The left still has much to learn from its defeats to Margaret Thatcher

Ever since Margaret Thatcher stopped appearing in public due to poor health, the left has seemingly been split between those readying themselves to celebrate her eventual passing and those who have resigned themselves to adopting her ideas.

Ever since Margaret Thatcher stopped appearing in public due to poor health, the left has seemingly been split between those readying themselves to celebrate her eventual passing and those who have resigned themselves to adopting her ideas.

Undoubtedly much of the news in the coming days will gloss over the political life of Mrs Thatcher with empty platitudes, focusing on the superficial aspects of Mrs Thatcher’s “firm government” at the expense of more detailed analysis of her policies.

Many on the left, however, are unlikely to forget the lives her government destroyed, the dictators she championed or the lives thrown on the scrapheap by her government’s casual disregard for the fate of the unemployed. One can accept the notion that capitalism is the least bad economic system without parroting the dictum that we are ‘all Thatcherites now’.

Many of us are not and never will be Thatcherites, and we will continue to believe that a more responsible capitalism would roll back much of the consensus championed by Mrs Thatcher and her government.

There are of course those on the left who will view Thatcher’s death as an opportunity to get one over on her family, her friends, and her supporters in a way that was not possible in an era when her ideas triumphed so emphatically. For these people, Margaret Thatcher’s death will not only to be greeted with sullen contempt but with active celebration.

Considering that during her reign Mrs Thatcher trounced the left at every opportunity, the desire to see the back of the woman is perhaps understandable. As well as this being deeply unpleasant, we on the left would do well to remember that the ideas embodied by Mrs Thatcher are not going to be dented, let alone killed-off by the departure of Mrs T from the physical realm.

The left would do well to examine with clear-sightedness where it went wrong in the 1980s, how it has behaved since then and how it can continue to learn from those historic defeats.

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