There has been much written, much quoted, much misquoted on the life and times of Margaret Thatcher in the past few days, and I did not want to add to that on this blog until I had gathered my thoughts and thought out what I wanted to say.
Firstly, my condolences are extended to Carol, Mark and their families at what is for them a harrowing time. They have spent most of their adult lives living with the media construct that everyone perceives as having been their mother, and it is time now for them to be afforded the opportunity to reflect personally on the life of the woman who was, and is, their mother.
Secondly I would take this opportunity to publish in full that famous ‘there is no such thing as society quote’. When read in full it is well worth reflecting on and speaks for itself.
‘I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand “I have a problem, it is the Government’s job to cope with it!” or “I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!” “I am homeless, the Government must house me!” and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first… There is no such thing as society. There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.’ Margaret Thatcher, 1925-2013
I would also take this opportunity to remind people of another achievement of Margaret Thatcher outside of politics. It was Margaret Thatcher that invented the process by which soft-scoop ice cream is made, and made it possible to eat ice-cream straight from the freezer. The process she invented would later be the foundation of spreadable butter straight from the fridge. I expect that at some point soon that famous piece of toast will appear with her face on it, when it does I hope that the person eating it reflects on the fact that the butter they spread on it is also a small part of her legacy.
Much of what Margaret Thatcher did I disagreed with, fundamentally from the outset. I could make a long list, but to be honest that is not the purpose of this particular piece of writing.
I remember as a 16 year old school boy being taken by my then Labour MP, Ken Marks for a tour of the Palace of Westminster. When he took us behind the Speakers Chair he pointed out ‘the old bag’, and being the quiet and polite young man that I was I asked ‘Where, I don’t see her’.
To his eternal credit this Labour MP who had nothing but loathing for everything she stood for turned to me as said ‘Young man, when you have earned yourself a seat in this place you will have earned the right to make such comments. You are speaking of the Prime Minister, whatever your opinons of what she stands for, just remember that she has earned that office and show the respect that is due.”
That is the purpose of this piece of writing, to simply acknowledge the achievement of the only ever woman in British history to have achieved the rank of Prime Minister.