First and only

_39812933_young_thatcher_238Margaret Thatcher.

Could two words and one name evoke more emotion in the British people?

I was born a few months after she won the general election in 1979. Because she served three terms, it wasn’t until I was almost 11 years old that I lived under another Prime Minister. And I had to wait until I was 17 to live under a non-Conservative government.

When I was about 9 years old I could do a killer impersonation of her. ‘One day,’ I used to say, ‘I’ll be Prime Minister like Margaret Thatcher.’

Like it or not, I’m a product of that era.She shaped a culture, created a system of economics like Marmite, either loved or loathed.

And this morning she died, bringing about an absolute onslaught of long-prepared, carefully crafted obituaries in print, film and audio. A quick Twitter search minutes after the announcement of her death had equal numbers of people expressing their sadness at the passing of a great leader, and those who were delighted that ‘the witch was dead’.

The first and only female prime minister in British history, and perhaps the most divisive. Who else twenty three years after leaving office could prompt the strength of feeling she has and did? Not even Tony Blair, in spite of his controversial decisions over Iraq brings out the strength of feeling the name Thatcher can.

Depending on your class and your background she means different things – the miners’ strikes, the crushing of the unions, privatisation, yuppy culture, a strong economy, home ownership, war with Argentina, poll tax, the IRA… Almost definitely not feminism, in spite of the uniqueness of her achievement even decades after the end of her premiership.

Because of her it’s possible we’re more selfish. Perhaps we are more aspirational, and less expectant of the state to support us. Maybe subconsciously those of us who were little girls in the 80s subconsciously also grew up believing we had the power to command regardless of our gender. Who knows. Alive or dead, her legacy lives on, not just in politics and economics today, but in each and every one of us who grew up while she was in charge.

I’ve no plans to be Prime Minister now, and I can’t do any decent impersonations any more. Still, though I’ve not once contemplated voting Tory, and am not a huge fan of supply-side economics, whether I like it or not, me and those of us who were children of Thatcher are a generation shaped, for good or for ill, by her.


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