Five progressive things done by the governments of Margaret Thatcher

There are plenty of things Margaret Thatcher did which progressives are right to have opposed. Support for Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet abroad, the casual disregard her government showed to the unemployed at home, the emasculation of local government and the introduction of Section 28.

There are plenty of things Margaret Thatcher did which progressives are right to have opposed. Support for Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet abroad, the casual disregard her government showed to the unemployed at home, the emasculation of local government and the introduction of Section 28 to name but a few.

She also brought in a few progressive measures, though. Here are five:

  1. The abolition of corporal punishment. Under Margaret Thatcher’s government corporal punishment was abolished in 1986. Mrs Thatcher did not vote herself (she was entertaining Nancy Reagan at the time),  and several pro-caning Tory MPs missed the commons vote – which was won by 231 votes to 230 – because they were stuck in traffic caused by preparations for the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, which took place the following day.

  2. Took action on HIV/AIDs. It was the government of Margaret Thatcher which started the fightback against the spread of HIV/AIDS, launching a number of campaigns to draw attention to the spread of the disease and promote safe sex as the 1980s epidemic gained ground. Mrs Thatcher had serious misgivings about mounting a campaign at all – she wanted the traditional family to be reclaimed as the backbone of British life, therefore any “deviant” behaviour was to be condemned – but her government broke the ice in talking about sex – safe sex.

  3. Took climate change seriously. For some Margaret Thatcher was a climate change pioneer. Mentioning climate change at the Royal Society in 1988, she told scientists that climate change warranted government action to diminish pollution and promote sustainable development. She also threw her weight behind global efforts to phase out CFCs.

  4. Promoted European intergration. Despite the Conservative Party’s strained relationship with Europe, Margaret Thatcher signed Britain up to the Single European Act, which created the European single market, signaling greater European integration by making it easier to pass laws, strengthening the EU Parliament and laying the basis for a European foreign policy.

  5. Liberated the Falklands from a fascist junta. Despite her uncomfortably close relationship with Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and the fact that she denounced Nelson Madela’s African National Congress as terrorists, Margaret Thatcher sent British forces halfway around the world to defend the self-determination of the islanders against an aggressive government of the far right.

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54 Responses to “Five progressive things done by the governments of Margaret Thatcher”

  1. 08/04/13

    1. She did not vote for it, its slipped through narrowly. This is a major stretch.

    2. By your own admission this was done reluctantly.

    3. She was a trained scientist. Tick

    4. Tick

    5. Any leader would have done this. This is not a ‘progressive’ act.

    That makes 2 ‘progressive’ actions, a pathetic achievement.

  2. Jeremy Cooper

    Not an impressive list! Your “despites” are more significant than the “progressive” acts. I suspect any PM would have done the same, except for the Falklands War. Did she not promote climate change arguments as part of her anti-coalminer struggle? As for liberating the Falklands from a fascist junta – she started a war when she probably didn’t need to. This all sounds a bit like Mussolini making the rains runt to time.

  3. sonteipheap

    Nothing “progressive” about the Malvinas war. It was a stupid and pointless war over a useless rock in defence of bunch of colonists who were only there because Britain stole it from Argentina. The idea of “self determination” for a settler colony is absurd and ridiculous

    Most people had never even heard of the bloody place when she went to war. The Sun had to print little maps with arrows on them. People losing their jobs suddenly fell in behind the flag and she used it to win the next election. The fact that some on the left support that stupid war is a disgrace. Thatcher as enemy of fascism? Lol. Tell that to Pinochet

  4. Sam Smallridge

    These are interesting points. Especially number 1, i’m looking for the split in the vote now. But i think number 3 is a bit contentious.

    -The speech was given in 1989 and it came six months after the Green party had come third in the European Parliament Elections with 15% of the vote, while Labour won them. Cameron cited this as well when he became leader, however given that this was probably Thatcher’s only foray into the subject and very little happened in her premiership with regards to the issue I think the speech was more pragmatic than progressive.

    Love the picture.

  5. David Gerard

    The Falklands war was interesting, because the junta were on their last legs and … invaded to drum up jingoism at home. But they hadn’t counted on greater opposing jingoism.

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