The Welsh Gull

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You’re never too young to have an opinion

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As you might have heard, Margaret Thatcher died today. Social media has gone a little bit mad as usual when something big happens. Mrs T is, for obvious reasons, one of the most divisive figures in political history and I don’t want to particularly get into the nitty-gritty detail – I’ve got to save that for the 20,000 words I have to write this summer for my dissertation. But sitting on the far left as I do, it’s fair to say that I’m not particularly sorry she has left us.

Naturally I take a keen interest in what the other side is saying, though, and it concerns me, because it seems very few people are actually openly defending her ideology, despite the fact that it was enough for the British people to vote her party under her leadership into power 3 times. Instead I’ve noticed a lot of people choosing to defend her by more covert means:

– “you can’t speak ill of the dead” – which of course was never the case when all the public figures the Right hates died, from Bin Laden to Chavez via Hobsbawm

– “she was just an old lady” – because we all automatically become nice when we hit 80

– “she just had different opinions to you” – ignoring the fact that, unlike me, she was in charge of running the country for 11 years and made numerous decisions millions of people here objected to

– “she was a strong personality” – so was *insert well-known controversial historical political figure here*

No one is brave enough to stand up and say she was right to privatise various industries or smash the trade unions or stick by an economic policy that sent hundreds of thousands into unemployment and caused enormous societal discord. Here begins the airbrushing out of all the bad things she actually did in favour of some kind of vague personality-based mythology that portrays her as a million and one things that she wasn’t

But the most worrying one was “people under the age of 30 have no right to comment”, which is a totally absurd statement to make. Not only is this massively hypocritical (because I’m certain those same people have opinions4u on anyone that did bad things before they were born), but essentially that reduces history to “this is something that happened” – Michael Gove’s wet dream, basically. We can’t not have opinions on the past. The whole point of history is analysing what happened and why – you can’t do that if you’re not allowed to have an opinion on something from the past. But perhaps that’s the whole point of Michael Gove’s conception of history – he doesn’t want us to judge people in history in case we judged them in the “wrong” way, so best let the state decide who’s good and who’s bad.

As well as that, it’s totally wrong because we are all still affected by Thatcher’s legacy. I might only be only 22, born a few months after her resignation, but I live in an area pretty much destroyed by the Thatcher government. I don’t want to have to totally unpick the miners’ strike because it’s been done to death by people who know a lot more about it, but the widespread closure of mines in South Wales, along with other the deindustrialisation of other heavy industries in the region, has led to mass unemployment and considerable deprivation in South Wales. The various South Wales areas have the highest rates of anti-depressant use in the whole of England and Wales. This is unquestionably the result of Thatcherite policy. That’s why all those arguing “well it’s not like she killed people like Hitler or Bin Laden” are wrong – she didn’t bomb South Wales but she has ruined the lives of thousands of people, and didn’t really give much of a shit about it in the process.

I still have to live with this. I have no choice but to leave my home area to find work. My friends are all struggling to find meaningful jobs. Crime and substance abuse (from a young age) are serious issues. The community is fragmenting. A generation of children is growing up totally disillusioned, low on confidence, self-esteem, hope and ambition. But to Thatcher, the people of South Wales were just numbers contributing to further numbers, a long way away from anywhere she ever needed to go. Wales was a write-off as far as she was concerned – the Valleys were never going to vote Tory so she didn’t care. The result is the breakdown of society that she was allegedly trying to prevent. It’s got nothing to do with divorces or the decline of religion or any of those excuses. It’s because the working class were considered expendable, rather than as real actual human beings, and have now been left with nothing to live for, as London and the South East get yet ever wealthier and have yet more benefits.

This is why I’m pleased she’s gone. And if anyone has a problem with that, feel free to come here and see what 20 years of post-industrial decline has done to the Valleys. And Glasgow. And Greater Manchester. And Newcastle. And Nottinghamshire. And so on. Because I’m sure you think that Thatcher was a positive force, a “patriot”, a “strong personality who got things done” or “an old woman”, or if you think that I’m too young to comment on what she did, you obviously haven’t been here to see the legacy she has left on these places. Because if you had, you would understand.

The media can only airbrush out so much. They might forget us but we will not forget her, and what she did. We just need to make sure that her other legacy, currently sat in Downing Street and on the government benches in the House of Commons, doesn’t cause similar misery over the next decade.

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Written by James Bennett

April 8, 2013 at 16:14

Posted in Politics

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