“I Do Not Intend To Die, Washing A Teacup”. Margaret Thatcher, 1925 – 2013.

MARGARET Thatcher has passed away today, aged 87, following a stroke.

She entered the Houses of Parliament with drive, with ambition, and with a vision that she truly believed would change this country for the better. The daughter of a grocer, and a woman, she is often described as ‘shattering the glass ceiling’ for women in politics. She was the first, and only, female Prime Minister of this country.

Many on the Left joked about having “the champagne on ice” for her passing. Although I despise her politics, I am writing this with a heavy heart. I will not be hypocritical enough to write a gushing tribute, as I disagree profoundly with a lot of what she did. I know enough of my history to know that she was a truly divisive figure, and that many suffered under her leadership. I do not dispute that, nor dismiss it. It is both history, and a legacy, an undercurrent into our current Conservative Party politicians mindset and policies.

Yet Margaret’s death does not change anything.

It does not turn the clock back to May 1979.

It does not undo what has been done.

In this, I am saddened by todays events – not the death of the first female Prime Minister of this country, although this will be in itself a historically significant day – but at the jubilation and exultation displayed by people vulgar enough to celebrate the death of another human being.

A frail, 87 year old woman suffering a stroke, and dying in pain, is not something to rejoice in. She leaves behind her daughter Carole and son Mark, and I hope both have the sense to avoid their Twitter feeds for a week or so to let the trolls crawl back under their bridges.

As one of my friends pointed out as they ‘pulled rank’ on me earlier, I did not live through the Thatcher years. I did not live through the high levels of unemployment, strikes, riots, and social unrest that ensued.

However, now in 2013, the years that I undisputedly am living through, I look around me at high levels of unemployment, strikes, riots, and social unrest.

For those embittered at what they call ‘The Thatcher Legacy’ – ask yourselves, what do you want to see happen in our Great Britain today? The same again? What would you change? What would you do?

As Sure Start childrens centres are closing, as Disability Living Allowance is being replaced by Personal Independence Payments, as the Bedroom Tax uproots people from their homes – what would you change? What would you do? If you hate the contents of the history book so much, why not change it so it doesn’t repeat itself? Or do you intend to die, washing up a tea cup?

To those exultant, even fleetingly, about the death of a frail old woman, I leave you with these words, from the 2011 film ‘The Iron Lady’:

“Watch your thoughts, for they will become words.
Watch your words for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they’ll become habits.
Watch your habits for they will forge your character.
Watch your character, for it will make your destiny.
What we think, we become.”

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

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31 Comments »

  1. I can not agree with this more. Brilliantly said, as always.

    Only thing I can add is that for those dancing on her grave, when you die, I hope someone reminds your friends and families how glad they are that have passed and get the champagne out.

    I lived through Thatcher. I don’t support her but I’m alive, healthy and loved.

  2. I am a sixty seven year old ex-print union representative. You will no doubt guess what I think of the lasting damage that Thatcher has lwreaked on this country. But I agree whole heartily with you and will no doubt incur the wrath of many old left wingers today, I cannot gloat at the death of an old lady.We knew what Thatcher was and fulfilled our fears. I thought I knew what Blair government could achieve and was woefully disappointed. Glorifying the death of this old women is a waste of time…watching overpaid jokers on Mock The Week and The News Quiz sniggering ather death is waste of time…get up, get out and fight for tomorrow.!!

  3. Beautifully well said. I know many who suffered during her times, and of course they are not her fans and understandably so. My opinions of those times are based on knowledge of history and hardly see her in a positive light.

    But I see that none of that is of note today because today she was just another lady, an elderly lady who died. What she did in the past is past and we have plenty to worry about here and now, and plenty who’re suffering now and will suffer even more under this government.

    Well I won’t say more as you already said pretty much everything I have been trying to say elsewhere

  4. Thanks for a heart felt sentiment that I totally agree with. What ever society teaches us it should be to share a common humanity no matter what our politics, beliefs, sexuality, age, or nationality.

  5. Thank you for posting this. I totally agree with you. I was 6 years old when she became Prime Minister, and while it’s become popular to hate her, in the eyes of many, she did a lot of good to this country. She got elected enough times to prove that, the left like to sneer at everyone who thought she did good. She did do some good -though I think much of that was due to Labour’s failings and inability to show any leadership and vision for the country. The country was on it’s knees in 1979 when she won – worse than anything this last recession has brought. It was so bad we had to go cap in hand to the IMF so we didn’t go bankrupt. Look at Cyprus, Greece now – sound familiar? She gave the country the leadership it needed at a time when Labour had failed us. Yes, much of what she did was not right, but she was elected. Three times. The country spoke. And I am not a Tory – just don’t like the bleaters who can’t see how bad the country was in the 70’s. I remember and I was 6.
    Her path to power was interesting, and inspiring and I will always be grateful that she got the top job as a woman because growing up with a female prime Minister made this teenage girl believe nothing was out of my reach.
    Those celebrating her death would be better channeling their anger into todays politics and helping those in need.

    • Yes, I remember the 3 day week, power cuts after 10 at night (resulted in a small baby boom – nothing else to do!), the binmen’s strike and the feeling that democracy was falling down around our ears of the 70s.

      Along came this woman, daughter of a shopkeeper, who talked to us in a way we could get behind.

      Yes, things changed, some not for the better – “big bang”, for example, turned out to be a bit of a mistake with hindsight. But the Falklands war gave us back our self respect; people became homeowners who had never even hoped to before; taxes were lowered; disability was introduced (as a fudge to reduce unemployment figures!) and we began to see a future where we could start a business and thrive.

      She did so much to change the UK forever. There are those who say she saved the country … and those who say she ruined it. But she was the foremost politician of a generation and one whom other politicians (notably Tony Blair!) modeled themselves upon.

      She was a great lady, whether you agree with her politics or not. It’s sad that she’s died … but a release for her.

      And yes, I remember Churchill’s state funeral, too – a mere babe at the time, but it made an impression!

      • I’m glad I’m not the only one who remembers the chaos and near anarchy in the ’70s and who, with hindsight, is thankful for Margaret Thatcher and what she did for this country. As an ex-seviceman who served through that troubled decade I well recall driving Green Goddesses and being on standby for other public service disputes.

    • Thank you Julia, you have put into words EXACTLY how I have been feeling all day today. We must be about the same age too.

      • I’m just 40 Sarah ;0) And one thing I forgot to write in my first post was in 1979 things were so bad, my parents had decided if Labour won the election that year they would emigrate.
        Of course lots of people do that all the time, but the only reason they thought to do it was the sorry state of the country. They are usually quite tolerant people, so it really says something about how bad things were back then.

    • Just come across your reply to @MsJackMonroe’s original post on Margaret Thatcher, and find myself agreeing with almost everything you’ve said. Articulating what I’ve been trying to put into words myself about Thatcher’s legacy. As you’ve pointed, out she was elected THREE times. The Country spoke. When it comes down to it, that’s what happens when you vote in a democracy. You don’t always get exactly what you wish for. I think @MsJackMonroe puts it very well whenutlimately we must each ask ourselves: What would you change? What would you do (differently)?It’s down to each of us to play our part in helping one another to effect change. (It’s why I will be voting Green in next week’s Council elections. #YouHavetoStartSomewhere

  6. I know a lot of people who are bitterly ‘celebrating’ Thatch’s demise. I also know people with bottles of champagne that have been kept in storage for this very day who will be opening them tonight. I’m not celebrating, nor am I unhappy to see her finally go. The eighties were a hideous decade, the destruction of so many peoples livelihoods and entire communities the turning of the police against the people. I’ll allow those who wish to gush to do so, and those who want to wash away the bitterness of Thatchers’ years in a drink to do likewise and save my moral outrage for things that actually matter. I’ll probably need a stiff drink myself once all the nauseating media eulogising starts!

  7. Yes, I remember the Thatcher years, my town had steel and coal, she decimated both industries, unemplyment hit 35% at worst, so as you can imagine, I wasn’t her greatest fan.

    But credit where it’s due, she was the only PM I can remember with a backbone.

    • Thatcher did not decimate your town, you did that yourselves. The UK could not continue to finance loss making Businesses. The country suffered from many injustices at all levels of society. Closed shops for those working in manual industry and the professional classes.

      • Agreed, in 1979 British Steel made a loss of £1.8billion, (If you take the increase of a pint of ale since then as a yardstick, that is the equivalent of £25billion today) and for what? Steel sheet, bar, joists, rolled to a high quality then left in stockyards for up to 18 months before either going to the customer or being re-smelted as scrap?
        One of the reasons why the British Car Industry had such a bad reputation for rust problems was the amount of steel sheet that was already rusting when they got it.

  8. I was an ex-pat working in Africa when Mrs T won the 1979 General Election, only returning home in 1984. At the time, being British abroad was embarrassing. Britain was the laughing stock of the world, and only 3 years earlier, Harold Wilson (PM) and Denis Healy (Chancellor) had to go cap in hand to the IMF for a loan. As ex-pats, we were the butt of every joke going, and people used to ridicule (with justification) Britain as if we were not there listening to them.

    Mrs T gave us a reason the hold our heads up high again, and foreigners stopped ridiculing us. For them, the arrival of Mrs T was a jaw-dropping experience.

    Yes, she broke the death grip that the unions had on the UK economy, but it needed to be done. They were running the country, instead of the elected governments of the day, and running the country into the ground. None of the men who lived in Number 10 had the balls to stand up to the unions, but Mrs T did.

    She got our economy turned around, and in fact for a few years while Nigel Lawson was Chancellor, Britain had a surplus rather than a deficit, where Sovereign Debt was concerned, meaning we were actually paying loans off, instead of borrowing more to cover the interest on the others.

    As part of that, she had to stop Government subsidies for otherwise unviable industries. It was cheaper to buy Polish coal and ship it to Britain than it was to pay British miners to dig it out of the ground here. Many people accuse her of “selling the family silver”, but that is not so. Government makes a terrible businessman, inflating prices to cover bureaucracy and over-employment thus operating at a loss, and therefore being unable to reinvest in the business to make it more efficient, and bogged down with archaic union rules that prevent increases in productivity or flexibility.

    Many of you won’t remember, but there was a time when we couldn’t use call boxes for anything other than 999 calls, because BT couldn’t be bothered to empty the coin boxes. That changed immediately when it was privatised. Shares were offered to the public, and those who bought them will have had a tidy little income over the years.

    The tax payer’s pocket isn’t a bottomless pit from which you can extract as much as you want to pump into any failing business (including Mines, Steel Works, Banks etc.). They have to be able to stand on their own hind legs, and the best thing that Government can do for them is not to interfere in things they don’t understand.

    Although I’m not a Tory, I think if Mrs T was alive and in politics today, she would be a member of the Libertarian Party. She was stabbed in the back by the Conservatives, because she was never “one of them”. She was about giving ordinary people freedom from excessive control by Government, while the LibLabCons are all Authoritarian, forcing us all to behave as they want, pay more and more without complaint in taxes and living the high life themselves.

    One of the finest PMs in Britain’s history. I reckon she would have been better than Churchill if she was a generation earlier.

  9. Jack,

    I found you recently via a recipe for bubble & squeak… but I think you have quickly become my favourite blogger (and, you’re up against some severe challenge there – I am particular!)

    This piece is beautifully sensitive assessment of the life of another human being; whilst most people are still so strongly polarised, twenty three years after she was ousted from power, that they are all still arguing if she was good or bad…

    Perhaps the fact that you didn’t live through it helps you be more objective and humane?

    Anyway, please keep blogging!

  10. I lived through the Thatcher years, in Liverpool and then in the South East of England. I, like so many others, suffered, as did my family. I protested and stood on the picket lines. We went hungry.

    I’ll shed no tears.

  11. for further clarity and the use of a great narrative.

    Thatcher was Ahab. British industry and culture was the whale.

    All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.”

    -Herman Melville’s Moby dick-

  12. Jack, very well put as ever. You can admire someone without liking or agreeing with them. I was 10 when she entered Downing St, & 22 when she left, so can say a lot of formative years were during her time. Yes, I remember the 1970s, the power cuts, lay offs & (seemingly) constant industrial unrest & my overriding memory of the “Winter of Discontent is of Trafalgar Square full of rubbish sacks as the binmen striked. I also remember the Falklands War in 1982, the miners strike of 1983/1984 & so many other defining moments during those years. I also remember being relieved when she went in late 1990, as she had outstayed her welcome by then. Margaret Thatcher was, & always will be, a divisive character, but she has left an indelible mark on UK & world politics, I’m not sure we’ll see her type again. Loved or Loathed, RIP.

  13. “..no one should rejoice at the death or defeat of a human being.” Martin Luther King, “The Death of Evil upon the Seashore,” in Strength to Love.

    “There is within us a moral instinct which forbids us to rejoice at the death of even an enemy.”
    — Henryk Sienkiewicz, Without Dogma (1891)

    I think Henryk Sienkiewicz may have been over-optimistic on that one.

    • Thank you Jack for this thoughtful, humane and civilized post. I am old enough to remember the Thatcher years, and what went before – the reasons why the electorate voted for her. She was not a dictator; she was democratically elected three times, so it’s clearly not as simple as some vocal left-wing commentators would have us believe. She was pro-democracy – eg see the BBC summary of her conflicts with the Trades Union movement at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/3067563.stm But even those who disagreed with her policies should, surely, be able to criticize the policies rather than throw hatred at the person? I thought “hate crimes” were supposed to be something we were moving away from….

  14. Even if you haven’t got one bon mot to say about the grade dame please, in all decency, let the Iron Lady now rust in peace.

    Or she’ll forever have her successors looking over their shoulders for approval.

    And that would be indecent.

  15. I am not quite sure why the very accurate and poignant film about Thatcher quoted Doaism, but I do not believe Margaret Thatcher upheld laissez-faire principles in government. She was a tyrant who used idealism as a personal weapon.

    Of course it’s wrong to celebrate anyone’s demise, unfairness and misery over demonstrating compassion. That’s where she herself went wrong.

    She died at The Ritz though…she obviously got something right, for herself at least.

  16. “There is no such thing as society”

    “High unemployment is a price worth paying”

    Margaret Hilda Thatcher.

    She had no compassion for the millions of livelihoods, and lives, she threw on the scrapheap in her pursuit of unfettered capitalism, I have no compassion for her.

    • Andy, have you ever looked up the origin of that much quoted phrase? It is taken from a rather long interview she gave to Woman’s Own on the 23rd of September 1987.
      In the passage from which it was extracted she was expounding on how people were looking for The Welfare State to solve problems which, in earlier times, would have been sorted out by the community and how the invisible “THEY” who must always be “Doing something about it”, in other words, “Officialdom”, had become accepted by many people as “Society”.

      The point she was making is that society is not this faceless “THEY” but rather “US,” and to use her own words, “There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.”

      In other words, if you want a real society that works, then take responsibility yourself, do not leave it to the faceless “they” of officialdom.

  17. I have no strong feelings for or against Margaret Thatcher, having lived through the 1980s with no great highs or lows. But I do have strong feelings against anyone who publicly rejoices in the death of someone’s mother, so I applaud you for speaking out.
    If I were to feel the need to complain, it would be about the amount of money spent on her funeral. Not because I have anything against her, but because I don’t believe in wasting money on lavish funerals generally. Money should be for the living.

  18. In her post-premiership years she ended up selling fags for British American Tobacco overseas to Third World countries…causing misery and pain, no doubt, to thousands of people long after her life in the lap of luxury had ended. A drug dealer, in essence. She won’t be missed by me.

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