“You’ll Never Get Anywhere If You Don’t Work, Girl”

April 11, 2013

This week saw the loss of one the best known political figures to grace this Earth. The one, the only, Margaret Thatcher. Love her or hate her, she was responsible for many fantastic feats; she turned the UK’s economy around in the 1980s depression, she was the first and only British Prime Minister to serve three consecutive terms in Government  and on top of all that, she was a she. Great Britain has only ever had one female Prime Minister. Girl power.

In the face of unprecedented opposition she rose above it all with steely grit and determination, to become a leader who was respected and feared in equal measures by her colleagues and opposition alike. Margaret Thatcher served as Education Secretary while the Conservative Party was in power from 1970-74 before eventually challenging for the leadership, and winning, in 1975.

During her time as Education Secretary, she introduced deep spending cuts which resulted in the milk that was given to schoolchildren being withdrawn. This event led her to be branded “Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher”. I’m sure others have called her worse.

The Conservatives did not get back into power until 1979 and it was the Iron Lady who led them to a majority victory. She would go on to win, in landslide victories, two more General Elections with the same party in 1983 and 1987.

Her ideas were simple enough with hard work being the backbone. She believed that the State should only step in to help a citizen after they had tried all other means of obtaining a living. Her economic model became known as “Thatchernomics” and was favoured by Ronal Reagan, then President of the United States. Tough on many, especially those employed in public work, her model of privatising public industries helped to return them to profitability and ultimately restore the economy.

Famed for not bowing to the requests of the IRA hunger strikers in 1981, beating Argentina in the Falkland War in 1982 and forcing the coal miner trade unions back to work in 1985, she beat them all.

She survived an assassination attempt by the IRA in 1984 and ultimately went on to sign the Anglo-Irish Agreement with then Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald in 1985. The deal was the first time in which Ireland would be permitted to play an active role in how Northern Ireland was governed. This agreement was seen as the precursor to the Good Friday Agreement and many have hailed Thatcher as the person who took the first step towards restoring peace in Northern Ireland, although this is still somewhat of a contentious issue.

All of these achievements would leave behind a legacy that anyone would struggle to live up to. But at what cost? When the coal mines closed, the surrounding communities descended into poverty and were ultimately left to be. Now the media is scrambling to reveal tapes which apparently recorded her saying that she was very much ok with leaving some areas behind.

The media frenzy since Maggie’s passing has been relentless. In the first three hours, 900 posts per minute were triggered with 43% of them being negative. Almost half of these took place in the UK with a further 25% in the US. The reach of these posts on Twitter hit upwards of 80% and above 60% on Facebook. On top of all this, Judy Garland’s song ‘Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead’ has gone to number one in the UK iTunes charts with over 100,000 copies having been purchased since Monday 8th of April.

Thatcher’s political demise in 1990 was the work of her party colleagues after the introduction of the infamous poll tax was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Many could no longer live up to her expectations or compete with her work ethic. Her ability to lead in the face of extraordinary opposition is something that must be admired. Her no-nonsense, straight talking approach was unusual for politics as she pulled no punches and said what she meant. There was no hidden agenda and she feared nobody. Our politicians of today, both in Ireland and abroad, stand to learn a thing or two about honesty from Maggie.

The Iron Lady will be given a state funeral with full military honours, costing a reported £8 million and paid for by the British government. Some might call it a waste of public funds…..

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