Hey everyone I am still trying to come to terms with the news of the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The announcement made around quarter past 1 yesterday afternoon has left me numb and unsure as to what emotions I should be feeling at this historic moment. This is not because I’m a supporter of the Conservative Party she once led or support the cold hearted uncaring policies she introduced, it is more to do with the fact I have moved on and realise that both I and my country have different challenges to face than was the case in the Thatcher years. Its also to do with the fact that it was Margaret Thatcher who inspired me to get involved in policies though not quite in the way she would have wanted.
It was my first real political memory of a general election. Margaret Thatcher was standing on the steps of 10 Downing Street about to make a dramatic entrance as the United Kingdom’s first female Prime Minister. Her Conservative Party elected by an overall majority of 44 over the Labour Party whose government had stumbled from crisis to crisis in the previous five years. This suggested incompetence to a nation hungry for real leadership and if not a return to the golden days of empire then certainly to a position of respect where it was once again taken seriously.
The Conservatives fought the election campaign on the slogan Labour Isn’t Working appeared to with Thatcher at the helm to be able offer that leadership. I was too young to vote in that election it was the last election in which I would be able to make that particular boast and more than any other the result of it and the consequences of the actions taken because of that result would shape Scotland Britain and my political world view in a way which would still be relevant more than 30 years later.
This women polarised society more than any Prime Minister in the history of the United Kingdom. Her supporters will point to the fact that she and her government revolutionised Britain taking on the trade unions privatising industries and winning the Falklands war. However these images of a rose coloured Britain are not the images of my Britain. The Britain of my late teens and my twenty something years were not nice times for many members of my family or my friends or neighbours.
Just two months in to her reign my father lost his job. This was a man who until that fateful fair Friday had never been unemployed since leaving school. After this day apart from a brief period of six months in 1981 he was not to work again and never as an engineering inspector his job transferred to Birmingham for political reasons. Anyone who wants to know why I’m a nationalist need look no further. You have to trust me when I say nobody does that to my dad without serious consequences.
What she did to my dad and other friends and neighbours, she did to communities the length and breadth of Britain. Engineers, Miners Shipbuilders Steelworkers, Textile Workers all were deemed expendable as workers from the Clyde to the Humber were cast aside in the same way that the newspapers of today become the chip shop wrappers of tomorrow. So why knowing this did I gravitate towards the SNP rather than the Labour Party?
I think if I am honest the main reason was the fact that I viewed Independence as an escape route from the divisive and socially damaging policies of the Thatcher government. Though I have to admit there were other reasons such as the fact that hard-line bigots with distinctly racist views were supporting Labour in the name of an unionist protestant Britain said they would vote Labour but would sooner die than live in an independent Scotland certainly did Labour more harm than good in my eyes and maybe made the SNP’s job of winning my vote just that little bit easier.
These people were the snide ‘friends’ of maternal cousins who looked down on my dad because he was catholic and treated him as if he were some kind of dirt. They openly stated that they would sooner be ruled by Thatcher than by the SNP. This was a view I could never understand. I mean how could you say you hated Thatcher and the Tories then in the next breath say that you would rather be ruled by them than do the job yourself? This made no sense to me whatsoever even less so after 1983 when in a tide of right wing euphoria after victory in the Falklands War a year earlier she was returned to power in a landslide victory with a majority of 144.
With this result, her second election victory any chance of me voting Labour before an Independent Scotland had died. It was in the early hours of Friday 10th June 1983 as Margaret Thatcher was swept back to power leaving a badly emasculated and dishevelled Labour Party trailing in her wake. It was on this day I realised that the idea of Britishness was no more than a deluded fantasy
to suit the ends of those who had money and power and would do whatever they needed to protect their interests.
This was no United Kingdom this was a nation divided and the political map of Britain showed just badly divided it actually was. Large parts of Scotland Northern England and Wales were without any representation on the Conservative benches and particularly the whole of the South of England had no Labour MP’s apart from the most deprived parts of London. I say large parts of Scotland had no Tory MP because certain parts of Scotland still held true to the banner of true blue Conservatism. Cities such as Stirling and Perth as well as parts of Edinburgh as well their more rural heartlands such as Argyll and Angus were amongst those areas whose MP’s were part of team Thatcher. It may be hard to believe now but at the peak of her post Falklands popularity the Conservatives could boast Scottish 22 MP’s to send to Westminster.
It was during this parliamentary term, the second of three she would eventually win that we began to see the real Thatcher. This was the nasty Thatcher, the Thatcher who would stop at nothing to destroy her enemies whatever the cost. Having tasted victory abroad she was now in the mood for some action at home and Britain’s miners were about to find out they were going to be the target of a woman who viewed them as the enemy within. In a year long battle Thatcher eventually prevailed and many mining communities were decimated as a result of the pit closures which followed her victory.
It was during these years with the sharp decline in Scotland’s traditional industries that the Conservative brand became tainted in Scotland and went in to a decline which I believe can only be reversed when a new conservatism emerges in a post independent Scotland where it can no longer be perceived as an English party after only English voters. I accept that this may not be how Margaret Thatcher and her government perceived Scotland but it most certainly was how Scotland perceived Margaret Thatcher and her government.
It was also during this second term of her period in office that she drove forward with her programme of privatising many of the countries best known companies. Buoyed by her success in selling off in giving council tenants the right to buy their homes this was in her eyes her next attempt to modernise Britain and bring in to the modern world. A world where if you believe the gospel according to her supporters where everyone really could have it all, so it was only natural that she viewed these privatisations and her campaign to make Britain a nation of shareholders as the next logical step along the road to prosperity. To opponents such as myself it was a cruel delusion as her government was selling the people things we actually owned. This to me about as much sense as being asked to buy the emperor a brand new birthday suit because we were it look better on him and many of us were conned to buying the idea that this would somehow give us a voice in society.
Unfortunately I am not joking when I say that there were some people and I know them personally were even duped into believing that buying the Telegraph and Financial Times would put them on the same social scale as the multi millionaires who had seats in House of Lords and not on a 54 Bus. It would be an understatement to say I was furious at these gullible halfwits attempting to look down on me because I didn’t fall this little trick.
By these acts of privatisation Thatcher it seemed had created a new breed of working class Tory. Realising the popularity of creating what Thatcher had termed a share owning democracy the Labour Party moved away from their traditional working class vote and targeted what the press and media labelled the ‘aspirational working class’. However it would be more than a decade before they would return and when they did it be under the leadership of Tony Blair, a man who looked like a Tory talked liked a Tory and in eyes of many including myself was a Tory. He even re-named a party he led but never loved New Labour to signal a clear break from its socialist past.
This was a party cut off it roots as Blair and his supporters wanted to put a clear distance between a party moulded in his image and the now badly beaten trade union movement. No wonder Mrs Thatcher who was even those of us who hated her cruel divisive policies would admit was a very shrewd woman and leader of her party said he was her greatest achievement in politics. She believed his election was the final proof that she had succeeded in her greatest ambition in life, the destruction of socialism.
To my view of my life focused as it was and still remains on creating a better society Blair was as toxic as the woman I could see from the very beginning was his political mother. This was not just Thatcher’s child, this was mummy’s golden boy. Like his political mummy Tony liked playing soldiers. Unlike Margaret Thatcher however Blair or B-liar as many of his
political opponents prefer to call him, did not have the intelligence to realise that war is a last resort of failed diplomacy and no British prime minister should ever go to war to unless its to fight for Britain’s interests abroad. This was a needy attention seeking child in the body of adult who decided to join his pal George in a US invasion of Iraq not only opposed by millions in the country he governed but also by the united nations. This pathetic posturing made me furious and I asked the question how could any man who even wants to be a socialist wish to commit murder for profit. Then I realised this was not just any man this Tony Blair Made in Westminster and made by Margaret Thatcher.
No doubt in the next few days the British press and media will be salivating over the women who they refer as Baroness Thatcher, as a child in early 70’s had another name for her Maggie Thatcher Milk Snatcher. This comes from a time before she became Britain’s first female Prime Minister, when as Education secretary she was responsible for ending the provision of free milk in Britain’s schools. So If I look at my personal view of the woman I see someone who as a child stole my milk and as a school leaver stole my dreams. In my 20’s she gave us the hated poll tax which proved to be her undoing. She destroyed both my community and my city. she decimated my country and showed not a trace of remorse. We must do all we can to make sure Scotland won’t be fooled again.
Much as it surely pains some people to admit Alex Salmond was correct to say that one of the consequences of Thatcher’s policies which she certainly would not have intended was that she changed the mindset of the Scottish voters. During her time in office attitudes regarding devolution went from being perceived as a nice idea to being viewed as absolutely essential to protect Scotland from the destructive impact of the economic and social policies of Thatcher or someone of a similar ilk.
This I believe is the reason why I don’t believe devolution goes anywhere near far enough and why Independence is the only way to save Scotland from such a brutal attack on our people and our way of life. To those considering voting No to independence I say only this. Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat its mistakes. My warning to those Labouring to hard and in a fit of self interest maintain we are better together is that when you least expect it there will be god forbid be another Thatcher. Scotland cannot afford to be part of the Dis United Kingdom when this eventually happens.
Today an old woman will have died in an area I know well. It will happen somewhere in Baillieston, or Cadder, or Lambhill the Gorbals, or Govan but there deaths will not have made the news. There families will be grieving for their loss and will be comforted by genuine friends who will know how much of a loss this will be to the local community. There will be no newspaper headlines or TV programmes recalling what she did with her life that will be the preserve of Margaret Thatcher the woman who inspired me to get involved in politics and to fight with all I have and all that I am to make sure Scotland never sees her like again.
You know I will admit that Margaret Thatcher made me angry. Her destruction of Scotland and Britain’s manufacturing and industrial base left entire communities devastated. Her support for a racist government in South Africa, a communist government in Romania because its cruel leader hated the Soviet Union a fascist government in Chile a tyrannical government in Zimbabwe sickened me and millions of others but what really hurt me was her attitude to Scotland. She would often taunt us by saying If you don’t like me you can just leave
It gives me great pleasure to say that in September next year we have a duty to do exactly that by voting Yes to independence. Then on regaining our nationhood we must make a promise to our people that we will work together with them to build a better Scotland than she would ever have believed were possible.
This will be a Scotland where we help heal the wounds and divisions her policies created and rebuild the communities she destroyed in the name of profit. As I said earlier in this post as a primary school child I remember her stealing my milk she then went on to steal my dreams. As we move forward to a new and better future let us take our chance to get rid of her toxic tory brand from our nation not for one election but forever its a chance we’ve got to take and I believe we will do so not in the name of Braveheart but because we survived the Iron lady.
As I said in the opening paragraph of this post Margaret Thatcher inspired me to get involved in politics but not in the way she would have wanted. I didn’t sign up for her party nor did sign up for her reserve team otherwise known as the British Labour And Unionist Party. I signed up to fight for Scotland for fairness and equality.
When assessing what her legacy will be if I’m honest I have to say that depends on your political perspective. For some be as Mother Britain who saved their nation. For me it will be as
the first Prime Minister of a Dis United Kingdom and the head of a fractured family who stole her children’s dreams. It is my belief this is a family who need to move on to independent lives and who by doing so will rebuild the friendships they once had making them stronger and better for all who live on this shared island.
Love And Best Wishes