City & East Labour Assembly Member John Biggs talks about what Margaret Thatcher did for east London


- Credit: Archant

Was Margaret Thatcher a good or a bad thing for east London? As you might expect, I believe many of her Government’s policies were immensely damaging locally – record job losses, growing poverty, an end to Council house building, with growing waiting lists, an underfunded health service, schools in disrepair, and a sense that many areas felt, including much of east London, that they were being abandoned. Many families have never recovered. Many individuals never did.

Yet you cannot deny that things certainly changed, and that not all changes were bad for everyone. So the sale of council houses empowered many local people, although the tragedy is that they haven’t been replaced by nearly enough new homes for people who cannot buy. The regeneration of Docklands, while in some ways quite brutal, has brought massive new investment, and new homes, and new jobs, even if as yet not enough local people have benefitted from them. And London, unlike many parts of the country, has grown massively wealthier, even if not everyone has benefitted.

It is interesting to me that each of those positives has a negative within it. I think that’s because she repeatedly said she didn’t believe in compromise, and thought consensus was a bad thing, and was muddle headed. I think that’s where, aside from the politics, I absolutely disagreed with her. I don’t mean that we should fudge things, but that in making decisions we politicians have a duty to understand their impact they will have on different people, and to justify it in a way that most will see as fair, and thoughtful, even if they disagree with it. In my view it’s not weak to do that. And that belief was in my view so widely held that it led in the end to her Government, although after she had gone, being thrown out by the voters.

Well, it’s been an interesting month for all of us. In my case my project to persuade local Labour Party members to choose me as their candidate for Tower Hamlets Mayor succeeded! Looks like an even more interesting year ahead.