If you find the scenes of celebration in Britain at the death of Margaret Thatcher confusing or distasteful, it may well be helpful to remember some of the less well publicised aspects of recent British history.
Thatcher’s economic policies are strangely remembered as being successful and bold when in fact, they were largely destructive and counter-productive, When she was elected in 1979, Her government more than doubled unemployment through extreme Monetarist policies (which they abandoned quietly in the mid-eighties when they clearly weren’t working, even to the Conservatives). Over two million manufacturing jobs were ultimately lost in the recession of 1979-81. By 1983, manufacturing output had dropped by 30% from 1978. Employment in Britain has never fully recovered.
The War against Argentina.
While for some the Falklands conflict was Margaret Thatcher’s ‘finest hour’, and popularised the title ‘The Iron Lady’ (given to her in 1976 by a Soviet journalist ), it should be remembered that she personally gave the order to sink the Argentinian battleship Belgrano when it was far outside of the ‘Total Exclusion Zone’ declared around the Falklands. In doing so she over-ruled the Navy’s own rules of engagement in sinking a World War 2 vintage battleship that had offered little threat against the modern Royal Navy. The sinking of the Belgrano seemed to be more of a political gesture than a military necessity, designed to show her strength and resolution, needlessly killing 323 sailors.
She also supported and was a close personal friend of General Pinochet, who in turn, supported and aided her in the Falklands conflict. The Rettig Report found that at least 2,279 persons were conclusively murdered by the Chilean government for political reasons during Pinochet’s regime, and the Valech Report found that at least 30,000 persons were tortured by the government for political reasons. Thatcher’s response to this was to invite Pinochet to tea.
The War against the British people
Thatcher’s culture of using the Police as paramilitary shock troops against the people of Britain started with the heavy handed and overtly racist policing that helped contribute to the Brixton and Toxteth riots and was developed in the Miner’s Strike of 1984-5.
The Battle of Orgreave.
This culminated in shameful incidences like the 1984 Battle of Orgreave, which the South Yorkshire Police has recently voluntarily referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) over. At Orgreave. the Police provoked violence, charged the retreating miners, and then systemically lied about it. Ninety-five picketers were charged with riot, unlawful assembly and similar offences after the battle. A number of these were put on trial in 1987, but the trials collapsed, all charges were dropped and a number of lawsuits were brought against the police for assault, unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution. South Yorkshire Police later agreed to pay £425,000 compensation and £100,000 in legal costs to 39 pickets in an out of court settlement. Nevertheless, no officers were disciplined for misconduct. Michael Mansfield QC described the evidence given by South Yorkshire Police as “the biggest frame-up ever”. The media reported the Police’s version and public opinion turned irreversibly away from sympathy for the Miners.
The Battle of the Beanfield.
Thatcher’s war against the British people then moved onto ‘New Age Travelers’, especially ‘The Convoy’, a large aggregation of travelers that had formed around the Stonehenge free festivals. In a co-ordinated, pre-meditated attack, the Battle of the Beanfield was initiated by the Wiltshire Constabulary after a stand-off lasting several hours, when members of the police attacked the procession by forcefully entering the field in which the vehicles were contained, methodically smashed windows, beating people about the head with truncheons, used sledgehammers to break and damage the interiors of their vehicles, dragging a pregnant woman out of her vehicle and arresting the convoy members.
The Battle of Trafalgar
Thatcher’s undoing may have been instigating the Poll Tax, or ‘Community Charge, a deeply regressive tax levied ‘per head’ that meant that a typical millionaire living alone in a mansion would pay less than a working couple, or family. This created more widespread protests that culminated in the riot in Trafalgar Square, or ‘Battle of Trafalgar’. After having waged campaigns against organised labour, the miners, ravers ( through ‘The Criminal Justice Act’ that criminalized gatherings ‘wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats’) and hippies, a general attack on the poor proved to be a step too far. It also demonstrated a deep ignorance and disregard for British folk memory which still remembered the hated reputation of the Poll Tax of 1380 and its association with the subsequent Peasants’ Revolt. Far from being the ‘patriot prime minister’, she was a sworn enemy to many different segments of British society, especially the working classes, poor and disadvantaged.
‘Comfortable’ with apartheid … and paedophiles
She was also ‘comfortable’ with Apartheid, refused to sanction the South Africa government and according to Geoffrey Howe, one of her closest allies, Mrs Thatcher regarded the Nelson Mandela’s ANC as a ‘typical terrorist organisation’, as late as 1987. In addition to this one of her closer friends, who spent 11 New Years celebrations with her, was the serial paedophile Jimmy Savile, responsible for hundreds of cases of rape and sexual abuse, including abuse of the mentally ill and prison inmates. Savile’s abuse was ‘common knowledge’ at the BBC and at other institutes that he worked at. That MI5 hadn’t vetted Savile, or did not know of his activity, beggars belief since he was also friendly with members of the ‘Royal Family’.
A legacy of division
Margaret Thatcher’s legacy, as the former London Mayor Ken Livingstone has pointed out, is a divided nation that still suffers from economic and social ills of her failed policies and unparalleled aggression towards her own people. She lived into old age, supported by the state and never faced trial for any of her crimes against the people. The celebrations of many British people are not generally aimed at her as a private person, but as a public figure who was culpable for creating a culture of division and conflict. Her legacy, unfortunately, still endures, (albeit in a sanitized form) within the current government, who are currently enforcing wide cuts to state benefits that are the economic punishment for the failures and excesses of the runaway banking culture and the ultimate product of her free market policies of deregulation.