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Monday, 27 November, 2000, 11:52 GMT
Does Thatcher's legacy remain?
Ten years ago today, Margaret Thatcher resigned as prime minister. The Iron Lady had been in power for eleven years.
She led the country to victory in the Falklands war. Her admirers credit her with protecting Britain's interests in Europe, and spreading home and share ownership to the masses.
For her detractors she was the prime minister who created mass unemployment, destroyed industries - most notably mining - isolated Britain in Europe and believed there was no such thing as society.
Is Thatcherism still alive in Britain? Does her legacy continue? Are you missing Maggie?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
My late Granddad once described Maggie Thatcher as a 'Female Hitler', need we say more.
I wonder if those people criticising the Thatcher legacy of "selfishness" are those who support the New Labour culture of individual "rights" at the expense of all else?
I also invite people who were adults before 1979 to testify to the idea that Britain was perfect and equal in those good old days.
If you want to know if Thatcher's legacy remains, you need look no further than Railtrack. A previously state run industry which was privatised to make money for tax cuts and has failed Britain ever since. Thatcher would be proud.
Last week there was a repeat broadcast of a programme on Mrs Thatcher's fall. Her arrogance at seeing her personal tragedy as a national tragedy just served to jog my memory of the joyous day of her political demise.
Werner L. Stunkel, USA
Maggie was the greatest peacetime leader in the twentieth century. Her biggest mistakes were allowing Nigel Lawson to shadow the Deutche Mark and taking Britain into the ERM. This is what in the end tarnished her legacy to the charge that all she did was boom and bust economics. I guess her problem was that she was not Thatcherite enough.
Some contributors to this debate believe Margaret Thatcher was an asset to their country, and see her as the one who 'restored British pride', as somebody put it.
I would like to tell these people that in many European countries Britain under Thatcher was not perceived as proud and independent but rather as
a satellite state of the USA. This self-delusion of Britain's independence and prosperity is the true legacy of Thatcher.
Given a choice between clueless Ted Heath, witless John Major, Headmaster Heseltine, the Unspeakable Blair and Lady Thatcher I would choose Margaret every time. Although I feel her refusal to scrap the poll tax was unacceptable she gave back this nation its self-respect and freed us from the tyranny of the unions, the failed economic dogma of socialism and stood against the dangers posed by a European superstate.
Blair tries to bask in the glory of a flexible and thriving economy, something he has done nothing to bring about and then he bemoans the past hardship that got us there. If nothing else Thatcher was a patriot and cared passionately for the people of this country, despite some of the vitriol on these pages.
mike gore, UK
The only legacy of any importance from the Thatcher years was that she made the Labour party sit up, take notice of the real world and started thinking about the people instead of itself. In that I have to congratulate her accomplishments
Brian Pithouse, UK
I left full-time education during one of the worst ever periods for employment, the global recession of the early 1980s. My experience and understanding were limited and my memory was short, but I'd soaked up the caste prejudice of council-estate dependency culture and I knew Maggie Thatcher was the Antichrist, somehow magically responsible for all the ills that had rotted away the structure of Britain's collectivist economy over the previous 20 years.
Thatchers legacy is still here. How could it be otherwise, 11 years of greed, selfishness and inward looking arrogance cannot be erased in ten years.
However there is no doubting the fact that she was a brilliant politician, who else could have persuaded the very people she and conservative party despised (the working class) to vote for her in droves.
The very essence of Thatcherism revolves around the concept of selfishness. While I do not doubt that she is one of the great minds of classical economics, she has left Britain a drug and crime ridden society. And is this still alive today? Yes. The situation left was far too severe to deal with in just ten years.
Anthony Simmons, England/Jamaica
Ms Thatcher refused to keep handing out money to companies that were not efficient. What could possibly be seen as wrong with this? Unions have to accept the productivity factor of business. As a tax payer I do not want my money thrown away uselessly to communities that refuse to change. Ms Thatcher's stance with the Coal Unions was essential and forward thinking.
For Thatcher's legacy, one only has to look at the state of the nation's railways. After the 1982 ASLEF dispute, her government set out to deliberately starve BR of investment by continual reduction of the annual subsidy. Lord Cullen, please examine.
If the Argentineans invaded the Falklands again, Blair would negotiate a cease fire in return for several billion pounds, which he can then use to reduce taxes in the next budget. Maggie never would.
Neil Gage, UK
Of course Thatcher's legacy remains - that's why we have low unemployment (compared with the socialist Continent), low taxes, light regulation and individual liberty. Incidentally, these are all the things Labour are now busily trying to get rid of: by burdening business with social legislation including the minimum wage, a rising tax burden (though mainly through the use of regressive indirect taxes), new regulations and red tape and a rabid intolerance of those who do not live their lives as the ruling elite see fit.
She took power from a Labour government who only thought about the "people". The country's economy was in a mess. She then though only about the "economy" and to hell with the social consequences of any of her actions. So what we have inherited is a brilliant economy, with businesses that never consider the suffering that their hard nose decisions cause families. Labour have taken over the mantle and ignore the "people" as much as Thatcher did. New Labour are Thatchers children.
Anna, London, UK
Margaret Thatcher's "scorched earth" economic policy in Wales has left many communities here drug and crime ridden. I don't think the woman loses any sleep over this though she should. Her legacy is still carried on by Tony Blair who has abandoned the very people who supported the Labour party through the dark years of Thatcher's reign of terror.
What is her legacy? A lazy, selfish, arrogant, bigoted nation, more inward-looking and xenophobic than ever, where no one cares about anything, and no one does anything about anything. A nation where we are led to believe that the majority of the people would rather Britain became a vassal state of the USA than embraced the cultural diversity of our European neighbours, where the Sun and Daily Mail are the chief shapers of public opinion. "This once-proud nation" is about the best way of putting it.
Roy Chapman, UK
It has become fashionable in recent years to hate Lady Thatcher. These same people do not bother to consider the alternative at the time. Red Labour. Not Tony Blair's watered down version.
Thatcher handed the UK 11 years of tough love, and the fickle British public don't like change. Idealist tree-huggers and cynics in this country are so frustrating to people with basic common sense. Do you want to help the poor? So do I. Which is why I donate to charities.
Before Thatcher, the Callaghan government was ruining the country with its policies of welfare state-ism. If this had continued, the United Kingdom would closely resemble modern day Russia. I don't know about everyone else, but I thank Thatcher for dragging us out of the path to an unthinkable society.
Sadly, yes, her legacy remains:
A crumbling health service, a disaster of an education system. No public transport to speak of. No industrial base, an overload of service industries and a selfish, bigoted, racist society. All those people who say that it she stood for hard work and good rewards: tell that to pensioners, who have worked hard all their lives, only to have the Tories erode all the free benefits they were promised (free health care and a decent pension to live on after retirement)
I'm no fan of Labour, by any means, but I am so glad Thatcher is not in power now! Pity she still feels compelled to speak publicly though!
YES her legacy continues today. It continues in the inner-city slums which she created, it remains in the forgotten mining industries and it survives in the right-wing attitude prevalent in the Tory party towards Europe. She may have some good, but the poor still got poorer, the excluded still got rejected by her me-me society and Europe had an agitator on its borders.
Someone should remind her that her time in office is history now and that her remarks about the Rapid Response Force just shows how out-dated, misplaced and irrelevant she has become.
Whilst not everything she did will remain in people's minds as positive, there can be no doubt that she modernised the UK economy and the general workforce. The UK has one of the most flexible workforces in Europe, and we are better off for it. Here in Europe people are too ready to rely on governments to help them instead of helping themselves. I often see in these discussions people complaining about nanny states interfering with their lives, yet it is so different when they want something out of it themselves.
Terry Green, England
In some respects, Maggie left a lot that is still with us. Love her or hate her, she did a lot of good for Britain. No wimp she, unlike our present and previous incumbents! What we need is another 'Maggie'!
The Baroness was the perfect leader for a war-time Britain, and would be the best person for the job if a major conflict broke out again, but she is just not a great woman for winning over the masses.
We need to realise that while Britain would follow the US to Hell and back, the Americans would not do the same for the British.
In the long run Europe might be the better partner, and if it does not work out, we can always dissolve the whole thing. But remember that by disassociating yourself from the European initiative you are missing the chance to influence the direction it is taking.
A crumbling rail network, a decimated NHS, big corporations running the show, a massive north-south divide, rampant nationalism in the media, and an offensively right-wing Tory party. Oh yes, Thatcher's legacy is far from over.
Maggie's greatest legacy is the creation of New Labour. All she need do now is to tighten the bolt on Tony Blair's neck.
Thatcher wasn't perfect - no human can be. But she was infinitely better than any of the clowns currently in office. Come back Maggie - someone has to stop Phony Tony from destroying this once-proud nation.
Matthew Treherne, United Kingdom
Thatcherite politics is not dead in Britain. The culture of greed and capital centralisation hangs over Britain like the stench of stagnant water in the Welsh coal mines and derelict ship yards of the North East. She ignited xenophobia and broke Britain. She took advantage of a laissez faire political culture to introduce a quasi police state. I am no socialist, lefty, wet, but I do believe in democracy. She endeavoured to kill that. The elected dictatorship was never so evident in Britain as in the years of Mrs Thatcher.
Maggie Thatcher was a blight on our nation and her comments today are or no use or relevance. She should retire gracefully, rather than get into arguments she knows nothing about. She still considers herself relevant, yet I believe we have moved on from her cold war style of politics.
David Crystal, UK
Unfortunately, Thatcherism - i.e. rampant
consumerism is alive and well, the corporate
takeover of Britain continues apace and foreign
policy of war and self-interest continues. What's
In Scotland we're not missing Maggie very much but there can be do doubt of her legacy. New Labour is entirely a product of the Thatcher era, best exemplified by the fact that they continue with many of her policies.
Maggie Thatcher became a bully in the end. Tony Blair started off as one.
Democracy in England is a ancient swearword , no longer used in ENGLAND .
Tony Hague, England
She sold off council houses, destroyed communities and accused other cultures of swamping our 'proud' British heritage. A monument to nothing but a bigoted and socially irresponsible past.
The Thatcherite legacy is still very much present in contemporary British society, due to a number of factors. Firstly, that her 'reforms' were so holistic and fundamental, secondly, that both she and her government were in power for so long and were able to deep-root the rot. Finally that the present administration is not so completely at ideological odds with its predecessor as to bring about a necessary reversal.
Her legacy remains terribly in the UK. She made the British people selfish lazy and arrogant. We don't care anymore and the kids today are sad and pig headed.
Many people in the UK are still image hunting from the 80's and trying to be better than the rest. Tony Blair and the other parties have an uphill struggle to put right 18 years of degradation to British life and society. The same will happen in the US should Bush be made president. She should shut up and leave the country
Lee Burchill, England
Come back, Margaret, all is forgiven. We need you.
Louis R Winkler, USA
Mrs Thatcher was the very personification of greed, arrogance and uncaring society. Her legacy was homelessness, the creation of an underclass, rocketing crime, mass unemployment and cash starved public institutions. What her admirers are keen to forget is that she never carried the majority electoral popular vote and her strength and power did not derive from her own character but because of a deeply divided left wing opposition in the Labour Party.
Maggie was the great moderniser. She exposed British industry to the healthy atmosphere of the market, which no one can hope to buck indefinitely. She was a courageous political leader and cared passionately about individual liberty and esteem. She will be remembered as one of the great British Prime Ministers. What will Blair be remembered for, if he is remembered at all? She is still missed.
Thatcher created the non-caring, non-communal society that exists in Britain today. Criminal neglect of education, health, and transport, together with greed and the removal of employee rights has made Britain an unpleasant Second world nation.
Derek Dunn, Manchester, UK
Of course Thatcher's legacy remains - Labour could only get elected in 1997 by embracing free-market capitalism and the end of union power. Maggie remains the only truly radical prime minister of the last thirty years, and the UK would be a poorer and a sorrier place had she not picked this country out of the gutter of the 1970's. As for "destroying the mining industry"? She had the guts to put a decaying nationalised industry out of its misery - something that Labour's patronising, sentimental nonsense plainly stops them doing (incidentally, I speak as someone who worked for the NCB).
We will never forgive her for the mess she made of our public services. She only cared for the rich!
When speaking of the Thatcher years, it's almost trendy to start with "Thank god that's over" by the spineless on the Tory side, who offer no more than mitigated socialism as their agenda; or whining socialists who revel in denigrating anything successful on the grounds "somebody" had to be a victim. Fact is, Thatcher changed the UK forever, had a major impact on the world stage, set the tone for massive changes in how counties throughout the world view government involvement in industry, and left a legacy that any true Briton can be extremely proud of. Sustaining her legacy, particularly toward Europe, takes politicians with guts, vision and energy ... virtues sadly lacking in today's British government (and Opposition).
Karen Green, UK
The past 10 years have flown by - her 11 years in office seemed like a lifetime!
Definitely, you only have to look at the responses to previous talking points; people are colder, selfish and less caring. The opposite of all of the virtues we were told a woman would bring to the job of Prime Minister.
22 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Thatcher rounds on Blair
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