Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher and a Union JackIt’s difficult to express how pleased and excited I was in 1979 when Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister. Okay, I was eight, so maybe I had not completely formulated my political opinions. But I was an unusual child in many ways, one of which was that I learned to read from the newspaper. It was The Sun up until around this time and then it became The Daily Express (neither my choice of course, but my parents’). Not only was I very aware of what was going on in the world compared to other eight-year-olds, but I had also become astute at reading between the lines, having had lots of practice.

It’s not memory that I have the problem with when I say that it’s hard to express those feelings of elation when I heard that ‘Maggie’ was in. The difficulty is being able to separate these feelings from the intensity of my hatred towards her later in her tyranny. But I will try, for the benefit of this blog, to focus on the positive, carnival atmosphere in May 1979 when we suddenly had a woman prime minister and everything was going to be glorious.

Margaret and Denis outside Number 10 in 1979During the previous months, there had been pictures of Maggie, in her trademark blue twinset and pearls, fixed to the lamp-posts all along the street and elsewhere in the village. People had pictures of her up in their front rooms. I think there may have been some lonely feminist voices in the wilderness saying, ‘hang on a minute, yes she’s a woman, but she’s also a tory!’ but we didn’t hear them in our house.

Apart from anything, I wanted to vote for her because she had the same name as my mum. Such is the logic of eight-year-olds. It’s probably reasonably safe to assume that I had soaked up the political opinions of my mum and was rooting for Maggie in the same way that many kids support the same football team as their parents.

She seemed so benign and promised so much. Though after coming to power she swiftly began to privatise everything and close hospitals, it wasn’t until the Poll Tax riots that my mum finally felt let down, quite some time after I had done.

The previous Prime Minister was quite a dull man in a suit with a droning voice. He was amazingly intelligent and brilliant etc. but didn’t have what you might call ‘presence’. Sound familiar? I think that if anything can be learned from history, this is one of those lessons. The UK had had some pretty dire times under the previous government and were ready for a change. A new, fabulous and entrancing, charismatic leader stormed in and we were all taken for fools. I sincerely hope that it isn’t going to happen again.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room


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