Margaret Thatcher died today. I have to admit, that it feels like a really odd thing to write. When somebody’s health has been in the spotlight for so long, and when somebody’s death has been discussed at length before it even happened, it feels surreal to think that our first woman Prime Minister is dead.
In the past few years, my views on Margaret Thatcher have changed. I still vehemently disagree with her divisive politics. I was a child who suffered thanks to the welfare model which she was so much a part of crafting. I saw firsthand how single mothers were vilified, thanks in no small part to the policies of Thatcher and Major Governments. But, what’s interesting is that whilst a few years ago I hated the policy and the person, lately, I’ve felt more able to separate the two.
For me, the woman who died today was not the same woman. Maybe that’s just my odd way of dealing with it, but this was not the Iron Lady. The woman who died today was somebody who barely left the house, who struggled to walk unaided and who repeatedly forgot that the love of her life was no longer with her. That isn’t the same person who crowed ‘No, no, no.’ across the despatch box. She was a shell of a person, something we’ll all become at some point.
For me, the thing that I’ll remember about today is how tarnished I think things are. We live in a world, where people feel that they can justify being jubilant at the death of another person because of their actions. I don’t agree with very much that Thatcher did. But then, I’m a Liberal Democrat, so it’s hardly surprising. What I do think though, is that here you have somebody who believed so strongly that she was right, that in the end it was her downfall. She believed with such zeal that she had the right answer, that she risked her own neck to make it happen.
We now live in a world where people chase headlines so readily, that last week George Osborne used the deaths of six children to further his political motive. In some sense, I would prefer Thatcher any day of the week, because you know very clearly what she believed, and you make your choice. In a world where David Cameron would pitch his career on a Daily Mail front page, Thatcher should be remembered as a giant.
Over the next little while, I have no doubt that we’ll have an increasingly polarised debate. On one hand, the right wing who will promote her to national treasure status, and on the left, tribalism and unhealed wounds will still be put before basic human instincts.
My one hope is that we can remember that - in a very basic, human sense – today an elderly woman died. Whether her policies made us a less caring society, or whether there is no such thing as society at all – wouldn’t it be fitting that in death, we continue to prove that despite it all, we are people who care, who show respect and who try to forgive.