Big Debate: Is Margaret Thatcher’s legacy a positive one?
- Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima
Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher was buried in a ceremonial funeral attended by the Queen last week.
But even in death, she proved a controversial figure. The Conservative, who led the country from 1979 to 1990, was regarded as a saviour by her supporters, who point to Britain’s economic recovery under her stewardship.
But opponents argue she increased inequality and showed a disregard for poor and vulnerable members of society.
After the furore surrounding her death has passed, we asked two figures for their views on Margaret Thatcher’s legacy.
Former MP for Bethnal Green and Bow George Galloway has been strongly critical of her politics in the past, while Sir George Iacobescu CBE, chairman of Canary Wharf Group praised her free market approach to the economy.
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Respect MP George Galloway on Margaret Thatcher:
The old saw that one shouldn’t speak ill of the dead cannot possibly apply to controversial figures in public life.
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On one of my first political demonstrations – against the Conservative government of Edward Heath (1970-74) the slogan of the day was “Margaret Thatcher- Milk snatcher”. It was the first but not the last time I spat out her name in distaste.
She was nasty, brutish and short of the class previously thought obligatory in Britain amongst leaders.
Upon her election as prime minister in 1979 she set about “transforming” Britain all right. She privatised key industries, enriching her friends, and robbing the public of their birthright. When she took over, financial services represented three per cent of the British economy - when she left office it was 40 per cent.
She destroyed more than a third of Britain’s manufacturing capacity, significantly more than Hitler’s Luftwaffe ever achieved. Because, above all, she hated trade unionism, and was determined to destroy it.
The City of London – deregulated by her – boomed whilst the coalfields and steel areas sank into penury.
I was there when she described Nelson Mandela as a “common terrorist”. She continued to recognise the genocidal and deposed Pol Pot regime in Cambodia – insisting that Pol Pot was the real and recognised leader of the Cambodians, even as they counted his victims in millions.
I hated Margaret Thatcher for what seems like all my life. I hated her more than I hated anyone – until Tony Blair came along.
Sir George Iacobescu CBE, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Canary Wharf Group on Margaret Thatcher:
Margaret Thatcher was a remarkable politician who laid the ground for today’s modern Britain. She not only accepted change but drove it and recognised the need to harness the power of the global market rather than try to hold it back. Combined with the forces of more interventionist ministers such as Michael Heseltine she mobilized resources for key infrastructure investment projects partnering with the delivery strengths of the private sector. Canary Wharf was one such project and was one of the country’s first enterprise zones. Over 100,000 people now work at Canary Wharf which has helped to regenerate a large part of East London and attracted foreign business and investment to the UK.
Several years ago Margaret Thatcher re visited Canary Wharf and was visibly excited to be back amongst what she regarded as part of her legacy. After our lunch we toured some of the retail malls which were still busy with workers and visitors. The reaction from them was extraordinary and for some minutes she revelled in being Prime Minister again with all the energy, intensity and presence we associate with her. In that moment it was easy to see how one woman could have had such an indelible impact on history.