Courtesy Of Elizabeth Zanghi/The Ram
There is an expression, “don’t speak ill of the dead.” Recently, the famous British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, passed away at the age of 87. Baroness Thatcher left a legacy of complete and utter chaos. She was a strong leader who played a major part in the defeat of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, was the reason why the U.K. joined the EU and was committed to working to rebuild certain sectors of the economy.
However, she also widened the gap between the rich and poor in the UK by a greater margin than any other Prime Minister to date, worked to dismantle the popular National Healthcare System and crippled manufacturing in the U.K.
Unionized workers suffered more than anyone else under her tenure, and the divisions that were accentuated by some of her policies can still be noticed today. Of course, she did do some amazing things during her time as prime minister.
She was the first woman to represent a political party in the U.K., as well as the first woman to be prime minister, both of which were major steps for women internationally. If you needed to use one word to describe Thatcher’s time as prime minister, it would be polarizing.
Being in London right now in the aftermath of Thatcher’s death, I have a prime opportunity to observe the public’s reaction to the death of such a controversial figure. The immediate reaction was that of mourning mixed with public celebration. In areas such as Manchester, Brixton (London) and Scotland, people celebrated by burning her picture and playing celebratory music. All of these areas were hit the hardest by Thatcher’s policies or negatively affected.
In contrast, in London, there will be a full state funeral for Thatcher, where her body will be paraded through the streets, from Parliament to St. Paul’s Cathedral; the Queen will also be attending her service. There will without a doubt be thousands of protesters voicing their disdain for the first state funeral for a prime minister since Winston Churchill. Should such a polarizing figure receive such high honor?
People throughout the U.K. purchased the song “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” by Judy Garland until the point that it was at number 2 on the charts for the nation. People in Brixton, a relatively posh and young part of the city, were throwing parties to celebrate Thatcher’s death.
I was able to visit parliament during a special session where David Cameron, the current prime minister, and several other members of parliament were reading their remarks and memories of the late Margaret Thatcher.
All of them were respectful, but others reminded us that she was responsible for dividing a great part of the nation. Almost 150 members of parliament refused to attend this special session of parliament.
As an American, it is difficult to remember the Iron Lady as anything other than Ronald Reagan’s friend and figure of the women’s rights movement.
It is only now, following her death, that I have acquired a more nuanced perception of the Iron Lady.