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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 54 - The iron lady's swan song a bravura display of anger and defiance

AGE may not have withered her unduly, but the years have certainly condemned. Whatever critiques, pejorative phrases or mocking jokes have been delivered about her, there are others, more biting and bitter, ready to be hurtled, like rotten eggs flung at a figure in medieval stocks.

Sample insults from political and media personalities - Bargain-basement Boadicea, Attila the Hen, the Enid Blyton of economics. She did for monetarism what the Boston Strangler did for door-to-door salesmen. Plunder Woman. She sounds like the Book of Revelation read out over a railway station public address system by a headmistress of a certain age in calico knickers.

The woman, according to detractors, would seem to possess the less amiable qualities of Draculaís daughter, Frankensteinís monster, Lady Macbeth, Charlotte Corday, the French revolutionary bathtub slayer, Lizzie Borden who, with an axe, hit her mother 40 whacks, and any female member of the Italian Renaissance Borgia family, steeped in toxic intrigue.

She is Margaret Hilda Thatcher, free milk "snatcher" - from the lips of primary pupils, an action dictated by Treasury policy - when she was the Education Secretary, and Britainís first woman Prime Minister (1979-1990) and the longest serving holder of the office since 1820.

The trouncer of Labour in three general elections, the elegantly-coiffured, grocerís daughter knocked the Marxist stuffing out of the NUM leader, Arthur Scargill, and Argentineís alcoholic and adiposal General Galtieri, curbed the arrogant and increasingly powerful trade unions, and was the driving force of Thatcherism, the political credo that shook socialism out of new Labour.

Now Baroness Thatcher, the "iron lady" sits at home, in worsening mental and physical health, almost alone since the death of her beloved husband, Sir Denis, her loyal supporter and drinking partner, an amiable cove who resembled a Bertie Wooster with brains.

The prisoner of silence and slow time and lacking the oxygen of publicity, she may find solace in looking back on her turbulent and largely trium-phant career that saw her as significant a figure looming over the national and international political scene as King Kong atop the Empire State building. Her fall, like that of the ape, who only wanted reciprocal affection, was hard.

Tearful over her ousting as Prime Minister with front and back stabbings that echoed J Caesarís removal from office, her farewell appearance at the dispatch box was a bravura display of anger and defiance suggesting Horatius stoutly de-fending a Roman bridge against the Etruscans. Even the Labour ranks of Tuscany and treacherous, hypocritical Tories could scarce forbear to cheer.

She was the wicked witch of the west, the dragon lady, who owed nothing to Womenís Lib, who read chemistry and was a lawyer, had a flinty integrity and near-demonic energy. "Men are good at talking," she claimed, "women get things done."

With her prime ministerial passing went the myth that, before "Thatcherís Britain", it was a green and pleasant land, populated by anti-racist, non-sexist vegetarians, caring little for material possessions and happiest pursuing traditional working-class culture, doing Morris dances and, for light relief, reading Das Kapital.

All that was destroyed by the alien from Tory space tempting the peasants with a corrupt cornucopia of consumer goodies, the free market, share ownership, privatisation of public utilities and the sale of council houses. Her biggest mistake was the poll tax, that political coffin introduced in Scotland in 1989 (England and Wales, 1990) about which Britain had grave reservations and which fiercely stimulated Scotlandís natural appetite for socialism.

Her core beliefs were "an honest dayís work for an honest dayís pay; live within your means; put by a nest egg for a rainy day, support the police and pay your bills." (Note: the total of individual debt in Britain is now £878 billion.)

Above all, she was a patriot (another largely outmoded concept) and fought victoriously with the zeal of a cut-price-seeking shopper, Britainís budgetary corner in the EC.

She still has her admirers, but against the generally reproving national grain, I, an ex-Tory, say she stood out as a splash of colourful female determination and courage, with no hair out of place, in a government of grey men and grey thoughts, who gave Britain, resigned to decline, an all-too-brief sense of pride and confidence. I send her my condolences and best wishes.

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