Thatcherism 2.0: rugged individualism certainly isn’t dead

**Last Monday it was reported that our first woman Prime Minister, Baroness Thatcher, had passed away after suffering a stroke at the age of 87. It was inevitable that the death of one of the most divisive British politicians of all time was met with vitriol. Margaret Thatcher’s particular brand of conviction politics has resulted in the media constructing a caricature of the woman – either as a dictator or the greatest peacetime Prime Minister our country has ever seen.

Margaret Thatcher came into power during one of the most turbulent periods in the twentieth century. In the late 1970’s Britain faced the worst recession since World War Two, and was commonly referred to as the ‘sick man of Europe’. Thatcher’s belief in monetarism promoted reform that was necessary. Undoubtedly, she achieved extraordinary economic gains for Britain by reducing chronic inflation, allowing 1.25million people to purchase their council homes and curbing the power the trade unions held over the ordinary worker. However, these economic reforms cannot be considered in isolation from their social consequences.
Although the protest parties marking the death of Margaret Thatcher have been condemned as puerile, these events clearly show the effects of reform are still felt today. It is no coincidence that the Thatcher ‘death parties’ have been taking place in areas such as Brixton, Glasgow and Liverpool. Margaret Thatcher devastated these areas by destroying British heavy industries, branding it crudely as modernisation, without any consideration for the effects it would have on such communities. For these deeply scarred communities and the general populous of Great Britain, Thatcher’s death serves as a stimulus for debate of the prosperity gap caused by her ruthless pursuit of modernisation.

Not only has Margaret Thatcher’s death provoked debate on her policy and its impacts, this past week has also seen her character scrutinised. It is irrefutable that Margaret Thatcher transformed the face of British politics. She showed that women could be bold, if polarising, leaders on the world stage. Thatcher contributed a great deal to feminism, not only by reaching her post in a male dominated field, but also by securing three consecutive elections. While many have lauded the Iron Lady as a feminist icon, it is important to remember that Thatcher did little else to improve women’s lot. One woman alone was appointed to Thatcher’s cabinet throughout her entire premiership and in eleven years she made no attempt to advance equal rights in the workplace. If Thatcher had made equality a priority, perhaps there would be good reason for this commendation, but should we revere Thatcher simply for being the first woman Prime Minister, knowing that she snubbed her own sex? Margaret Thatcher is an accidental feminist icon, and at best, a champion of individualism.

Our tragic society seems contented with its pound of flesh at the moment, but soon enough, the general public will realise that Thatcherism is far from dead. All three major political parties in Great Britain now believe in free-market economics combined with a sense of ‘civic duty’. The irony that the announcement of £19billion worth of cuts to the welfare system coincides with the death of Margaret Thatcher is almost unbelievable. These measures will result in the poorest tenth of British households losing approximately 38% of their income. This coalition government has callously breached limits in a way even Thatcher herself would never have dreamed of doing. Hoping Maggie will see them through, Osborne, Clegg and Cameron desperately cling to their textbooks in the face of this austerity measure era: ‘Thatcherism 2.0: Free-market economics, with a distinct lack of conscience.’


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