19/04/2013 10:46 BST | Updated 18/06/2013 06:12 BST

Thatcherism - By Helping Ourselves We Can Help Each Other as Well?


Baroness Thatcher, the UK's first woman Prime Minister certainly made her mark, not only by being a woman but by radical changes. An economy crippled by strikes and works-to-rule needed a strong leader and a revolutionary approach. Thatcherism shook a complacent inward looking society and forced it to confront the inevitable. Change or die. That would never suite many sectors of society and individuals who had a vested interest in preserving the 1980's norm. Change in itself is radical and requires a new mind set, an "English acceptance" that regrettably can be personal and at times destructive. No individual or Government can get it completely right - but then they're not expected to.

For all the negatives, it's refreshing to see that women have broken into a man's world and by helping ourselves, we can help each other as well and be individual and expressive. The left-right arguments will continue and so they should. Debate and argument is the life blood of a free society but there's a general acceptance that what was radical thought in the 1980s is now the accepted norm. We will, I trust remain thoughtful, vocal, considerate and innovative and if need be, reformist without fear.

Press coverage and debate leading up to the funeral of Baroness Thatcher led me to reflect on a recent journey through Vietnam. When you travel you can't help but compare. I spent many hours talking with Vietnamese from all walks of life and quickly realised that in this emerging nation is a pride and strength in being Vietnamese. It's a philosophy connected to the past, rooted in the present, bound to family and expressed in Buddism.

We lost that sense of pride in the 1980s and some had a self-destructive belief (perhaps some still do) that we're entitled to all that the state can offer without giving anything back. In Vietnam it's often said that " if you don't work, you don't eat. " 2013-04-18-P1040196_th.jpg

Miss Ly preparing dishes in the small kitchen in the Miss Ly Cafe 22 in Hoi An.

Miss Ly gives her guests mouth-watering dishes and Nathan, her American husband works front of house. She's one of many including the back street food stalls that makes our celebratory (what a word!) chefs look so pampered and ordinary. There's a sense of pride and achievement and it's hard work. It's not a unique Vietnamese formula, it's a frame of mind, a desire to make the best of ourselves and be independent. That's familiar territory. Where have I heard that before ?


The last word has to be with Miss Ly who apologised for the delay in getting a dish to the table. I hadn't noticed. She had to get it right. A matter of pride. A sense of achievement.