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Thatcher Anniversary Monday, 26 April, 1999, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
Thatcher's children: 20 years on
The 1997 general election was the first at which young people who had grown up only knowing a Conservative government got the chance to vote.

Catrine Kirkman and Helena Lane-Smith are part of the generation who were born in the year that Margaret Thatcher became prime minister.

For them and their friends, Tony Blair's government is the first Labour administration they have lived under or recall.

Their political opinions were shaped under consecutive Conservative governments.

As part of its special report on the 20th anniversary of the 1979 election, BBC News Online asked the two 20-year-old students about their recollections of Thatcherism and how politics affects them today.

'She was a tyrant'

Catrine, who grew up in Gloucestershire, remembers the Thatcher era, mainly through the opinions expressed in her family.

She said: "I do remember her, my parents said she had a very bad influence on the country.

Thatcher
Baroness Thatcher: Came to power in 1979
"She was a tyrant but a very strong woman with a great deal of influence at the time.

"My mum and dad's views about what Mrs Thatcher did are very correct - pay the poor less to worker harder and the pay the rich more to work harder."

Both Catrine and Helena believe that the one area where Baroness Thatcher's impact was strongest was in boosting the feminist cause.

Helena, who grew up in Middlesex, said: "I do remember Mrs Thatcher.

"She was a powerful woman who led a Cabinet of men. She was the only female prime minister as well. I think that's the main thing I remember about her from that time."

Shifting society

Both girls were probably more concerned about doing their homework than watching the Tory leadership contest when Baroness Thatcher resigned in 1990.

Not surprisingly, neither of them can really remember any policies which might have impacted on their lives.

Catrine, who would have been three during the Falklands War, said: "I only remember SATs [national curriculum tests] but they were introduced later. I think I was too young to really remember anything much."

Having been born at the beginning of a political era, it is hard for them to judge whether society has changed because of Mrs Thatcher's policies.

Helena said: "I don't think there has been a shift in the society.

"If it has changed it's not because of Mrs Thatcher, it was because it was the 1980s or the 1990s.

"If society has changed, it is probably because of a natural progression, or market forces."

Legacy continues

But Catrine and Helena both think that Mrs Thatcher's legacy continues, especially within the ranks of her own party.

Catrine said: "I think the Conservatives are slightly different now.

"I think Mrs Thatcher was in government for such a long time it will take them such a long time to get out of her policies."

Helena concurs: "I think the Conservatives will always be influenced by Margaret Thatcher, although they have changed the party a little bit.

Elephant
Environmental issues are important to Thatcher's children
"She really helped to bring women into politics. I think that in itself has changed the Conservative Party."

Many critics of the younger generation have complained of their lack of political motivation.

Helena is one of those who admits to having little interest in politics.

She said: "Politics hasn't really had an effect on me.

"My friends aren't overly political. They do have opinions on things but that's not got a great deal to do with who is in power."

Important issues

And when it comes to voting, Helena does not make judgements on traditional party lines.

She said: "I would vote on issues that affected the local community.

"Local issues are very important for my family. My mum and dad vote Conservative and our local MP is very active in the community.

"I wouldn't vote for Tony Blair or William Hague on who they were, it would have to be what they stood for and what they could do for my area."

In the last decade, Catrine has developed a particular interest in environmental issues.

She suspects she might vote Labour at the next general election.

She said: "I would vote Labour now, probably. I'm really keen on green issues.

"I had it so drummed in to me that the Tories were bad influence so I would feel inclined to vote Labour."

See also:

29 Apr 99 | Thatcher Anniversary
21 Apr 99 | Thatcher Anniversary
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