The Way We Were Part II

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Not continued, because it isn’t.

I have witnessed a lot of gnashing and wailing and open hostility and hatred on the world of Twitter this past week, mostly concerning the death of Maggie Thatcher. I don’t really care whether you’re in the love her or hate her camp, why on earth would any civilised human being want to celebrate the death of another, particularly 30 years later.  I can understand people privately thinking that she’s gone now, and they might even think that the world’s a better place without her, who knows?  Why oh why do dozens or even hundreds of people, many of whom weren’t even born when Maggie was in office, want to have street parties, or go the their local pub and drink champagne?

History tells us that Hitler was not a very nice man.  Even though I wasn’t alive in the 30s and 40s, history equips me with enough knowledge of the man to form a judgement on what sort of character he was.  Does this entitle me to organise a street party to celebrate his apparent suicide?

Saddam Hussain wasn’t a particularly nice chap either, and I was alive to witness second or third hand some of his excesses.  Doesn’t mean I was down the pub swigging champagne while he was dangling on the end of a rope.

Do we really applaud Les Tricoteuses who used to sit and knit while folk were being beheaded on the guillotine in Paris?  Was that a good way to behave?

I’m not trying to change anyone’s opinion of Maggie Thatcher, but I am absolutely appalled and sickened at the reactions of some folk.  She was a mother as well as a politician, she has family still alive.  How are they feeling right now?  What gives a human being the right to inflict further misery on a grieving family?  I stayed out of the Twitter debates because I would undoubtedly have got embroiled and said something that I should not have done, so I stayed silent, but inside I was ashamed of certain people.

I was never a miner, but the Miners’ Strike gave me the opportunity to go down a ‘live’ coal mine, Bentinck it was, I remember the name to this day, and see first hand the conditions in which miners worked.  I formed a profound respect for coal miners that day, that has stayed with me ever since.  Has that experience made me change my opinion of Maggie Thatcher or a certain Mr Scargill? Not one jot.

Bentinck-Colliery-Coal-Mine-User-Album-020 Bentinck-Colliery-Coal-Mine-Archive-Album-63886I try to remain objective and balanced.  Maggie Thatcher had her faults, but she had her good points too.  The previous Labour government under Jim Callaghan, with Merlyn Rees at the helm as Home Secretary had commissioned the Edmund-Davies Review of Police Pay and Conditions (a bit like Winsor only better). He recommended that Police Officers received a pay rise of (I think) 45% which Callaghan agreed to implement over a 2 year period.  When Maggie came to power she not only implemented the whole 45% increase with immediate effect but her and her government promised to abide by Edmund-Davies’ recommendations year on year thereafter. You can have your opinions about how she used her Police Force, but she knew how to look after them.

If Mr Scargill had had his way he would have brought this country to its knees in a far more spectacular fashion than the bankers achieved.  He had taken on successive governments and won, no wonder Maggie stood up to him.

The Armed Forces is another good example, in 1985 the total strength of Regular UK Servicemen was approx 326,000. By 2011 this had dropped alarmingly to 186,000, not much more than half.

As I just mentioned, Maggie wasn’t always perceived as using her police in an appropriate, non-political manner. Let me say just this.  When the Fire Brigade strike, it is traditional for the government of the day to call upon the services of the British Army to provide cover. Can you imagine what might have happened if the government in the 1980s called upon the Army to contain the striking miners with the Police just held in reserve to supply an arrest function if required. Personally, I never witnessed any Police brutality on the picket lines of the Miners’ Strike. But I witnessed plenty of Miners’ brutality against the Police. I remember well one cold morning being called out from our breakfast to rescue a lone Devon and Cornwall Bobby who had climbed up a slag heap, all by himself, to ask the miners who were throwing lumps of coal, and slag down on to the cordon below, if they wouldn’t mind stopping.  Their answer was quick, short and brutal. It wasn’t totally the Bobby’s fault, although he should never have been allowed to do it, he was just behaving the same way as he would have spoken to protesters in the peaceful Cornish village he had come from.

There are many tales I could tell about Miners, Grunwicks, Greenham Common, Brixton and Tottenham riots, but they’re for another time.

I can’t think of a single politician of any party who is perfect. I can’t think of a single Police Officer, Teacher, Soldier, Prison Officer etc who is perfect. I don’t know anyone who is perfect. I know a few who tell me that they are perfect, but I’m not perfect so I try not to judge too harshly those who display their lack of perfection.

If I had been Prime Minister in those days, I would have tackled the Unions, I would have sent the troops off down to the Falklands. Would I have taken away School Milk, NO,

Getting back to my point Maggie ‘Marmite’ Thatcher polarised the nation. She is dead. Will her policies now be reversed? Not a chance in Hell. The reaction to her death by some saddened me, it saddened me in a way that would have affected me whoever the outpouring of rage was directed at, but even more so when people not old enough to remember are partaking if not instigating.

Have your memories and opinions by all means, I’m not trying to change them or take them away from you, but please leave them as personal emotions and don’t bring them out onto the streets.  If you really MUST crack open a bottle of champagne tomorrow, please think about doing it in the privacy of your own home and not telling the world at large via Twitter and Facebook etc what you’re doing. Whatever your politics and opinions, let the family grieve with dignity, they did not cause any of what it is that you dislike.

I shall probably lose a few ‘friends’ with this blog but thank you.

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