Margaret Thatcher R.I.P.

The enigma that was Margaret Thatcher was an unrelenting force of nature. I have just finished watching the parliamentary debate and it is right that tribute is paid to her enormous personal and political achievements. She was a pioneer for her gender, a conviction politician who spoke directly and bluntly in terms of her own values and beliefs. She was an enduring towering figure on the world stage that influenced the political grid lines in all of the major dominant countries of the world to this day and for the foreseeable future. It is absolutely right and proper that she will be honoured with a ceremonial public funeral at St Paul’s cathedral in the heart of our great capital city for her leadership during the Falklands campaign.
However, it is the very personal impact that she had on people for which she will be most remembered and which divides opinion so radically in the current media furore which has been prompted by her recent demise.
Her personal convictions of pragmatism, hard work, thrift, commitment, politeness and care for others are hard to disagree with, people agree with those essential characteristics and most try to behave in that way and ensure that their children do so as well. When these were translated into her political convictions and resulted in denationalisation, share ownership and in her words the creation of a capital owning democracy she applied those principles in a very linear fashion across the political and social divides. In a way a leadership style which says “I know what you need better than you know what you need” which was odd given that she was a great exponent of “individualism” hence the oft quoted remark of “There is no such thing as society”
Therein lays the enigma of Margaret Thatcher. She felt that by applying one leadership style to all people based purely on her personal convictions was right and to hell with the consequences.
The result due to the economic landscape of the country where most state owned industries were based, was devastation for the north of England and increased prosperity for the south. This consequence is still deeply apparent today.
Those policies are still being pursued by the current government who also do not recognise the cultural differences that exist between north and south of mainly state public services as a majority employer in the north, this being a naive policy pursued by the previous Labour government to reduce the impact of Thatcherism in the north and now once again the north is being disproportionately effected by the austerity cuts of today.
The country cannot be treated like a grocer’s shop where a balance sheet rules the actions of government. There are people involved in how that balance sheet is managed and therefore proportionality must play a part.
When my school milk vanished from my playground I went hungrier than ever.
This was the understanding that Margaret never grasped and so when she closed national industries there was nothing to replace them, industry did not move in and replace those jobs because there was no incentive to do so. The bottom line is the arbiter in business. When she sold council houses there were no new ones built and so now there is a shortage of affordable housing for people and the rented sector is now dominated by private landlords who own the previous council houses and are renting them out at extortionate rates which make them unaffordable for so many people.
Instead of creating a capital owning democracy which was her intent we are now living with greater inequality and injustice than ever. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. She did not foresee this and current politicians are not as visionary as she was and so this continues. That is her legacy.
To summarise, leadership is more than dogmatically pursuing an agenda, it is also about being flexible, having vision, understanding the global vista and adapting to it when necessary. It is mostly though about inspiring others to identify and share common goals and willingly pursue them. Unfortunately Margaret only did half a job but what a good job she made of it.

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