On a good day, I like to think of myself as pretty intelligent.
I’ve been through the state education system and I’m a matter of days away from acquiring a Theology degree. So why, upon the death last week of Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first woman prime minister, was my first thought, ‘what’s the big deal?’
Adults around the country will be lamenting my youthful ignorance, I’ve no doubt. To be fair, so am I. The extent of what I know about Margaret Thatcher is derived only from that Meryl Streep film, and I am not proud of that fact. I could mutter something about miners and strikes, but that would be my knowledge exhausted.
Perhaps I belong to the inbetweener generation that is too young to remember Thatcherism happening (I was born in 1991), yet too old to be taught about it in school. And despite this gaping hole in our cultural understanding, we are not without opinion. Just consulting my Facebook feed on Monday evening, reactions ranged from ‘bless her, she made Britain great’, to ‘she pioneered active feminism’, to a picture of Maggie as Hitler – which I felt was a tad strong, really – followed by an overwhelming surge of, ‘why do you care, you weren’t even alive?’ questioning. All of which culminated in this article trending on Facebook. We sure are opinionated for essentially ignorant youngsters.
And so I provide fellow enquiring minds with this short guide to Margaret Thatcher. From both the extensive news coverage and the whistle-stop tour of Thatcher politics provided by my Dad on the way home from Pizza Express, I have gleaned thus:
(Neither my Dad nor Andrew Marr provided the last point.)
It appears that in some way, today’s teens and early twenty-somethings simply lift their political hang-ups straight from their parents, which usually feature such disgruntled pop-observations as: she stole children’s milk and screwed over British industry but also allowed people to buy council houses. So there’s a silver lining.
Like any other politician, Margaret Thatcher did some things right and some things wrong. Perhaps we’ll all become politically enlightened by her posthumous presence. Perhaps her legacy is simply to invoke such passionate reactions in the general public; the good, the bad and the completely uneducated. Whilst knowledge of her policies has not necessarily been handed down the generations – not to me at least – it seems what has filtered through is the strength of feeling behind her premiership. And perhaps sometime soon, I’ll work out what on earth ‘the lady’s not for turning’ actually means.