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ANALYSIS: Margaret Thatcher - good or evil?

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MARGARET Thatcher was possibly the most divisive politician of the 20th century - but was she good or bad for Britain? Here the Advertiser presents two opposing points of view; the Croydon councillor who credits Mrs Thatcher for transforming our country, versus the Labour activist who believes today's financial crisis can be traced back to the Thatcher era.
FOR THATCHER
Croydon Councillor, Conservative Tony Pearson....
When Margaret Thatcher first entered 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister in 1979, I was a schoolboy at Ingram High School in Croydon. By the time she stood down 11 years later, I had joined the Army, got married and had two children. A lot happened in that time. To me, to Mrs. Thatcher and to the Country. Undoubtedly, Margaret Thatcher divided opinions. No-one would claim she got everything right, far from it, but what is without contradiction is that Margaret Thatcher did what she thought was right for Britain. She took a country on its knees, winter of discontent, the three day week etc, and put it right. Margaret Thatcher put her Country first. Mrs. Thatcher realised our employment laws were outdated. Wildcat strikes, flying pickets and Union strangleholds were crippling Britain. Union Leaders were putting their own ego and self importance before the real interests of their members. The Country was going bust. The status quo couldn't continue and Thatcher dealt with it. The decision to allow people to buy their Council houses was a great way of rewarding aspiration and hard work. Many people in my Ward, New Addington, would never have been able to get on the housing ladder without the innovative Right To Buy that Thatcher instigated. Where the Right To Buy went wrong was successive Governments did not release the money so Councils could build new homes. But my lasting memory and tribute to Margaret Thatcher is the way she led the Country through the Falklands conflict. Margaret Thatcher took on Argentina following their invasion of a British Territory and she led from the front. But the biggest tribute of all, in comparison to Prime Ministers since, is the admiration and respect that Thatcher received from the Service personnel that served at the time. Those who served knew they were going into conflict for a true purpose. Thatcher had no need to mislead Parliament or embellish facts. She stood up for Britain and Britons. Love her or hate her, Margaret Thatcher was a politician with principles. How many times have we said that since
AGAINST THATCHER
South Norwood resident and Labour party member Andrew Fisher...
Margaret Thatcher will be remembered as a Prime Minister who set a new consensus, leaving her successors merely following in her wake. Only Clement Attlee, leader of Labour's 1945 government, can claim likewise. While Attlee is lauded for establishing the NHS and welfare state, Thatcher's consensus is quite different. Bizarrely, Thatcher has been credited with bringing down the Iron Curtain – which must have come as news to the brave Polish, Romanian East German, and other eastern European people who defied totalitarian regimes. Thatcher's real international legacy is arming genocidal tyrants like Saddam in Iraq and Suharto in Indonesia, resisting sanctions on apartheid South Africa while labelling Mandela "a terrorist", and supporting fascist regimes like that of Pinochet in Chile. Thatcher famously said "There is no such thing as society", as she took the UK on a journey from its most equal in the late 1970s to its most unequal since the early 1900s. Taxes on the rich and business were slashed, yet hiked on us all as VAT more than doubled to 17.5% (now 20% under Cameron). The problems the UK is reaping today grew from seeds sown in the Thatcher years. The deregulation of the finance sector led directly to the economic collapse of 2008, foreshadowed by the credit-fuelled recession of the early 1990s. Gas, electricity and water were all privatised – transferring our national assets into private hands. The corporations that run them make multi-billion profits, while we all pay ever higher prices. The selling off of council housing accounts for today's housing shortage which sees 24,000 people in Croydon, and over 4.5 million in the UK, on housing waiting lists. Rent controls were abolished – leaving millions paying over the odds, and all of us funding a £23 billion annual bill for housing benefit, while landlords got tax breaks! From 1945 to 1978 unemployment never rose above one million. From 1979 to today it has not been below 1.5 million. Her government created mass unemployment and demonised those out of work. The value of welfare benefits was slashed too. In 1979, unemployment benefit was worth 21% of average earnings, today it is just 11%. Those preaching 'welfare dependency' today can't explain why, with more generous benefits a generation ago, far fewer claimed them. The final tragedy – and Thatcher's success – was New Labour, which continued her legacy despite its landslide mandate for change in 1997. It's time the Thatcher consensus rests in peace too.

ANALYSIS: Margaret Thatcher - good or evil?


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