During that time I had the pleasure of meeting many individuals involved in the U.K. (and Scottish) governments but none so enjoyable as Mr. Karl Connor. Karl resides in Egremont, a small community outside of Whitehaven in Cumbria. He serves as a Labour Party member of the Copeland Borough Council.
As would be expected there has been much discussion regarding former Prime Minister Thatcher's passing today in the U.K. and when I read Mr. Connor's rather pointed remarks I thought it may be of interest for those of us on this side of the pond who watched, but didn't live, the effects of Thatcher's policies on the working class in the U.K.
I cannot think of a person in the western world with whom I have less in common, politically, than Margaret Thatcher.
I feel such utter contempt for Thatcher that I can’t help but be glad, on some level, that she is no longer with us. I’m not popping a champagne cork or downloading “ding dong” like some are — but I’m pleased, generally, that she has died. I think because I hope somehow, however unlikely it is, that her politics will die with her.
I feel for her children and grandchildren — although on her climb to the top it seems she spared little thought for them, or for other families. I just can’t picture her as some frail old lady or grandmother. She was, and always will be, The Iron Lady.
This is a woman who denounced Nelson Mandela as a terrorist, but welcomed General Pinochet to the UK. She actually refused to back anti-apartheid campaigners, and yet was welcoming to a man who’d ordered the deaths of thousands of his own people, simply for having a different political view to his own.
This is a woman who helped cover up Hillsborough. Something which seems to me unforgivable for a Prime Minister given the contents of documents which have, thankfully, now been published revealing the truth. Documents to which she’d have had full access 24 years ago. I had a tear in my eye watching the Hillsborough documentary on the BBC the other night and seeing Andy Burnham drowned out by 40,000 Liverpool fans signing for justice. He took a step back, nodded, and went back to London to seek what the people demanded; just a week after then PM Gordon Brown had said there would be no fresh enquiry. That’s what politics is about. Doing what the people want, what’s right and what will help people. Thatcher did what suited her. Always.
She tore away work from the working classes, and then sent our police into battle with the miners when they made a stand. She decimated towns in the north of England, helped the rich get richer, and drove children from working class families into a poverty from which some have never recovered.
The war she waged wasn’t against a ‘can’t work/won’t work’ group, like her disciples claim to be targeting in 2013. It was against honest, hard working men who didn’t want to sign on.
She created a system where however hard working you were, whatever you were prepared to do, it was virtually impossible to get a job without having had a great education. A great education which, of course, was inaccessible to almost all who were born into the working class.
And make no mistake, her abolition of apprenticeships is reflected in the national lack of skilled tradesmen we have today. Men in their 30s and 40s who should have had opportunity, but didn’t. And still don’t.
Lots of people are saying she was a great feminist — an idea she hated. She once called feminism “poison” and did nothing to help female equality, despite having such a wonderful opportunity to do so.
Other have said “at least she stood for something; not like this lot today” and praised her for having a view (however distorted) and sticking to it. Well, you could say the same for Hitler, frankly. It doesn’t make him any less evil.
I’ve also been told, quite firmly, by a relative who I love and respect, that I should show Thatcher some compassion — that I should try and be more than she was.
But I’m sorry — I just can’t.
I save my compassion for the victims of Hillsborough and the victims of apartheid, or for the homeless, and those not able to help themselves. I save it for the children who went hungry and for the families — ordinary working class ones like mine — who were sunk into poverty when she closed down mines and factories and left honest, hard-working men with no work.
You’ll note I’ve not posted a status celebrating her dying, and nor have I popped a cork or danced a jig. To those that do feel the need to party, have a drink and ‘tramp the dirt down’ — go for it, if it makes you feel good. I won’t, but I was born in 1981 and I consider myself fortunate not to be any older, and to only have suffered the dying embers of her tyrannous reign.
While I’m not celebrating I am thinking about Britain today. I’m pondering about a Prime Minister that stayed on holiday while London burnt, but who is dashing home to wring his hands now that his icon has slipped away. Anyone would think there was a local election coming up.
I’m pondering how when people in the ward I represent will go hungry or without heat as a result of the taxes he is introducing, somehow the nation will find roughly £3 million from tax payers’ coffers to stump up for a funeral for Thatcher, rather than insist on the money coming from the millions in her estate.
And as I hear Labour MPs talk about what a strong woman she was or what an inspirational leader she was I can’t help but think that some things will never change.
(reproduced in its entirety with the kind permission of Mr. Connor)
update: Mr. Connor asked me to thank each and every individual who took the time to read and consider his comments. He realizes that there are those fighting the same fight in the States and hopes that the experience in the U.K. may serve as a reminder how "Every man for himself" can go horribly wrong.
He also asked me to post a link to his blog (I think its rather cool that he has one) and encourages anyone who wishes so to comment.