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What Do Liverpudlians, Miners, Socialists and Young Tories Think of Thatcher?

We asked some. Believe it or not, opinion was pretty divided.

by Simon Childs and Ronan O'Kelly
10 April 2013, 7:00am

When Thatcher died, a lot of people cleverly tried to make their lack of opinion about her look like an opinion. “Love her or loathe her,” they intoned, “you can’t deny that she was an important figure who we should respect.” They hoped that this would somehow make them look more mature and cerebral than people who actually did love her or loathe her. But it didn't. It just made them look like cop outs.

Thatcher was more than a person; she had an “ism” all to herself. If you don’t have an opinion on her because there are more important things to think about than epoch defining political figures, that’s fine. Luckily, some people have the mental fortitude to form genuine opinions on things.

We asked some of her biggest fanboys and boo boys to give us the lowdown.


Picture via Wikimedia Commons

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) were a powerful force in British politics until Thatcher defeated the miners' strike of 1984-85. Then nearly all the mines closed, throwing a lot of towns which had only ever been built in order to house miners into a miserable identity crisis of unemployment and pointlessness. Following the recent closure of Maltby Colliery, there are only two coal mining pits left in the UK.

VICE: What is your initial reaction to the news of Thatcher's death?
Chris Kitchen, General Secretary of the NUM:
My initial reaction is a little bit of euphoria, actually.

Can you elaborate on those feelings a little?
Well, for the last 29 years, myself, my family and the community I live in has been suffering from her actions in ’84, ’85 and since. Now to find out that she’s dead — I’m not shedding any tears for her.

What do you think her political legacy will look like in mining areas?
Her legacy is that she decimated the mining industry and the manufacturing industry in this country, and she deserves no sympathy whatsoever because she showed us no sympathy. She had her policies and beliefs and she bullheadedly pushed them through, regardless of the disruption and devastation that she was causing. So, I can’t see why there would be any sympathy or sadness at her passing, because you reap what you sow. The only hope is that when they bury her, they bury her policies as well, and this country can start looking after its citizens, rather than looking after big business.

How likely do you think that is?
Unlikely, because people like her, and the Conservative government that we have now look after their own. They unfortunately benefit by standing on other people, and they’ll get rich off of other people’s labour, and they’ll continue to do that. So I think it’s unlikely, but, then again, this time last week I thought it was unlikely that I would be sitting here talking about Margaret Thatcher dying, so there’s always hope.

What’s the atmosphere among members of the mining industry after this week's news?
Plenty of smiles, considering we’re at an inquest, finding out about the circumstances around the death of one of our comrades. But it’s actually good news. Mrs Thatcher was no friend to us. She showed us no sentiment, no sense of fairness, so why the hell should we show her any?


Dr Steve Davies is the Education Director at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). The IEA is a free-market think tank that has been on the telly recently criticising the government for not cutting public spending enough. Because everyone loves austerity so much and it's working so well. They’re big, big Thatcher fans, if their website is anything to go by.

How did you feel when Thatcher died?
Steve Davies:
I had the kind of feelings that you don’t normally have when a politician dies. It’s normally a case where the obituaries tell us they’re dead and none of us knew they were still alive, but this is a case where you know it’s a major figure gone, whether you liked her or not.

Could you explain, from your viewpoint, what kind of impact she had on British politics?
Absolutely enormous. Her government was unusual in that it actually fundamentally transformed the terms and the nature of political debate, which is not something that most governments do. Most governments basically inherit a kind of consensus and work within it, but her government was not like that. She transformed the limits of what the politically possible was in Britain.

How do you think she'll be remembered?
She was a Marmite politician — she was a very divisive figure. Partly because there was never any doubt about what she stood for. So, if you agreed with her broadly, then you thought she was wonderful, and if you disagreed with her you said that she was the spawn of Satan, basically.

I’ve spoken to member of the mining community who basically consider her their most reviled figure, and say that she destroyed their industry and much of the North of England. Would you say that’s justified?
No, I wouldn’t. I think that the long-term decline of the mining industry was inevitable. It’s a basic fact of life that it costs far more to produce coal in the UK — or indeed in Germany, where they’ve had similar problems — than it does in other parts of the world. But it’s also about the miner’s leadership and particularly Arthur Scargill choosing to follow a strategy which was ultimately very damaging for the people he led.

You may have heard the reports that there have been people out on the streets this week celebrating her death? Are you surprised by that?
Sadly, I’m not surprised. First of all, that’s deeply unseemly. Regardless of just how much you dislike a politician and their policies, celebrating their death is not a good thing. You should always try to separate the person from the politics.

The only thing is that I’m afraid this is revealing of an attitude among the left, which, so long as they have it, is going to make them hugely unsuccessful politically, because if your entire politics is based around longing for a lost golden age and hating the person that brought it to an end, you’re never going to get anywhere. The left needs to move on, basically, if they’re going to have any kind of political success.


Picture via Wikimedia Commons

The Hillsborough disaster is the reason that you can’t stand up in big football stadiums any more. More importantly it was a crush in which 96 Supporters of Liverpool FC died. It was basically the fault of the police, but at the time they covered it up and blamed it on football fans they cast as drunk, which didn’t go down terribly well with Liverpudlians. Thatcher was accused of being complicit in that cover up. Kenneth Derbyshire survived the disaster. He is also a resident of Liverpool, which got hit pretty hard by Thatcherite economic policies.

What do you think about Thatcher's death, Kenneth?
In some ways, we are very happy she’s passed away, but at the end of the day, she is someone’s mother and grandmother, and our sympathies go out to the family at this present time. Even though she did have a lot to say about the Hillsborough Disaster.

So given her history with the Hillsborough Disaster, is this a bitter sweet moment for members of yor organisation?
Not really, no. At the end of the day she’s someone’s mother, our hearts go out to the families. Even though she did play a major part in the cover up of Hillsborough.

How do you think she’ll be remembered?
People will still have their memories of her and what she’s done to this country, but they’ll remember all the good sides of her, and not the bad sides. My personal point of view is that I think she ruined this country, she brought this country to its knees.

How so?
Well, she brought in all the cutbacks. She cut the dole and brought in the poll tax and so on. And I think that’s one of the reasons why the country’s in the state it is today.

I’d imagine she’s a rather unpopular figure around your area.
Oh, she’s very unpopular around Merseyside, but at the end of the day she has passed away and our sympathies go out to her family, even though she wasn’t liked.

Do you think there will be celebrations around your area this week?
I’d imagine there will be a few celebrating.

Do you think she should be judged for that now?
Well, you can’t judge the dead, can you?

Some say that you can, to an extent.
But nothing’s going to happen to her now, is it? Because, unfortunately, she’s passed away.


Harrison Goldman, aged 18, is the Social Secretary of the Bury and Rochdale branch of Conservative Future (CF). CF is the youth wing of the Tory Party. Its members are basically heirs to the country. So think about that when you drunkenly gatecrash their summer social and take the piss out of their posh accents. They tend to idolise Margaret Thatcher in the same creepy way that some people like to wear Che Guevara T-shirts.

Harrison Goldman: Rather than someone who benefited from growing up with the things that she put into practice, I‘m certainly influenced by her – by the way she handled the Falklands War, the Soviet Union and the rise of Communism. She tried to get people in Britain to do more than their parents, to advance themselves.

I would have thought a lot of people in Bury aren’t her biggest fans.
Indeed. The north-west was one of the regions most hurt by Thatcher’s policies. But my parents took advantage of the Enterprise Allowance Scheme. They started off from a working class background and built their way up – that was thanks to her. Not everyone was going to like the decisions that she had to make. Britain was a declining state. Whoever was going to be Prime Minister at that time was going to face incredibly hard decisions, but the way she did it was well handled with decorum.

Aren’t you too young to like Thatcher this much?
I can quite understand that argument, but she had an after-toll on the way that Britain runs today. The party has tried to extend its wings to all people and future generations. Even though I’m a Conservative it doesn’t mean I’m too posh or too rich to appeal to the proletariat. The way she ruled for almost three terms will almost certainly have an influence on my lifetime.

What do you make of the people dancing in the streets?
I think it’s a disgrace, really. I fully sympathise with communities that were destroyed – let’s make no bones about it. But she was doing what she thought was right. We should still admire her for the gumption and will-power of getting there, rather than ridiculing her.

Would you ever celebrate the death of a left-wing personality?
Like by doing the conga in the streets?

Yeah, like what's been happening in a few cities around the country.
Certainly not. Unfortunately not everyone is going to be civilised. An elderly woman has died. We should respect that regardless of who it was and a death should not be a thing to be celebrated. I think it’s ridicule. It’s barbaric. People saw Thatcher as a very hard-faced, cold woman but that was just when she was getting on with politics. When British and Argentinean forces in the Falklands War died we know that she was reduced to tears. She was very upset that she had to kill people on the other side. I think we can learn from that, that death is, of course, the worst option but sometimes it’s the right and only option.


Picture via Wikimedia Commons

The Socialist Labour Party (SLP) sounds like a snide remark from a UKIP representative, but it's actually its own party. It was calling bullshit on the Labour Party for being capitalist sell-out lickspittles even before the First World War. Maybe they were on to something. Now it is a tiny left-wing political party that still sometimes manages to outperform other fringe left-wing parties at elections because it is led by Arthur Scargill, who led the National Union of Miners at the time of the miners' strike. It advocates a re-opening of many of the coal mines closed by Thatcher.

Can I get your initial reaction to the news of Thatcher's death?
Andrew Jordan, President of the SLP:
Well, what are we talking about here? We’re talking about the passing away of an old woman who’s been suffering from Alzheimer’s for the last few years.

I see. What do you think her legacy will be in the long term?
I think that parties across the board, whether it’s Labour, whether it’s Lib-Dems, they are talking about and carrying out policies which are dividing society. We’re seeing employed people getting pitched against unemployed people, we’re seeing phrases like "deserving poor" and "undeserving poor" being thrown around now in relation to benefits and welfare and we’re seeing the politics of division within our society. That is the big reality of her legacy. It’s what she started and the parties haven’t moved away from that.

What do you think about the people who were happy at the news of her death?
I think you can understand that, when so many people did suffer during her reign and from her policies, why they would be upset? In the north of England, where I’m from, some people suffered greatly from those policies.

Will you be out celebrating this week?
No, I won’t. We’re talking about an old woman who had mental illness for some time. The day that I will be celebrating is when her hate-filled ideology has been removed from British politics.

Follow Ronan and Simon on Twitter: @RonanOKelly and @SimonChilds13

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