BUSAN, South Korea — Over the last two days, since Margaret Thatcher’s death, a feeling has been rekindled inside me that I had forgotten about and has been sorely missed.
Over recent years, I’ve become complacent and apathetic towards politics, and it took the death of this remarkable, divisive, woman to get me thinking again.
The person who I am now is because of her. She is the reason that I became interested in politics and chose to study politics at university. But growing up, she was the antithesis of everything that seemed just and right.
Don’t get me wrong here. I was brought up in a middle-class household, my father worked his ass off his entire life to reach the pinnacle of his profession and provide a more than comfortable upbringing for my brother and me. My parents benefited hugely from many of the policies that Thatcher implemented. But those same policies destroyed so many people, they decimated communities, brought discord to the streets of Britain and Ireland and divided a nation.
From my early teens I felt something was wrong. What I saw going on around me just didn’t seem right. My parents never expressed their political views to me, they didn’t tell me how to think. I was left to make my own mind up. However, like me, my father had chosen to study politics at university and our loft was filled with an Alla-din’s cave of political and philosophical literature: Marx, Engels, Lenin, Locke, Rousseau, Plato et al. I devoured every one of them. I took on board what they said about the human condition and society. Then, I looked out of my window and was dismayed by what I saw.
As I progressed through my teenage years, my political convictions grew stronger. Most of my peers and many of their parents seemed to be of the same mind as me. Now, I look back and wonder if these people were just being righteous and sanctimonious. My friend’s parents were not working class, but successful, affluent, middle-class professionals. What right did they have to declare affinity for the miners and the teachers and the Irish and every other group and community that Thatcher sought to quash? Did it really effect their own lives?
The correct answer is no. But can a decent human being stand around and ignore what is happening around them? Again, no is the correct answer. Did my wearing of the ‘Support the Miners’ badge during my secondary school years help those miners in any way? Probably not.
But did my refusal to pay my poll tax, take part in demonstrations and risk the threat of fine and imprisonment have any impact on the Conservative government’s abandonment of that policy? Well… for that one, I would like to say yes. Because it wasn’t just me, a student. It was the working class, it was the middle-class (those that had benefited most from Thatcher’s policies). It was pretty much everyone who saw an ill thought out and unfair policy and did the correct thing. They protested until the government, that they, the majority, had elected, conceded that they were wrong. It was a great moment for democracy at its finest.
So, now I sit here watching yet another âexpert’ reflect on her legacy. Did she make Britain into the country it is today? I have to concede: yes, she did. But at what cost? The gap between rich and poor is at its greatest since the post-war years. The amount of people claiming welfare is higher than it ever was before she took the reigns of power. Our economy tilts on the edge of either great economic gains or abject depression depending on which kid decides to ‘have a gamble’ today.
If she had never existed, where would our country be today? Probably similar to Spain, Portugal or Greece. Then again, why are those countries in such dire straits? Because of the federalism and poorly thought-out policies of the European Union….
The irony makes me laugh.
You can read more from Matthew at his blog, An Englishman in Busan.