Brace yourself, as this bit of news has gone vastly unmentioned on social media today, but Margaret Thatcher is dead. Britain's first female prime minister passed away this morning after a stroke and leaves a relatively mixed legacy, in that she still has her supporters who stress that everything she did was completely necessary, she has an overwhelming number of people who despise everything she stood for, and she has the people who hate on her because it's kind of punk or something?
I wanted to see whether a mention of the Iron Lady still manages to provoke as visceral a response in death as it did when she was alive, so I had a walk around London and asked some people a question: Are you glad that Margaret Thatcher is dead?
Ben, 21, broker: I wouldn’t say I'm glad that she's dead, no. I disagree with her politics, and I suppose you could say I'm hoping her politics die with her, but I'd never say that I’m happy for someone to die.
What do you think her legacy is?
She defined modern conservatism, to an extent. She was a polarizing figure—I certainly didn't like her fiscal policy or her foreign policy—and I don’t think she was a friend to the lower classes.
What's your initial reaction when you hear the name Margaret Thatcher?
Well, she was the first female prime minister. You've got to give her credit for that.
That you do, Ben.
Laura, 33, project manager: Who cares? She was old, right? She’s already out of office. I’m from Germany, so I don’t really care that much.
What’s your impression of her leadership?
She was known for being really strict, really hard, right? That’s my impression, anyway.
What do you think her legacy is?
I think to rule a country as a female, that’s important. Being the first female prime minister, she showed that a woman could hold her own on the global stage. As far as specifics, it’s not really for me to say what her legacy is. I'll leave that to people who lived here during the Thatcher years.
Nathan, 27, courier: Absolutely. That's the best news of my morning.
What's her legacy?
A completely fucked up Britain—on all levels. I grew up in Nottingham and we went from having a mining industry to nothing at all, all thanks to her.
Why do you think she elicits such strong reactions?
She’s a snob, and she forgot where she came from. She came from a lower-middle-class family and she aspired to be more than that, which she accomplished, but she also forgot about all the challenges that working-class people have.
Steve, 49, fiber-optics technician: No, I wouldn’t say that. I actually think she’s the greatest thing to ever happen to this country.
What makes you say that?
She did whatever needed to be done and sometimes that was unpopular, but Britain needed it. I’m from Chesterfield in Derbyshire, so I know all about the mining and the unions. She broke the mining unions and that needed to happen. No one else could have done that. She didn’t take any shit from anyone.
What’s the most important part of her legacy?
For me, it’s what she did with housing in this country. She allowed people who lived in the council estates to buy their homes. She did a lot to privatize the housing stock in this country, and I think that’s a good thing.
Wayne, 41, unemployed street artist: People should just let her die in peace. Let her family have some peace and privacy, you know?
What's her legacy, in your opinion?
I really don’t give a shit. Whoever's in power, who the fuck cares? For me, I don’t care. It’s not going to matter. Nothing ever really changes.
Alright. What was it like growing up in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain?
To be honest, I wasn’t really paying attention.
Hey, you should put some of that political zeal into your art.
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