Saturday 4 May 2013

And the April Yellow Jersey goes to.....

Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven

She's not exactly a cyclist, even if her Employment Minister famously said in 1984 that the jobless population should "get on your bike and find a job". The story goes that when Margaret Thatcher ran into financial difficulties at Oxford University some of her upper class friends had a whip-round and raised money towards the purchase of a bicycle.

I am not sure how much Margaret rode her bicycle in the end. She was always keen to show her femininity and wouldn't engage in anything that would make her appear "less ladylike". (She was reportedly never seen without a handbag, and she didn't possess a single pair of trousers.) So the idea of riding a bicycle didn't come naturally to her. Mrs T was conservative with a small c as well as with a big C!

But that's not the reason why she gets this month's yellow jersey. Like her or loathe her Margaret Hilda Roberts has had an enormous impact on British politics and British society in a way that no other prime minister since Clement Atlee (1945-1951) has had.

She infamously destroyed the trade unions, and the closure of numerous coal mines under her watch had a negative impact on various communities, largely in the North of England and Wales. The Scottish have never forgiven her for introducing the Community Charge (aka Poll Tax) north of the border ahead of everywhere else in Britain. And don't even get the people of the Emerald Isle started on her influence on Anglo-Irish relations. Margaret Thatcher died a few weeks ago, 23 years after leaving office, but many people have never forgiven her for her policies against them and their own.

However, some of Thatcher's policies inspired a generation. One of my favourite groups when I was growing up was Soul II Soul. By lead singer Jazzy B's admission the birth of his group was assisted by the Enterprise Allowance Scheme introduced by the Thatcher governnment during the 1980s. This scheme also gave financial help to a number of Britain's most popular comedians, "Britart" artists, recording studios and musicians that pass themselves off as staunchly left wing.

On the day Margaret Thatcher's death was announced four weeks ago people gave a variety of reactions. Mayor of London, Boris Johnson paid tribute by saying that "This country is deeply in her debt. Her memory will live long after the world has forgotten the grey suits of today's politics." At the same time in Brixton, South London an impromptu party was held to celebrate her passing. Thatcher certainly did not leave people feeling neutral about her!

For me, Thatcherism meant the chance to move up in the world - the chance to own your own home and, if you wanted, open your own business or be creative. It instilled into people a "can-do" attitude. Furthermore,  many say that Thatcherism formed the blueprint to the Labour Party that we have today!

How well all her policies really worked is debatable. There were some policies that I did not like at all, for instance her opposition to sanctions against apartheid South Africa, and her lack of interest or investment in sport. However, the pure principle of effecting a much needed change to the economical and political landscape in the UK, is in my opinion, commendable. That is why Maggie gets the yellow jersey for this month.   

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