I've been surprised and interested to see how many politicians have been saying positive things about Mrs Thatcher. The outpourings of bile about how terrible she was have, of course, come as less of a surprise. So I thought I'd just put a few thoughts on record, because I can't help but think that many of the people hating her aren't old enough to remember the state of affairs immediately before she became Prime Minister.
First, as a grateful, even desperate, recipient of Tax Credits, I am well aware that Labour Governments care more about the poor than do Conservative Governments. But it remains my view that Conservative Governments - with their reputation for being uncaring - would never get into power if Labour Governments had any idea how to responsibly run a "free" country and do so without plunging it into debt.
In April of 1979 I was twenty-two years old and had been at work for about eight months after leaving University. I have never been particularly interested in politics, and prior to that time, my main political memory is of my whole school cheering one lunch time when it became evident that the Conservatives were going to get in and save our school (it was a Grammar School). Of course, there's a bit of history in itself - nowadays we're generally pretty sure of the election result by about 2am; at that time results were still coming in the following lunchtime, and our Headmistress came out of her office to update the blackboard she'd put up in the dining room.
So, April 1979. My main memory of the week or two leading up to the election was of all the people I was working with talking about how they were going to have to emigrate if Labour got back in, and not because they were about to put up Income Tax from 33% to 34%. (That's basic rate, by the way - the lowest). I can't remember the details - I was fairly young and as I said, not one for taking much notice of politicians - but this was not a country I wanted to live in any more. My main impression was that the unions were running the place, and the headline news every night was about the prices and incomes policy, and what the Government was going to do about the price of bread. Other items normally included a list of which unions were going on strike this week to defend their differentials and manning levels. There was a real feeling that the Labour Government couldn't run a bath, never mind the country, and that things could only get worse because each union was only fighting for its own members and they didn't care about the people who weren't in a union.
And most people didn't even have a choice about whether they joined a union: some companies didn't allow it, while others insisted that you could only belong to one of two or three named unions. Other companies ran the closed shop policy, whereby you couldn't even get a job if you didn't belong to certain unions. I am well aware that the rich and powerful had had far too much power for far too long (and that Cameron and Osborne have their sights set on getting back to that), but the Seventies in my opinion were where the union leaders took things too far the other way, abusing their power for fame and personal enrichment rather than using it to consolidate social change.
I wish I could remember more details about how bad it all was, because I know I haven't explained adequately why I didn't want to live here any more. I just remember feeling even more strongly then than I did when Gordon Brown was voted out, that this was no longer a country for ordinary people who valued freedom of speech. I can't think that a Labour Goverment would have fought for the Falklands, either. They'd have just bumbled about going "Oh, all right then. The Argentinians have stronger backbones than us so goodbye Falklanders." I remember being amazed and proud that we could still actually put together a Task Force to go and do the right thing.
I think I'll leave it there. I don't normally do politics, here or anywhere else. Whoever it was said "I never vote, it only encourages them," had something of the right idea (I always vote), and one of the unexpected bonuses of the Olympics was that we had several weeks without politicians being on the news.
But I do wish we could vote for individual policies, and quite separately for individual politicians. The elected politicians would then have to implement the policies people had voted for. I know that's what they say happens now, but I don't believe anyone would vote for privatisation of the NHS, or deporting our citizens to the US for trial for things which they did in this country, or for the increasing clampdown on personal liberties brought in by the most recent Labour government.