Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Margaret Thatcher

(BBC Online)

Tomorrow will be the 80th birthday of Margaret Thatcher, otherwise known as "The Iron Lady", "The Great She-Elephant", "Attila the Hen" and "The Grocer's Daughter".
To be fair, those of us across the political divide ought to congratulate her. We can agree that she is a formidable woman who succesfully managed to become the first female Prime Minister, lasting in the post for eleven years (1979-1990), which is some achivement.
Indeed some in the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats praise her not just for her strength of personality but also for her encouragement of giving people an increase in the right of choice. I admit myself, albeit with blushes, that I have agreed with one or two major Thatcherite policies, although one of them (Rail privatisation) is something I am now somewhat ashamed of, given the dire mess it is in right now.
So how is the Iron Lady celebrating her birthday! Well according to BBC Online Diarist Nick Assinder:

Fascinating to see who is being invited to Baroness Thatcher's 80th birthday bash in Knightsbridge on Thursday.

Who is in and who out of favour with the Iron Lady
A whole host of big beasts from the Tory party will be there amongst the near 700-strong gathering

But so will Prime Minister Tony Blair, who invited her into Downing Street shortly after his election in 1997 and has always rather enjoyed being described as her political heir.

But apparently Michael Heseltine can not look forward to an invitation.

Hardly surprising bearing in mind his greatest claim to fame is probably as the man who finished off the Iron Lady.

Perhaps more interesting, however, is the fact that of the remaining four Tory leadership contenders only the two right wingers, David Davis and Liam Fox have been invited.

Euroenthusiast Ken Clarke has, perhaps unsurprisingly, been forgotten and the Baroness "doesn't know" David Cameron.

What is more difficult to work out nowadays is whether their campaigns will gain or lose from being left off the list.

It is hardly surprising which leadership contenders are on the list, given Thatcher's partisan and slavish approach to the right of the Party. For this is the woman who, according to the memoirs of the former Conservative leader and Prime Minister (Yes you could be both in those days), Sir Edward Heath, kept very quiet at the Shadow Cabinet meeting where various members tripped over each other in demanding that fellow Shadow Cabinet member, Enoch Powell be sacked for his attacks on immigrants in a speech in Birmingham three days previously. This is the woman who was in thrall with the Freedom Association and it's founders! A group which wanted severe cubs on immigration, and wanted to see an end to economic sanctions in the apartheid-ruling South Africa, something let us not forget, which Maggie herself publicly supported. I am sure that was great comfort to many civil-rights supporters there as they prepared to 'commit suicide' by slipping on a bar of soap and sliding across a room and falling over a balcony whilst in police custody. This is the woman who, in recent years, protested against the imprisonment of General Pinochet! Saying at the Conservative Party Conference that year, concerning Britain's arrest of the notorious dictator over human rights abuses:

"But it is an affront to common sense as well as a caricature of justice to maintain that a head of government must automatically accept criminal responsibility for everything that is done while he is in power.

"On that basis Messrs Blair and Straw should accept criminal responsibility for everything done in every prison or police station throughout the United Kingdom - and then be extradited to Spain to answer for it."

(I have some difficulty equating human rights abuses and lack of democracy in Chile with the choices and freedoms in the UK, but never mind, I have never attempted to understand those who are very right-wing or left wing).
She later added that, to quote BBC Online: Pinochet's enemies hated him because of his success in transforming Chile's economy under a free market model.

I sincerely hope that Liam Fox and David Davis bear all of this in mind, and many of us in the Labour Party will wish them well in the leadership race.
But we don't hold grudges and wish Maggie well. Only some of us hope she realises one day what horrendous and damaging mistakes she has made in her political life.

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