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SUMMER 2013
I
t was only a fewmonths ago, but it already seems to be part
of the seamless garment of history. I refer to the death of
Margaret Thatcher, and the grand, great funeral that brought
London to a standstill and divided opinion to an almost-unprec-
edented degree. I happened to be in Britain when the former
prime minister died, and it was fascinating to see the response:
friends and enemies alike were stunned, suddenly thoughtful
and reflective, reminded of a time when politics had a genuine
meaning…even a harshness…but certainly a beating reality.
What are we to say about her achievements, as well as what has
happened since her death? Perhaps most significant, symbolic
and shocking were the street celebrations, Internet hatred and
personal abuse that marked the passing of a woman in her 80s
suffering from dementia. It revealed the bloody, ghoulish and
anti-human nature of so much of contemporary society.
There are numerous politicians I can think of who have done
colossal harm and whom I dislike intensely. Yet I would still re-
gret at their deaths, show nothing but concern for their families,
nothing but respect for the conclusion of a life on earth. Even
the deaths of monsters and murderers would not lead me to
some sordid public dance of joy.
That many of the absurd culprits were not even born when
Thatcher was in power says a great deal, as does the fact that
the ringleaders are invariably anarchists and parasitic profes-
sional activists who have the extraordinarily ability to never ac-
tually work and pay taxes.
It is such an essentially anti-human and anti-grace action. This
should come as no surprise, however, because the muddy
mobs who paraded on television are hysterically opposed to
civility and decency.
Thatcher’s legacy is more complex. I was at university when she
was first elected, and left Britain in 1987. Thus, I was educated
and began my working life during those years of Thatcherism.
Britain was in tangible decline, with social malaise, painfully
low productivity, a fever-sick economy, minimal foreign respect
and constant strikes that led to garbage on the streets and
even unburied corpses! It is difficult to remember just how bad
things had become.
Britain embraced the Iron Lady not out of whim, but due to
desperation. She liberated the economy, opened up trade and
banking, restored international prestige and – absolutely vital
– fundamentally transformed the notion of class and opportu-
nity.
This last aspect is what Canadians might not immediately grasp.
Margaret Thatcher was opposed by the left, of course, but also
by old power and old money: inherited wealth, the chattering
classes, Oxford University and the Church of England. It was a
coalition of socialists and patricians who despised the middle-
class woman from a provincial town who did not speak with
the usual Tory accent. It’s really why Oxford, in an unprecedent-
ed act of churlishness, refused to give her an honorary degree;
she had attended Oxford and, unlike so many others, had got
there purely on merit.
The Church of England acted just as badly. An organizationwith
massive property ownership and ancient privileges challenged
almost her every move because she threatened the paralyzing
traditionalism that underpinned their prestige.
It’s true that mining villages in northern England were some-
times destroyed by her policies. But wealth-creating British
people were paying to subsidize miners to scrape the bottom
of moribund pits, kept on life-support by misplaced nostalgia.
Beware the Braveheart, Billy Elliot version of history! Miners
were offered alternative jobs in new industries, but often pre-
ferred anger to progress. My father drove a taxi for 40 years, and
always told me that he did it so that I wouldn’t have to. Not a
bad creed for a workingman.
Tony Blair was a product of Thatcherism, and the new Britain –
with faults as well as virtues – similarly so. The country’s social
and moral fabric has been torn, but that is hardly the fault of a
womanwho took her faith extremely seriously. The persecution
and marginalization of Christianity, by the way, would never
have been countenanced under a Thatcher government. Most
of the absurd political correctness that nowdrenches discourse
in the United Kingdom simply would have been impossible
under her administration. As for the idiots singing songs about
the witch being dead and mocking Thatcher’s death, she was
much bigger and better than that and wouldn’t have minded
one little bit; better still, she would have been too busy
to even notice.
with
Michael Coren
Opinion