Why Mrs Thatcher was hated

Mrs Thatcher was not funny or warm, at least not in public. She wasn’t even populist. Unlike The Gipper, it is unlikely that she will ever become a National Treasure. She represented – was like – a very small segment of British society: the lower middle class. Her virtues were those of a stage nanny or governess, as in Mrs Doubtfire, or Mary Poppins, or Anna from The King and I. She was firm, friendly, upbeat, undaunted. She treated us all like children. But above all, she decided that what we all needed was plain speaking….

It is said that Mrs Thatcher believed in confrontation politics. It may be that her personality allowed no other approach. But it certainly fitted her philosophy. She had come to the conclusion that she did not need or want – that the country did not need even if it did want – a continuation of the post-War political conversation. She had come to the conclusion that in welfare as in economics, fudge had led to massive corporatism – the state and the private sectors hopelessly entwined – and the individual put at a discount.

She had decided that the Tory/Labour triangulation – of chaps decently squaring circles – was precisely the problem. She decided the nation had to decide whether it was basically socialist or basically free market.  She wanted there to be no hiding from this confrontation.

To say Mrs Thatcher was divisive as though divisiveness was an unintended consequence of her nasty world view is to put carts in front of horses. She deployed her full-on rhetoric because she thought the nation was like a child being told moralistic fairy stories instead of hard truths, and it was time we grew up.

In fact, of course, she could not very much change the nation, and the changes she wrought had been rehearsed and waiting in the wings for years. Where she was fresh was in saying that socialism was wrong and bad and had to be defeated, not negotiated.

Interestingly, the far left hates Tony Blair nearly as much as it hates Margaret Thatcher. But then he was a traitor. She was merely a plain-speaking, old-fashioned right-winger.

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Publication date

10 April 2013