THE BLOG

Thatcherism Isn't Satanism

10/04/2013 12:44 BST | Updated 09/06/2013 10:12 BST

The death of Margaret Thatcher has been like an electric surge through both British press and population. Thatcher, perhaps Britain's most ideological and divisive Prime Minister ever, brings the noise in every sphere of life owing to her dominant position in British politics for over 11 years. Whilst any sordid triumphalism over her death is not desirable, it is only fitting that there is open and frank discussion of her policies following her death, is befitting any political leader - not least one with the stature of the Iron Lady. However, it is very important that the discussion of Margaret Thatcher's policies, which can be done very soberly, does not venture into the territory of blaming a now-dead scapegoat for all of society's problems.

The Guardian's recent editorial summed this up by claiming that Thatcher's legacy included a 'cult of greed' and 'private selfishness'. This is incredible quaintness bordering on total delusion, the notion that Thatcher invented or popularised the previously unpopular notion of selfishness is laughable. As if before Margaret Thatcher the population of Britain was a kibbutz, or British people were known for their intense altruism, tossing money out of windows in the hope that literally anyone else would have it.

No one would (or at least should) ever make the reverse argument, no one would ever make the claim that Clement Atlee's government taught us how to share and made us all better people. No, it is celebrated, rightly, for the establishment of welfare and social policy instruments which survive today.

Thatcher should be judged on how radically she sought to contract or privatise Britain's nationalised industries, on how she reacted to football violence, on her foreign policy, on her support for the awful Section 28. On her policies. Not on her apparent magical effect on all of us, as if she possessed quasi-spiritual powers to decide how we all feel. She was a democratically elected politician after all, she won three elections and lost none, she didn't dictate the mood of the public, rightly or wrongly - she reflected it.

This is where we get to the heart of any desire to demonise her totally. Those whom supported her at any level could argue that through her trickery and wickedness she was able to manipulate them into backing her ideological plans. Those on the left, who despise her, could forgive the electorate of Britain, who three times empowered her to do what she willed, because they were corrupted by an evil politician, who filled them with more and more avarice with each privatisation and de-regulation.

This is an absurd historiography. Thatcher alone did not produce what we now call Thatcherism. Though well versed in political philosophy, and adept at slipping ideas into speeches, she was no philosophical pioneer; she did not force people to think as she did. She was popular because people agreed with her, not the reverse. Some of her policies, including Section 28, even came from grassroots supporters.

So by all means critique Thatcher's policies, but don't cheer her death as if it's accomplished anything other than take an Alzheimer's-ridden woman out of the world, and don't accuse her of making us all rotten - we have no one to blame for that but ourselves.