Shed Tears for Britain, Not the “Iron Lady”

Sandra was watching :The Iron Lady” last night, and I reluctantly sat through part of the Oscar-winning movie.  Watching the aging Margaret Thatcher alone and bewildered at the end, I could not help feeling sorry for her. That is the triumph of a great actor’s performance – to evoke sympathy for even the least sympathetic of characters.

For make no mistake. There was nothing sympathetic about the late Margaret Thatcher.

My pity is for the millions she assigned to wretched poverty – and the ruined Britain she left behind. The deluded and heartless woman wrecked her country to glorify herself and enrich the ruling class.

To shed a tear for her is to condone the toxic policies of America’s current crop of Republican leaders. Instead Thatcher’s iron-fisted cruelty should serve as a warning to the world:

Beware those who preach the doctrine of “austerity” as a pretext for impoverishing the poor to enrich the rich.

As Alex Pareene observes in a Salon.com article today:

Let’s skip the rise-to-power biographical crap — if you care you can see it in the Meryl Streep movie, I assume — and get to the point. She intentionally immiserated millions of English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish people in order to carry out a liberalization of the British economy that benefited the wealthy at the expense of nearly everyone else. Decades after she left office, the country hasn’t recovered.

Of course you could look at her career in another light – as NPR’s Neal Conan did on “Talk of the Nation” yesterday. In his view, Thatcher “changed the world”  and will be remembered “for implementing sweeping reforms of Britain’s economy and for her key role in the demise of the Soviet Union.”

Conan added:

She set out to change a Britain she saw mired in ever more paralytic socialism, and along the way she broke unions, slashed government bureaucracy, trimmed the social safety net and privatized industries that then struggled or sank without public subsidies.

However you look at the Thatcher era, there can be no valid debate about the impact of her policies on the people she was supposed to represent. As Pereene astutely observes, “poverty skyrocketed during the Thatcher era — no surprise there, considering the intentional recessions and massive deindustrialization that made up her economic agenda — and never went back down.”

To me, the legacy of Margaret Thatcher’s 11 years as British prime minister should serve as a timely warning to America’s voters:

There but for the grace of God goes America. Wake up before it’s too late!

Click here for the Salon.com article.

Click here for the “Talk of the Nation” episode.

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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