Saturday, May 02, 2009

Thatcher Thirty Years On, Part 1. My Shame.

I'm ashamed to admit it, but thirty years ago tonight, I, a fairly innocent 11 year old, went to bed and prayed for Mrs Thatcher to win the 1979 election.

I really didn't understand much about politics then - the geekery and obsession didn't take hold until about a year and a half later, when I had had enough time to rue my earlier enthusiasm. I did know that I wasn't keen on Labour - there seemed to be nothing but strikes, and my dad hadn't had a properly stable job for a good couple of years. My parents and grandma were all enthusiastic Tories and it seemed that life would get better with a new Government.

I quite liked the Liberal Party. The MP for Inverness, Russell Johnston, seemed to me to be a good man and the fact that a primary school child like me knew who he was was quite positive. He was also in favour of home rule for Scotland, which I always thought was a good thing. However, my staunch Catholic grandfather had told me time and time again, from the moment he became Liberal leader, that David Steel didn't want babies to be born, so he had the same appeal for me as the Daleks. I literally would watch him on tv from behind a cushion. When I grew up and understood the issues involved, he became a lot less scary, but I actually thought he would pass a law forbidding people to have babies. Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous, but in my defence, I had heard that in China you were only allowed to have one child, and I was only 11.

To a young girl at that time, without knowing the details of what the parties were saying, it seemed very much that the Tories were the progressive lot, giving us the first woman Prime Minister - and surely, she would encourage other women to follow in her footsteps.

Maybe it was being so badly let down by Thatcher that made me so sceptical of Blair, or maybe it was just that I was old enough and wise enough not to be taken in by him, but I never, ever trusted him.

When Thatcher recited that St Francis of Assisi stuff on the steps of Number Ten, I really did believe that she was going to make the world a more liberal and compassionate place. I always wanted a liberal world, I guess, but my mistake was trusting the wrong person to deliver it.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The biggest problem with Thatcher was that it took more than 10 years for a more suitable alternative to appear. Until that time, you were stuck with her - and I think anyone would have been overly sentimental not to want her for the first few years. Callaghan's government was an utter shambles, and the Liberals and later the SDP Alliance were no alternative then.
Thank goodness things have moved on!


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