I was at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery a couple of years ago for the 25th anniversary debate on the Miners’ Strike.
Despite the best efforts of the organisers and the chairman of the panel on stage, it felt rather more like an ambush than a genuine debate.
Understandably, a good number of people in the room were from mining communities and the bile and vitriol reserved for a former Conservative Minister was there for all to see.
Suffice to say, Edwina Currie – a woman who doesn’t need me to defend her – deserved the utmost respect for turning up to be shot at here in a solid Labour, working class city.
My overwhelming thought as I left the lecture theatre was ‘thank goodness it wasn’t Margaret Thatcher’.
Thatcher ‘the milk snatcher’; Thatcher: Who came up with the Poll Tax; Thatcher: Whose government oversaw the closure of 150 coalmines which devastated communities across the UK; Thatcher: Who crushed the trade unions; Thatcher: Whose belief in the free-market economy and privatisation promoted greed and selfishness on a scale never seen before.
You’ll read all of the above and more in the coming days as the country comes to terms with the loss of a towering political figure.
In my opinion, this is a very selective and simplistic version of the Margaret Thatcher story – and a markedly biased one which panders to left-wing rhetoric.
Since the news of Baroness Thatcher’s death broke yesterday we have witnessed the unedifying spectacle of people actually celebrating her passing.
‘Bing bong’ posted people on Facebook and Twitter – quoting ‘the witch is dead’ line from The Wizard of Oz.
I’m not sure which is worse – the fact that people are dancing on someone’s grave or that they can’t find a decent thing to say about one of only two leaders of note this country has seen since Churchill.
It was Tony Benn no less, that most respected of Labour heavyweights, who often held Margaret Thatcher up as an example of how a great political party should be led.
She came to power in 1979 as Britain’s first woman Prime Minister and, in doing so, sent shockwaves through the old boys’ club that was the Houses of Parliament.
Surely that ticks a box with everyone? Go on, admit it.
Let’s also not forget that Mrs Thatcher inherited a country in turmoil, paralysed by industrial unrest and half as productive and prosperous as it could have been.
Trade unions were trotting in and out of Downing Street with their demands, rubbish littered the streets, the dead lay un-buried and the IMF was banging on Britain’s door because ‘the sick man of Europe’ was bankrupt.
She set about transforming Britain’s economy – something she did at questionable social cost – and was vilified for her crusade against the very unions who had held previous Labour administrations to ransom.
Mrs Thatcher will be forever remembered as the Prime Minister who destroyed the UK’s mining industry. Few, however, are brave enough to concede that large parts of the industry were loss-making and that coal mines were also closing all over Europe.
Maggie’s government introduced the Right To Buy scheme for council homes – one of the most important pieces of empowering social legislation this country has ever seen.
She was despised by the IRA for her hard-line stance on terrorism and almost paid for it with her life. Even that didn’t cow her.
It was Mrs Thatcher’s deep-held sense of belief in standing up to aggressors and defending Britain, forged during the dark days of the Second World War, which shaped her response to the Falklands Crisis.
The resulting improbable victory was spectacular and owed much to Maggie’s unshakeable belief in the importance of defending ‘her people’.
The woman dubbed ‘The Iron Lady’ by her enemies in Moscow needed no spin doctors – unlike those who have succeeded her at Number 10. She was talked-about, respected and, crucially, listened to on the world stage and was certainly the equal of any statesman across the globe.
I dare say George W. Bush wouldn’t have got away with talking to Maggie the way he did the political poodle that was Tony Blair.
The very fact that she was the first Prime Minister to win three elections in a row tells me that Margaret Thatcher must have being doing something right in the eyes of the majority of those who could be bothered to vote.