Margaret Thatcher: Sinner or Saint

By Raffique Shah
April 14, 2013

Raffique ShahSPEAK no ill of the dead, they say. It is an Omertá-like Mafiosi code that binds hypocrites international, that global brotherhood sworn to covering up the dastardly sins of leaders like Margaret Thatcher, who are lionised in life and eulogised in death, thus distorting history to the extent that the truth be buried forever.

Not I. Paraphrasing and misquoting Shakespeare’s Mark Antony, I intend neither to bury Thatcher nor to praise her. The evil that the woman did may well be interred with her bones, while the good, such as it was, might last forever. Like some of my daring peers who boldly swim against the tsunami of accolades that have been heaped on Thatcher, I state the facts. Let readers draw their conclusions.

When Thatcher came to power in 1979, Britain was indeed in poor shape economically. Without doubt, part of the problem was the bloated, unproductive and unprofitable State sector, many of which ought never to have been State-owned (Jaguar, for heaven’s sake!).

But that was not Britain’s main problem; it could not be; they amounted to only ten per cent of GDP with eight per cent of the work force. However, having adopted the mantra of privatisation that effectively started in her second term of office, Thatcher set about selling off enterprises—BP, BAE, Cable & Wireless, BG, BA, to name a few—in a mad frenzy that brought £50 billion to the Treasury.

The price that ordinary Britons paid for this load-shedding, from which mainly the wealthy benefitted, was huge. More than a million workers lost their jobs in the process, and the middle class that initially welcomed the measures, soon fell victims to stagnation of incomes, rise in the cost of living, and a reversal of their earlier fortunes.

In all, more than 50 companies were privatised under Thatcher. The exercise resulted in a widening of the rich-poor gap. In 1979, 13 per cent of Britons lived below the poverty line; by 1990, that had grown to 22 per cent. In the Thatcher years, millions went unemployed, State housing was all but terminated, average house prices quadrupled, and the pay gap between men and women widened.

But most Britons loved her, so who am I, an alien, to criticise her policies that, at the end of the day, did not save the country from the financial crisis of 2007? Former London mayor Ken Livingstone told Sky News, “She created today’s housing crisis. She created the banking crisis. And she created the benefits crisis.”

I need note that contrary to popular belief, Thatcher did not invent privatisation: Adolf Hitler did, back in the 1930s. Buckling under the dual millstones of the Great Depression and the punitive terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the Nazi Party introduced “reprivatisierung”. They sold off huge publicly owned enterprises in mining, steel, banking, shipyards, shipping lines and railways.

Maybe another common twist was that Hitler ensured that the new owners of these enterprises were strong supporters of the Nazi Party, and later, its war effort.

If Thatcher’s domestic policies were punishing towards her own people, her foreign policies were insulting towards decent human beings across the world. Since she died last week, much has been said about her branding Nelson Mandela and the ANC “terrorists” as they fought the brutal apartheid system in South Africa.

What is hardly known is that in 1985, Trinidad and Tobago had co-sponsored a motion before the UN that sought to impose rigid sanctions against South Africa for its refusal to conform to an earlier UN resolution that compelled it to give independence to what is today known as Namibia.

Britain and the USA used their veto powers to abort the motion, which otherwise won universal support (France abstained).

For all her protestations that she opposed apartheid but not blanket sanctions, Thatcher came across as a racist. That she would later welcome Mandela to No 10 Downing Street had more to do with the man’s magnanimity than with her contrition.

Maybe not so ironically, in 2004, her son, Mark, was arrested in Cape Town and charged under anti-mercenary laws. He was said to have been involved in a plot to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea, along with notorious mercenary Simon Mann. Thatcher (M) plea-bargained in a South Africa court and was fined and given a suspended jail sentence.

But back to Mama Maggie: she who pontificated to the world about morals and standards and democracy, cultivated some very curious company. For instance, she described General Suharto of Indonesia as “a very valuable friend”.

Now, Suharto, who seized power by coup in 1965, was a mass murderer without peer. Under his brutal dictatorship, his troops arrested, tortured and slaughtered more than a million mainly young Indonesians. His insatiable thirst for blood led him to invade East Timor in 1975, and decimate one-third the population, killing more than 200,000 men, women and children. He was also very corrupt, salting away hundreds of millions of dollars.

General Augusto Pinochet, the notorious dictator who murdered Chile’s elected president, Salvador Allende, in 1973, and brutally tortured and murdered tens of thousands of Chileans during his rule, was Thatcher’s lifelong friend.

He, too, was corrupt in the extreme, charged for money laundering and tax evasion in the UK and USA, and for human rights abuses in Spain. Thatcher stoutly defended Pinochet till his death.

At Christmas 1981, her personal papers revealed, she sent cards to Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, warmly addressed “To the Leader of the Great First of September Revolution”, and to Saddam Hussein. Under her watch, the UK sold some £1 billion in arms to Iraq as Saddam waged war against Iran—the reason he won support from both the US and the UK.

There’s more to Maggie, but no space to recount them: sinner or saint—you be the judge.

7 thoughts on “Margaret Thatcher: Sinner or Saint”

  1. Words so seldom spoken. And only in hushed breaths. The conspiracy went even further with the dynamic duo, MT and RR. After Reagan was in power for two years, a group was formulated under the acronym CREEP (Committee to Reelect the President). This group comprised former members of the German Nazi Party. After being exposed some resigned from the CREEP. The very first official visit after the relection of Ronal Reagan was a visit to Bitburg and its famous cemetery. And there the big cowboy apologised for America’s entry into the second world war by coming in on the wrong side. Read the speech.

  2. I like Thatcher despite her many flaws. I think so because she was instrumental along with Reagan in ending communism. She also took on the out of control unions by privatization. But like any leader I would say she was colorful. A very determined politician much like Manning…lol.

  3. Wherever there is good there is evil and the realization that heaven and hell are right here. We as sinners go to church so that we can reflect on our conscience and sometimes the people we elect to fix the economic mess at the time are the said people that we tend to crticize no end. What Reagan did for the US (Reaganomics) i.e. tax cuts for the wealthy so that investments can be made to bring a turn around in the economy is no different to what Thatcher did in the UK (Thatcherism) to bring a turnaround in the economy. Together, they with Gorbachev got that Berlin wall down resulting in a United Germany being an economic power house in EU. Remember that Enoch Powell during Ted Heath time the man that was replaced by Thatcher was proposing to give immigrants (coloured) in England 2000 pounds to re-patriate themselves to their homeland, yet, at the same time the British subjects (asians) that were expelled from Uganda during Idi Amin was not denied entry to England. Education is a major industry in England and if that takes some cajouling(sending greeting cards) by Thatcher to have their students attending learning institutions in the UK and maintaining high level ofliving e.g. driving to school in Aston martins then so be it. At least the wheels of the economy is turning. At the same time we cannot lose sight that there were many foreign students who did not have the wherewithal given opportunities of learning. Even some who were banished (self-imposed or otherwise) from their home country had a land of refuge e.g. Salman Rushdie. Raff, you had the opportunity as well at Sandhurst. As it was said in the bible those without sin let them cast the first stone. We are all sinners and saints at the same time. For those who want to celebrate her death by having parties and laughing then that is their rights as well.

    1. Raff stint at Sandhurst was not free. It was at the cost of the TT gov’t. because we were a former Brit colony we continued the tradition. He could have be sent to the US or Can. I hold few grudges to MT, except her stance of South Africa. She embraced a tyrant link Pinochet and went to bed with Botha. But she did what was what she thought was best for Brit or England’s interest. But I will certainly not dance or mock her now that she is dead. I gave her and Raygun good bois when they we in office.

  4. It is always the case when an individual passes, their deeds while alive are almost all highlighted in glowing terms to show that their lives were not lived in vain, in this case Thatcher was no different. The main-line press did as they always do by expressing sympathy and telling us of the great time she and Reagan had in shifting the west’s policy to end communism and heralding the birth of a new form of capitalism, where the great western capitalists made fortunes at the expense to many of the poorer class and country. It was a time of where ‘being seen as tough’ was good and being moralistic was weak. So the two amigos, Thatcher and Reagan rode roughshod tearing down ‘mighty countries like Grenada dismantling buildings, uprooting infrastructures, burning commercial planes (which are today still in plain sight) to show how powerful they are in getting rid of ‘communism’. They did all sorts of things using fellow conservatives like Oliver North of the Iran-contra fame to do their bidding.

  5. She should be judged the same way all other former leaders are judged. Just a month ago we heard some people celebrate the death of Chavez because they judged his tenure as president of Venezula to be a failure. Likewise, Thatcher’s policies did not benefit the people she SAID she wanted to help and she supported leaders who were corrupt while claiming to be moral. An honest person would see that she was a good politician but not a good person. And if that means people celebrate her death, then as they say, we reap what we sow.

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