have done horrible things to fellow humans. But hate is a bit pointless.

For all the hate directed towards her, for all the energy that expends, could we repair whatever damage she did? Are we volunteering to make communities stronger? Are we coming up with business cases to bring back manufacturing? Are we electing alternatives to those who share her values and political approaches? Are we swaying those voters who agreed with Thatcher, person by person, round to alternatives?

There's a great deal more rhetoric against Thatcher than I've ever seen productive action. If you want leadership - even the kind of female leadership that Thatcher represented - then go be a leader. Make the country better through showing humanity to each other, not hating someone who's dead. Why do so many people wait for leadership rather than leading themselves?

I regret joking that I would someday dance on Thatcher's grave. I wouldn't do that to anyone. Dad taught me not to waste energy on hate. And whatever we may have feared of change or despised from the effects, we can all use that energy better.

She's dead, she's gone. Fine. If Thatcher was "not for turning", then let's turn the hate into something else.


Published Date: Apr 09, 2013 10:40 am | Updated Date: Apr 10, 2013 06:23 pm