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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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."
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.
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
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.
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