Across the nations Thatcher’s legacy goes on dividing people

Amidst the pomp and the circumstance of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral today, across the nations the sight of her coffin, draped in the union jack, is doing little to quash the bitterness felt towards her tenure at Number 10.

Amidst the pomp and the circumstance of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral today, across the nations the sight of her coffin, draped in the union jack, is doing little to quash the bitterness felt towards her tenure at Number 10.

At Wales Online, Dan O’Neil today reflects on the devastation that continues to be felt across the valleys as a result of the systematic programme of pit closures overseen by Thatcher’s government. Making comparisons between the coverage of the Iron Lady’s death and North Korea, in a strongly worded column he writes:

“So the world, we’re told, will watch David Cameron’s 10 million quid commercial on behalf of the Tory Party, climaxing nine days of hype, hysteria and an outpouring of fawning adulation which might  have embarrassed even North Korea’s Dear Leader.

“Nine days showing, impossible though it seems, that Margaret Thatcher is more divisive in death than she ever was in life.

“But I will remember another funeral, one that should shame every Thatcherite who brayed like his heroine of ‘the enemy within’. Although I wouldn’t bet on it.

“It is 19 years since they carried the coffin of Edith Lillian Farley into the little cemetery at Penyrhoel. It is 100 years since the explosion at Senghenydd Universal Colliery that made her a widow, one of 205 women whose husbands died on that dreadful day. She was 19 years old, married less than a year, mother of a tiny baby.

“In May, 1994, 81 years after the death of her husband John, Edith Lillian was at last laid to rest among weathered tombstones bearing the terrible date burned into her brain, rooted in her heart: October 14, 1913.

“The date of  a mining apocalypse, an industrial Paschendaele.

“Had Margaret Thatcher, I wondered, ever heard of Senghenydd, where 439 men and boys died? Would she have sided with the mine-owners who cut the victims’ wages because they died halfway through the shift, as she sided with their equivalents of today?

“If Thatcher had stood besides me in that cemetery, would there have been, perhaps, a spark of regret for what her vengeful crusade had done to those other women who came after Edith Lillian, women who saw their husbands’ lives ended as surely by her war as the life of Edith Lillian’s husband was ended by an explosion a century ago?

“No pomp and circumstance marked the funeral of Lillian Edith, for who was left to mourn a woman approaching her hundredth year – her son and a daughter by a second marriage gone long before? But she, not Thatcher, will be in my thoughts today.”

At the Scotsman, Gregor Gall, professor of industrial relations at the University of Bradford, notes that amidst the anger felt at much of her policies the left has to share a large portion of the blame for Thatcherism as an ideology. Picking up on a number of the reactions of those on who have seen the former PM’s death as tantamount to a joyous occasion, he observes:

“Because they were largely beaten by her, they could only celebrate her physical demise and not her political demise. Indeed, if Thatcher leaving office on 22 November, 1990, had represented the political demise of Thatcherism, the celebrations back then would have been much greater – and much more muted today.”

Noting that throughout her tenure as prime minister there were few credible alternatives to her vision for the country he concludes:

“The left needs more than little pyrrhic victories of celebrating Thatcher’s death if it is to revive and have influence.

“It must look at how Thatcher constructed a popular alliance that ruled the roost for so long in order to work out how it can construct its own one that can be equally radical and equally effective. The Left in Scotland – given both its greater historical and contemporary strength than the Left south of the Border – could have a significant role to play here. Time will tell.”

In stark contrasts however, the Daily Record, which reports that most Scottish local authorities will not be lowering their flags to half mast, the SNP MSP and columnist at the paper, Joan McAlpine argues that it is right to “dig up” the past on the day of Thatchcer’s funeral. She argues:

“The British establishment will stage what is effectively a state funeral to venerate the controversial former PM.

“It will be broadcast live on the publicly funded BBC with all the pomp and military circumstance normally reserved for royalty.

“Many people who watched their communities destroyed in the 1980s will consider that in poor taste.

“Their money is being spent and they should get an opportunity to express their views through their representatives.

“Dissent against Thatcherite policies played a big part in the re-establishment of Scotland’s Parliament back in 1999.”

McAlpine continues:

“The ‘greed is good’ culture is Thatcher’s most lasting legacy.”

At the Belfast Telegraph meanwhile, the paper picks up on the changing attitudes towards Thatcher among the Unionist communities, from the heated disagreement with her over the 1985 Anglo Irish Agreement to the respectful praise given last week on news of her death. Noting that it led to the seeds of peace felt across Northern Ireland today the paper writes:

“As we know, Thatcher’s downfall was her initial ‘strength’. There is always a point when the hounding, demanding and asserting of your will over others will simply earn one enemies.

“When she pronounced “You turn if you want to”, she did not realise that, when those around her did, she would fall into the political wilderness.

“She was simply inflexible in what is always a changing world. The local political leaders of that time, whether unionist or republican, had themselves been ‘Iron Men’ and proponents of inflexible beliefs and ideas.

“However, they understood more than Thatcher that positive change comes not from blunt actions, but through the understanding that compromise is not a weakness. In her own words, she opined that “disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the high road to pride, self-esteem, and personal satisfaction”.

“The high road found in Northern Ireland has taken us far beyond such selfish principles.

“For unionist leaders, they should remain minded that 1985 was a lesson in learning that Northern Ireland had and continues to become a very different place.

“Respectful condolences are a reminder of how far the DUP and others, who were less commiserating, have been stretched since the dreariness of the Thatcher era.”

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