Monday, 8 April 2013

Lady Thatcher's Death: End of an Era.

As much as I'd like to get riled up over Margaret Thatcher's death (after all I come from "Up North" so it should essentially be in my genes to hate her), I find I'm ambivalent.

Sure, She started a train of action that ultimately ended with the collossal crash of 2008, but really there were too many people in charge between her and that crash, that took full advantage of the gravy train she had started to pin the blame totally on her.

Although I was made redundant only months after she came to power in 1979 and started turning the screws on the economy, I made full advantage of the opportunities her government laid before me.

I spent less than a week on the dole, during which I was told I couldn't continue my day release course, even though it would eventually make me employable. So I went cleaning council loos for a living: not something someone employed in electronics should be doing, but I was willing to do any job in order to service my obligations and continue to pay my rent to my Mother and pay off the HP on my shiny new moped.

I did that for two years until things got better and I left to join one of the (by then) progressive government's training schemes. A fully paid scheme run by the National Computing Centre with no restrictions, open to anyone who could past the entrance tests that trained me in computer operations and then programming. A course that provided as many weeks theoretical training as it did on-the-job work experience. It was a godsend for someone without formal qualifications like me.

I left the course and although I was again unemployed for a while, I took full advantage of the time and earned beer money employing my old electronics skills repairing and modifying CB radios, which was enjoying a huge surge in popularity at the time.

That computer course proved invaluable as it provided me a stepping stone to earning a middle-income wage which allowed me to repay the government's investment several times over. It allowed me to raise a family, buy a house and eventually become self-employed as a contractor until Labour came to power in the late nineties and killed it all.

The thing is, Thatcher for all her faults played things straight. She gave us strong medicine when it was needed but she also soothed when we needed it with low taxes. She might have cost jobs with her policies, but her policies also gave back in training schemes. If you made the most of them, if you steered yourself in the direction the government wanted the country to go, then you gained an advantage.

Her downfall may have come sooner had the Labour party not been distracted by a bloody civil war, becoming a pantomime political party. In the end it only gained power when it presented a painted marxist in the form of Tony Blair with the leftist tendencies airbrushed out that even the far left could rally behind.

As much as she was the last great statesman this country had, she was also flawed. Her eventual downfall was to believe her own hype, to become bigger than she really was. The Poll Tax was a disaster. If she had listened and compromised sooner, she may have stayed in power, but instead she stuck to her guns far past the point of reason. On that and on Europe.

In the end it cost  her her political career and ushered in the corporate-funded professional politics we have today: all spin and no substance, jam tomorrow and nothing but promises for the poor. Her policies promoted freedom, whereas today's policies feel more like a straightjacket.

Her legacy will polarise opinion about her for decades to come. For those who took advantage of the good times, she will be a God, for those who stayed shackled to the past, she with be the spawn of Satan.