The marmite minister


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So then, Margaret Thatcher. From the day that she took power in 1979 until the day of her funeral this week,she was a highly divisive leader who’s policies and actions polarised opinion within this country pretty much more so than anyone who went before her and probably more so than anyone still to come too.But before I get stuck into the real meat of this post let me make one thing clear from the start. My opinions are my own and my opinions will probably be different to yours,so should you wish to comment to the contrary, please feel free to do so in my comments section. I do of course have the option to delete, modify, edit and ignore anything you say, so if you’re going to offer an opinion that’s different to mine please do, but please put some effort into it rather than just slinging any insults or vitriol in my direction. So rather than simply replying saying ” you’re a twat” try saying ” you’re a twat because…..” and then maybe I’ll give it some attention. Please also bare in mind that between the ages of 10 and 21, formative years as many would call them, I grew up within the Thatcher era,so unlike many of the baby faced anarchists loitering around our inner cities in the last week or so drinking champagne and toasting her death, I was actually there. Also, unlike the more hatchet faced senior anarchists who still blame Thatcher for their lack of success in the 23 years since she was in power, I have managed to bounce back from some of life’s shit times and not just become a victim. So if you’ve not managed to get your life together since 1990 it’s hardly down to Thatcherism, and if you think it is, then I think your bonkers. I would also like to point out that I don’t really have a political allegiance. I’ve voted blue AND red over the years. I’ve voted blue when I thought that they had the best policies and red when I thought they had the best policies. I’ve never voted yellow because by and large they’re as much use as a solar powered torch.I tend to despair when I hear people who come out with comments such as ” I’m 75 you know and I’ve always voted { insert party name here }. Surely the point of voting is to vote for the party that you think will do the best for our country and not just because that’s what you’ve always done or that’s what your parents used to do. Anyway, the point of telling you all of this is to avoid accusations that I’m a Tory, as I’m not, or being anti Tory, as I’m not that either. I simply have an opinion based upon what I witnessed and lived through.

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My first experience of Thatcherism began when I was 9 years old, shortly after I had got my first job, a job that I had applied for, attended an interview for and beaten other children in order to get. There wasn’t wage for it. Not even a minimum one and it involved an early start 5 days a week. My job was to be a milk monitor at my primary school and my duty was to arrive at school early each day and to deliver the one third sized milk bottles and their crates to each of the 12 classrooms in my school. I thought this was to be an excellent job with prospects until Margaret Thatcher became prime minister and cancelled free milk for schools thus making me redundant. My head teacher, Mrs. Pearson ( a terrifying woman with a beehive hairdo ) thought that I would get over this career set back by asking me to take the school gerbil home for the holidays, presumably with a view to taking my mind off it. This led to a period of pet slaughter though, as when I went back to school a few weeks later, I had to take a note back with me explaining that the gerbil had “unexpectedly” died. This was followed by a note 6 weeks later explaining that due to its extreme camouflage capabilities I had “mislaid” the school stick insect that I had been allowed to take home too. Subsequent repeated requests to take the school rabbit home were met with constant rejections, especially as news quickly circulated that one day,while my mum admired a stray fox in the garden,she had completely forgotten that my sisters pet rabbit “fluffy” was also there and in the blink of an eye the garden was awash with red tinged fur.

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If I’d have thought carefully prior to accepting my milk monitor job,I could have joined a union and got protection from redundancy. I could have insisted that the other 2 million members of the brotherhood walk out with me in sympathy for my predicament, brought the country to a standstill on my behalf and insisted that the country ground to a halt unless I was re-instated. Sound a bit crazy? Of course it does but in the 70’s that’s how things were in the Uk. Unions ran the place and were supported by successive governments who were too weak willed to stand up to them. They were too scared that if they did our crappy UK car industry might stop producing rusting unreliable cars, that coal would stop being brought up from under the ground and absolutely terrified senseless at the prospect of not being able to use an antiquated public transport system to get around. The unions ruled this land with such a rod of iron that during an exceptionally cold winter of 1978/9 the majority of the country was on a 3 day week. Refuse wasnt collected and consequently piled up on the streets, dead bodies went unburied and power cuts were many and frequent. I can remember being scared silly going to bed in the dark in those days but even more scared at being taken to bed by the light of an oil lamp as the electricity supply was unreliable. This lamp would flicker and grow dimmer and brighter causing the shadows on my bedroom walls to appear to move. This scared the doodahs out of me.Clearly this country, led by a labour government at the time and who’s ideology is to be on the side of the unions and the working class’s, was on its knees,broken and in need of a change.

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What few people fail to disagree with, even the most fervent anti conservatives, is that when she came to power the country needed changing and the changes that were made, turned our country from the sick man of Europe into one that in many sectors led the world,such as banking, commerce and finance.It is true to say though that between 1979 and 1985 the wealthier did get richer, but if you were not born into wealth it was also possible to improve yourself and move between the classes if you were prepared to put the effort in and work for it. Changes to the tax system had meant that you would take home more of your own salary because tax rates were reduced from 83% to 60%. We were encouraged to earn more and enjoy the personal benefits of doing so and if you did you could achieve great things. But at the same time, there was a massive north/south divide taking place. As we moved from an industrial lead country to a service lead country the midlands and north of the UK saw its heart ripped out as their heavy industry,mining and manufacturing bases were closed down. Animosity and bitterness understandably grew and festered as these communities were virtually abandoned by the London led government and frequently used in laboratory style experiments, where policies such as the poll tax were trialled. In northern communities, millions of people were criminalised as a result of refusing to pay this tax which was universally hated. If you were lucky enough to live in the south or south east the chances were that your life would have got immeasurably better than before her government came to power and if you lived outside this area the chances are that it would be little different or worse. Not a class divide as such but a geographical divide in which many prospered and others faltered. Therefore some loved her and others hated her. Nobody, either then or now,felt indifferent towards her. You either loved her or hated her.

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I remember the 80’s as being a time of almost non stop optimism and confidence. As a nation we were sticking 2 fingers up to the rest of Europe who wanted closer integration, we had successfully defended the Falkland islands and the economy was booming. We were encouraged to live to excess, given the right to buy our own council houses and able to make a few quid buying shares in privatised companies. British music ruled the globe, Charles and Diana were the worlds most iconic couple and Bob Geldof save millions from starvation in Africa. Even though all of this was being played out against a backdrop a nuclear arms race between America and the USSR, the IRA trying to blow everything and everyone up and jive bunny annoying the shit out of everybody. I still remember this time as an age when the majority of people were seeing their lives transformed from ones of stagnation and despair to ones of hope and possibility. Of course this is just my view and I totally recognise that the virtual postcode lottery of the 80’s meant that I was one of the lucky ones even though one day I ended up on the wrong end of a vicious and unprovoked attack by her husband Dennis. What happened was that my Dad had taken me to a pro-celebrity golf match to watch some of the big golf stars of the day along with a bunch of celebrities such as Jimmy Tarbuck, Kenny Lynch and Ronnie Corbett. While standing green side watching the players putt out, Mr. Thatcher stepped backwards and stood on my foot and his golf spikes went into my toe. I yelped a little and he turned around and said “Sorry old chap” and seemed a little concerned that he might have hurt me. Hardly a brush with death but it certainly smarted a bit.Now I could have let my redundancy,pet traumas and vicious assault affect me for life but I didn’t. I dealt with them and went on to lead what has up until now proved to be a happy life. I certainly didn’t blame the Thatchers and I didn’t turn into a bitter anti capitalist or even go on to lead a life of bitterness and/or anarchy.

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And this really brings us up to date. Maybe the protests this week, both before and during her funeral, were justified in some quarters but watching people in this civilised country of ours burning effigies in the street and toasting the death of an old woman who suffered from dementure are utterly repugnant and repulsive. The facts are that she was the first female prime minister, the longest serving of the 20th century as well as the 5th longest serving in British history and therefore her place in the history books for those reasons alone should be assured. It should also be pointed out to those who would argue that this country was in a state of meltdown as a result of Thatcherism, John Major, who succeeded her,not only went on to win a forth consecutive election for the conservatives but also his party received over 14million votes, the most in British electoral history. It is also true to say that opposition parties ever since have adopted many of Thatchers policies and abolished virtually none. But this woman was not blameless by any means and her tenure as prime minister was not without some horrible mistakes and poor judgement but even taking those into account I guarantee you this: This country had to change and would not have done so had a labour government been returned in 1979. So given her historic tenure in office and her effect on this country, why not have a ceremonial funeral? Is it really a bad thing, after all it’s not like we have to buy the funeral is it. St.Pauls is already there, the police and the armed forces are being paid whether they are marshalling her coffin, marshalling at a football match or practising bombing North Korea, so the suggested cost of £10m is hardly an added cost.A dignified nation should be allowed to offer a dignified and fitting funeral service to those that serve us. I believe this should apply to all the prime ministers of all the parties if that is what the state believes is the right thing to do.

But if theres one thing above all that we like to do more than anything else in this country it is to moan and complain. The people who came out onto the streets this week with their banners and their axes razor sharp from all the years of grinding, would be the very same people complaining about how this country was 34 years ago when she came to power.Whilst observing the funeral this week from his vantage point near St. Pauls, one guy was interviewed on the tv saying that he hadn’t been able to get a job in nearly 10 years now and it was unfair in todays climate that he was having to pay for her funeral. Really? You paid for it did you? No my friend,I paid for it for you, like I’ve paid for you to sit on your arse for the past decade,and like I paid for you to travel to London for your pointless protest. And anyway, you lost your job under Tony Blairs government not Thatchers.The milk monitor job aside, I have Been made redundant twice in my life and on both occasions I got a job within a month. I wasn’t bitter, I didn’t blame anyone, I just got on with it and that’s what I believe was at the heart of Thatchers governments. Her philosophy was that if you worked hard and “got on your bike” things would be better. I did, and for me it was.

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