Loved and loathed

Victory wave: Britain's first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher after her 1983 election win.
Victory wave: Britain's first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher after her 1983 election win.
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Unplugged from the power mains, politicians fizzle to grey.

Their death is met with obituaries that interest few apart from family, party colleagues and adversaries.

They had their day in Westminster, did good or bad, then someone came along and undid it all - good and bad.

Then Margaret Thatcher slips off this mortal coil and the reaction she receives is unparalleled.

It’s over 20 years since she stood down as an M.P. She was a frail 87 year-old with dementia when she died, yet it evoked emotion of such depth and polarity.

The sheer hatred and the awed admiration that has swept through Britain these past days is indisputable endorsement of her unique place in history - as our only female prime minister and one of the most powerful women in the world - and testament to the hurt that never healed. Her death has roused the faithful, but also ripped old wounds open.

Glowing tributes to ‘Britain’s saviour, our greatest peacetime leader’ have made those who felt victimised by her policies determined to have their say, too.

I grew up with Maggie. I remember when the school milk stopped and thinking she must be marvellous, saving us kids from that lukewarm little bottle every morning break. I remember the commotion when we got our first female Prime Minister. Then I became a cub reporter in the Dearne Valley, Manvers, the pit where the strike first started, just down the road.

In those days everyone either worked at the pit, or was fed by a miner’s wage. Lads in the pubs and clubs were branded by the little blue scars on their flesh and the unsolicited guyliner. Every single miner I ever met hated their jobs and dreaded their sons having to follow them underground.

But during that year-long strike, watching hard-working people caught in Scargill and Thatcher’s determination to win at any price be battered into submission was desperately sad. When they went back, the pits were in disrepair and so were villages. Tradition and future had crumbled.

But partying in the streets because she’s in her coffin? No. You can’t forgive or forget, but for humanity’s sake, show respect for a woman who achieved the seemingly impossible considering her sex and her class. Her success was unprecedented.

You can’t say she did much for women. She didn’t promote their rights or encourage their careers. Yet she set a trailblazing example. When she became an MP in 1959 women had only just been allowed mortgages. They didn’t have a voice, least of all with the toffs in the Conservative party. If she could get to No 10, women could be anything they aspired to be.

The same can be said of her rise from working class roots. Being a Grantham grocer’s daughter was a leg up from being a miner’s daughter from Treeton, but by rights she should have carried on weighing out spuds and carrots. Many wish she had, but you can’t deny the incredible strength, determination and intelligence that made her a world leader.