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Controversy over the Iron Lady will not rest in peace
Updated 10:27am Wednesday 17th April 2013 in News
THE life and legacy of the Iron Lady will be marked in style as Oxfordshire’s well-wishers travel to London to bid their final farewell.
As opponents of her policies prepare to protest, representatives of the county are getting ready for her funeral service today at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Conservative Banbury MP and close friend Sir Tony Baldry will be among the guests, as will Falkland Islands Memorial Chapel volunteer Angela Perry, of Wroxton, near Banbury.
Lady Thatcher’s former Oxford University college Somerville will also be represented by principal Dr Alice Prochaska and several students.
Since the Iron Lady’s death last Monday, tributes and scorn have been poured on the controversial legacy of her premiership.
Here, two public figures with very different points of view discuss her legacy.
Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry, worked as an aide to Lady Thatcher during the 1975 General Election and on her successful campaign to become party leader. He was made a minister in the department of energy in 1990: Margaret Thatcher believed that the state should not provide services that could be better delivered and better provided by the private sector.
It is difficult now to recall that in the mid-1970s a ‘party line’ meant a shared telephone that for many was the only way of accessing GPO services, and for many key services there was a single monopoly provider.
Margaret Thatcher privatised telecommunications, the electricity and gas industries, airports and the water industry, leading to hugely increased investment over the years in these industries and Britain leading the world in many of these sectors.
It is noteworthy that the Labour Party has never suggested reversing any of Margaret Thatcher’s changes.
Indeed I suspect that Tony Blair would readily acknowledge that the only way in which he was able to be elected as Prime Minister was by accepting the basics of Margaret Thatcher’s legacy.
Margaret Thatcher believed that the state should provide a firm and strong safety net below which no-one could fall, but also that there should be a ladder of opportunity up which people should be able to climb.
As she once commented in a speech in the United States referring to children’s education, she would like poppies to grow tall even if that meant some poppies growing taller than others.
Margaret Thatcher believed in British business and wanted British companies to do well in the world with maximum opportunity and minimum red tape.
She clearly understood that countries need to earn more than they spend if they are to remain solvent. She also clearly understood, unlike the last Government, that one could not simply borrow one’s way out of every situation.
Her legacy was to seek to ensure that public policy starts with consideration of each of us as individuals and our families and communities bottom up rather than top-down state determined solutions. As she often put it, if the state taxes all, if the state runs all we soon all become mere servants of the state.
Freedom, personal responsibility, greatest possible opportunities for all. These were the legacy of Margaret Thatcher.
Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady. She was born and grew up in Oxford. The daughter of a union shop steward at British Leyland in Cowley, she fondly remembers her time in the city of dreaming spires:
As Britain’s first ever woman Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher broke the mould in more ways than one. She also broke whole industries and communities that are still reeling from the impact today.
Many of the chronic problems we now face as a country – the demise of manufacturing, deregulation of the banks, growing inequality and falling wages – are direct consequences of Mrs Thatcher’s policies.
The financial crash of 2008 showed that greed is not so good after all.
Selling council homes may have been popular at the time but she failed to replenish the stock.
And many young hard-up families on the waiting list are now paying the price.
Her demonisation of unions left many ordinary working people without a voice when they needed someone to stick up for fairness at work.
Amidst all the tributes it is worth remembering that Margaret Thatcher made the UK a more unequal and unfair country to live in.
By the time she was forced out of office by her own MPs, child poverty had more than doubled from one in seven children to one in three.
We are all still living with the legacy of her policies today, and in David Cameron and George Osborne she has two natural heirs.
The current Government seems hell-bent on finishing her job – ready to cut and privatise where even the Iron Lady dared not tread.
But there is such a thing as society.
And our job is to stop them.
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