Why I hated Margaret Thatcher

by Kevin Meagher

This is the point where I am tempted to begin by arguing that you should love the sinner, but hate the sin and critique Margaret Thatcher’s record rather than her personally. But despite the haughty entreaties of the party’s panjandrums yesterday not to let the side down with sentiments of ill will towards her, I don’t think there’s any point being a hypocrite about it: I absolutely hated Margaret Thatcher.

If you come from a working class background and especially if you live in Scotland, South Wales, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, South Yorkshire, or Tyneside, your view of Thatcher may well be equally visceral.

If, however, you come from a professional middle-class background and live in London and the south of England, you probably look askance at all this intense criticism of her. You may well think Thatcher was, overall, good for the country – as quite a few people in the Labour party will freely admit these days.

But for me (and I dare say a good few others) there was something particularly heartless about Margaret Thatcher; unforgivably so in fact. Not at an individual level, it seems, given the many tales yesterday of her personal kindnesses to friends and staff; but she knew who she despised and for them she simply had no mercy.

It always seemed as though she had her own hit list of groups in British society against which she wanted to define her ideology. Miners, steelworkers, trade unionists, local councils, benefit recipients, gay people the Irish, the Scots, the entire north of England – all were in her sights.

It was an animosity that went beyond the political; this was personal to her. She was utterly impervious to even a hint of empathy for those on the receiving end of public spending cuts, monetarism and de-industrialisation. People on the Right never seem to understand just how galling it is for decent British working people to be referred to as “the enemy within” by their own prime minister.

But it wasn’t only her policies, it was her syrupy moralising. The victims of Thatcher’s Britain were not just misfortunate; they had brought misery upon themselves. If you wanted a job you should get on your bike and find one. Thatcherism elevated greed to the status of a moral good while social solidarity became an intrinsic evil. As even one of her devotees, the journalist Andrew Sullivan pointed out yesterday, she ultimately failed because ‘[s]he wanted to return Britain to the tradition of her thrifty, traditional father; instead she turned it into a country for the likes of her son [Mark], a wayward, money-making opportunist.’

Reacting against her record of social inequality and spiv capitalism therefore becomes impossible without reacting against her, the person. Indeed, it is validated by the fact her creed bears her own name. You simply cannot divide Thatcher from Thatcherism. To hate one is therefore to hate the other.

The reason street parties broke out in Glasgow and Belfast (as well as Brixton and Leeds) last night was because people want to record their anger against her personally. Frankly, that’s not my thing; you can despise Thatcher without taking any satisfaction in her demise. (My own opprobrium is reserved for the historical person and ideology, not the sick old woman who died yesterday).

For anyone expressing surprise for these sentiments, I can only assume you have been fortunate never to have had the rug ripped from underneath you. My wife, a journalist in South Yorkshire, vividly recalls striking miners’ wives reduced to selling their wedding rings to raise money to feed their families.

I readily concede Thatcher was a conviction politician and strong leader; and in a passing moment wonder what we could achieve with a centre-left figure of her brio. Tony Blair’s many leadership qualities did not, alas, imbue him with any ideological heft (sorry, the third way was a diverting seminar series). Blair never knew what he was against – arguably his greatest skill – but it means his lasting imprint on British politics is minimal. There is no Blairism in the way we have Thatcherism. Blairism describes an approach to politics – modernising and pragmatic – but with no particular Magnetic North as far as guiding principle goes.

Gordon Brown was the beating social democratic heart of New Labour, but he could never summon the strength to be open about what he believed and his premiership of missed opportunities ended in the self-abasing promise of a state funeral for Margaret Thatcher (which apparently she didn’t want and thankfully isn’t going to receive).

Thatcher, in contrast, always knew what she believed in and did what all the strongest leaders do: she lived every day as though it were her last. Say and do what you believe and have no regrets. It’s a high-wire act, but the rewards dwarf the risks. When you change your world, it really changes.

When her bête noire Michael Heseltine was interviewed in the Daily Telegraph last week he was asked what he thought about Mrs. Thatcher. “Let history judge her” he said, but added that it would be “quite inappropriate” for him to go and visit her, such is the animosity between them.

Amid the hyperbole and vicarious grief of coming days, let me follow Heseltine’s example and also grant Thatcher the courtesy of an honest reaction. I hated what she stood for – and so I hated her.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

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25 Responses to “Why I hated Margaret Thatcher”

  1. Nick says:

    If Thatcher hadn’t dealt with the miner then the numpty greens on the left would have had to kill off coal for their mad cap beliefs.

  2. paul barker says:


  3. Matthew says:

    This article stated ‘Why I hate Thatcher’ answer the question then don’t just write a whole load of drivel!

  4. swatantra says:

    Lot of sick people about.

  5. Coral says:

    I come from the affluent South East and I (and nearly all the people I knew at that time) hated her and what she and her party stood for; greed, self-interest, the destruction of communities etc. People who go on about greedy miners should think about the greed of the wealthiest in our society and those in power.

  6. e says:

    Thatcher believed she was right, and she was among the first to play with monetarism, so perhaps she can now be forgiven for not recognising that the new jobs wouldn’t just come along by way of the ‘market’ and that a Nation needs to plan, not least for its housing needs. New labour countered the worse of her legacy – not good enough, lost opportunity and all that. But this lot, what we have now, the Coalition, they have no excuse.

  7. David says:

    You say

    “For anyone expressing surprise for these sentiments, I can only assume you have been fortunate never to have had the rug ripped from underneath you. My wife, a journalist in South Yorkshire, vividly recalls striking miners’ wives reduced to selling their wedding rings to raise money to feed their families.”

    Have you heard what Neil Kinnock is saying? An illegal strike, without a vote? Loads of opportunities to compromise that Thatcher would have taken. But Scargill wasn’t
    having any off it. Who was really the “baddy of the piece” here? Why does Kinnock not hate her?

  8. neal jones says:

    only the rich & greedy benefitted through the 80 s under thatcher, anyone who didn’t lose their job, see their community decimated, have their civil rights torn up, live with generations without prospects or hope, should keep their privileged noses in their slop buckets & troughs & refrain from commenting on events that didn t concern or effect them

  9. Sioned-Mair Richards says:

    She certainly came to personify all we hated. But her Cabinet were with her and bear equal responsibility. As for the Miner’s Strike, yes we know Scargill was wrong, but the govt really did rub their noses & those of their families in it.

  10. bedo says:

    I hope thatcher is remembered for her sell off of the publicly owned utilities,as a result we now have old and vulnerable people unable to keep warm in order to satisfy shareholders, next will be the total privitisation of the NHS this vile coalition strive to out do thatcher

  11. John Reid says:

    I wouldn’t say I hated her, even though she ruined mine and many around me’s life’s, it wasn’t those who did her dirty work like the police, or the fact that those voted for her voted for The lack of affordable homes, it was the likes of Mckenzie at th sun who put her their and then the 92 election attacks on labour that ,resulted in the toires get to 97 where they’d nearly destroyed the NHS,

  12. danny barber says:

    I live in Australia, (Adelaide, South Australia), and I say “a pox on the bitch”. If you include “Ronnie-ray-gun”, I say “a pox on both on both their houses”. The pair of these inbred mental-defectives led to the robbing, rapping and pillaging of every damn bastard they could get their hands on. Death to the Neo-Lib.

  13. john reid says:

    david, to quote Tony Blairs biography whats wrose a demcratic all be it a right wing govenemnt of law, or someone whos trying to bring down a democratically elected government by using unlawful picketing in a strike he hasn’t balloted members on

  14. LesAbbey says:

    A well written article Kevin.

  15. David says:

    john reid – I think the answer to your question is self evident (to anyone who believes in democracy that is) the self same democracy that allows anyone who has a gripe about her to express it. Thatcher was no saint and is often put on an undeserved pedestal by her supporters, but equally she wasn’t the witch that she is made out to be.

    As a working class lad, born and brought up in an overcrowded council house I have no natural affinity with her. I was a worker under Wilson, Heath, Callaghan and then Thatcher and I well remember those days. The country was changing, with or without Thatcher. Old, tired and overmanned industry with Spanish working practices, closed shops, regular strikes, flying pickets was always going to have to face the advance of new technology and automation in this country and increasing competition from abroad. Anyone who thinks it could have survived without change hasn’t a clue what they are talking about and anyone who really thinks times were better in those days rather than today obviously wasn’t there or their memory is warped.

    When still at school and far too young to officially work I used to get up early in the morning and go and deliver milk from the horse drawn milk cart to earn my pocket money and I worked in various part time jobs right up until I left school. I never considered university, not because I wasn’t bright enough but no one in my family had ever been to university, no one that I knew in my universe had ever been to university (except teachers) and it just wasn’t the done thing. Do you still wish it was like that for your children and grandchildren?

    Agh but the sense of community I hear you cry. Well that’s true we were fortunate to have the women folk, kept at home, to do a lot of the organising and keeping house to let us menfolk go to the pub and the bookies. Lots of friendly pubs in those days with their darts teams and dominos teams and the like and, plenty of drunks. Such fun.

    Don’t get me wrong I think that the liberation of women has come at a cost of more family breakdowns and created difficulties for some kids and yes, people are too busy and insular now to engage in the community spirit we once had. But what kind of life and opportunities would you like your daughter and grand-daughter to have? And like it or not even though Thatcher seems not to have personally promoted womens rights, she was definitely a role model for many and made them think that they could be and do more.

    I am not complaining about my childhood, I was lucky being brought up in a loving family and we absolutely made the best of everything and lots of great memories – but lets not paint it as the best of times eh? Are things really worse today? I quite believe that some families do have it tougher but overall as a Society is it really that bad?

    Thatcher left office over 20 years ago and successive governments have had plenty of time to carry out the necessary rebuilding of a society that was going to implode with or without Thatcher and it is to their shame that not enough has been done. But all Thatchers fault, everything, including the current banking crisis? Your having a laugh.

  16. John Reid says:

    David I was replying to your question why didn’t Kinnock hate her

  17. Stan Squires says:

    I am from vancouver,canada and i wanted to say that Margaret Thatcher was an enemy of the working class in England.Im sure that all workers are glad that she is gone.All the reactionary govs.of the world supports this tyrant and it shows that no matter what differences that these govs. got they are all united when it comes to the working class.These govs.got contempt and hatred for the workers in all countries.Labour and capital got nothing in common.The working class everywhere always had to fight for their rights.With a union workers are no better than slaves.Margaret Thatcher will be remembred in history as a war criminal and an enemy of the working class.

  18. Steve Thomas says:

    Spitting Image would not have been the satirical milestone it was without Thatcher, and, for better or worse, she made me the person I am today. Tony Blair on the other hand…

  19. Garry Moran says:

    Funny. So many working class people voted for her time and time again. And what I hear from other working class people is that there are two things wrong with this country. A former labour government and the foreigners they let in to destroy it. Throw in a Guardian reader mentality and it’s a country on the skids. Labour cared very little about it’s country, and it’s people even less holding them in contempt.

  20. Madison says:

    It’s amazing, if you read her quotes in bane voice, they sound exactly like the stuff he would say.

  21. David says:

    john reid – only my first paragraph was meant to be replying to you and your quote sums things up appropriately. If Scargil and the other ultra lefties had not created the antagonism and divisions they did by their attempts to topple the government then it is just possible that Kinnock would have fared a lot better in 87 rather than losing so much support to the sdp/lib alliance. And if he had still lost, but by a smaller margin, it might have given him the edge in 92 where he just lost by 21 seats. And if Scargill had been prepared to compromise rather than seeking the overthrow of a democratically elected government then maybe a lot of pits and jobs could have been saved at the time (although would probably have gone eventually) and a lot of suffering avoided.

    The rest of my rant was more aimed at some of the other contributors particularly neal jones who seems to suggest that you were either a victim of thatcher and you should join in or you were a greedy so and so who should just shut up! (Everybody out lads there’s a scab here!!) and just generally some of the exaggerations and misconceptions that are prevalent. Apologies if you thought I was directing all that at you.

    All that anyone is achieving by making such a song and dance about all this is making sure that she dominates the media agenda again and adds to the legend that she was a towering, iconic figure who put the left in there place and continues to do so even after death. She really wasn’t the messiah (or the devil) just a naughty girl! leave her alone. People should focus their efforts on campaigning to get the government to focus on delivering help where it is needed – capital investment in house building to get employment up in certain areas might be a start – rather than acting as though they have just won a war and toppled a tyrant. The reality is an old woman, with dementia, who has been out of politics for over 20 years has just died – and for 13 of those years we had a labour government with huge majorities and a growing economy who could have been righting any perceived injustices.

  22. John Reid says:

    David, oh o.k.

  23. I voted her in on the basis of the shopping list / cut waste idea but never again.

    I know she did some good things like freeing up the amount of money you could take out of the country, sale of council houses etc Falklands was good but the foreign office caused the problem by neglect -sending out the signals that we weren’t bothered. but!!!

    she put thousands of men out of work – some of the industries might have survived. This meant that many other trades went bankrupt as there was no money in many towns

    she had to pay unemployment which mad the social security bill enormous

    she missed the point that manufacturing had made this country great (the north) new innovations should have been pursued but she relied on gas and the city

    the ‘easy in easy out’ policies meant that English factories were shut before French and German ones. Good old reliable businesses moved to the continent.

    there was no enterprise system to re-employ these men

    thousands were told to go on the sick to make the unemployment figures better

    she started mixed sex hospital wards which at last are illegal

    she mishandled the Northern Ireland issue

    she took the tax breaks off apprentice training schools. ICI and Thorn shut theirs straightway so that many skills could not be passed on.

    She shut as many ship yards as she could including naval ones then after a word from our union boss she opened two again.

    many companies were dinosaurs -I think the managements were as stupid as some of the union bosses. Quality was crap which was due to greedy bosses – Previously we made some of the best quality products in the world. Not her fault but the management didn’t get their fair share of the blame

    With no jobs unions couldn’t strike anyway – some of the big unions were whole irresponsible – the voting system was often a show of hands

    They privatised all sorts of jobs for instance hospital cleaners which meant private firms took over who had to pay profits to shareholders and managers.

    I reckon it’s easier to get income tax from an employer than the countless self-employed people for instance at the BBC

    council houses were sold to people after only 5 years in the house – the hope was to convert these people into Tories.

    Councils weren’t allowed to use the money they got off these houses to build any more.

    she shut coal mines that could have been converted to clean fuel

    The pole tax – mansion owners paid less – ordinary houses paid more.

    The first slump hit the north
    the second slump hit north and south and by did the south complain about it.

    How much extra money has been spent by competing train and energy companies

    The opposition was divided into SDP and Old Labour

    Major, Blair & Brown followed her policies

    None of the watch dogs seemed to have been any good.

    How many people were living on the streets during her premiership. At least Major made a lot of effort privately to house London’s homeless

    Can’t remember everything – I’m sure there were more good things.

  24. danny barber says:

    Maggie dies,
    A nose-miner lives

    OED: Nose-miner: n. Australian colloquial; a four year old with his finger stuck so far up his nose you can just see the elbow.

    How many Kindy-kids died from Maggies’ cuts.

  25. neill cowans says:

    i wasnt going to make a comment but i will
    we live in a democracy[majority rules]
    the people of this country voted her in 3 times[majority rules]
    the people of this country never voted her out
    the people who are slagging her off must be the unsilent minority
    the people on tv slagging her off are idiot kids brought up on there parents prejudice
    the lady is dead
    have the decency to let her be laid to rest in peace
    as the majority of this country wants
    we live in a country were the majority rules

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