The lady’s not for burning
I was wrong.
It does a man good to say that once in a while, so there you go.
Coming from Sheffield I’d always heard that when Margaret Thatcher died “they’ll have to install a turnstile in the graveyard due to the amount of people entering it with their dancing shoes on”. Then came the internet.
The Facebook page ‘We’re having a party when Thatcher dies‘ has over 6,000 likes and another, ‘Is Margaret Thatcher Dead Yet?‘, has nearly 40,000. Given this I’d come to think that the day after Lady T popped her clogs I’d be picking my way to the tube station in the morning stepping over people passed out in party hats. I wrote that “people in places like Sheffield will be celebrating Margaret Thatcher’s death”, even that “the streets of Sheffield will flow with ale.”
In Brixton ‘revellers’ trashed a branch of that well known exploiter of the workers, Barnardo’s. Last weekend saw a party in Trafalgar Square which, especially given the anticipation over the years, was a total washout. The revellers brought an effigy but couldn’t manage to set it on fire prompting the wonderful observation: “The lady was not for burning.” And Sheffield was quiet.
I should have suspected that the promises of wild celebrations were overdone. After all, I’ve written before about how Thatcher is actually the most popular post war British prime minister. The Guardian reported that “On the day of her death, half of all respondents, 50%, told the pollster that they look back on her contribution as a positive one for Britain. That is 16 points more than the 34% who say she was bad for the country.” (Ouch, that must have hurt!)
A YouGov poll found that “Opinion gradually becomes less positive as you go northwards, but not drastically so – even in the North 49% have a positive opinion of Thatcher, 35% negative.” 28 percent regarded Thatcher as a “good Prime Minister” and 21 percent as a “great Prime Minister” (the best laugh I had all week was a northern leftie I know explaining that these people meant great in the sense of important, not ‘really good’). The finding is repeated across the country, according to YouGov “Only in Scotland is the balance of opinion negative”.
The YouGov poll found that Thatcher is regarded as “the greatest British Prime Minister since 1945” in every region except Scotland and London where she is pipped by another Conservative, Winston Churchill. It also found that in every region except Scotland more thought that “Margaret Thatcher’s period as Prime Minister” had been “Good for Britain” than thought it had been “Bad for Britain”.
Again, in every region except Scotland more thought that Thatcher’s period as Prime Minister had left Britain “Economically better off”. In every region the most popular view was that she had left Britain “More respected in the world” and a place with “More opportunities for women”.
In the Commons Glenda Jackson blustered “A woman? Not on my terms!” But then the question of whether you’re a woman isn’t decided on Glenda Jackson’s terms and, as the YouGov poll also found, most women disagree with her: 51 percent of women said that Thatcher left Britain a country with “More opportunities for women” against just 14 percent saying “less”.
There was some mixture in the picture. In every region the dominant view was that Thatcher had made Britain a “Less equal society”. This is undeniable. People at the top got very much better off and people in the middle got a bit better off but people at the bottom also got better off, just not by very much. When Simon Hughes put this charge to her in her bravura farewell performance as Prime Minister in November 1990 Thatcher replied:
“People on all levels of income are better off than they were in 1979. The hon. Gentleman is saying that he would rather that the poor were poorer, provided that the rich were less rich. That way one will never create the wealth for better social services, as we have. What a policy. Yes, he would rather have the poor poorer, provided that the rich were less rich. That is the Liberal policy.”
As I wrote last week: “Those who profess to hate Thatcher have committed the error of taking something they believe (or claim to, I’m not convinced many of them are actually serious), repeating it loudly and often to other people who also believe it, and assuming from this fusillade of confirmation that everyone else thinks it as well”
It would be wrong to say that there aren’t people out there who deeply loathe Thatcher and all she stood for. But it certainly seems that my friend’s dance floor won’t need waxing so often.
This article originally appeared at The Commentator