Indeed, “death parties” and “dancing on her grave” took place in cities like London, Belfast and Glasgow. Graffiti urged: “Rejoice! Rejoice!” and “Rot in hell, Maggie.” Another graffiti artist, punned: “Iron Lady rust in peace.” Judy Garland’s song from “The Wizard of Oz,” “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead,” was suddenly leading the pop charts in Britain.
This columnist refuses to rejoice over the death of anyone. But facts must be faced, reality confronted. I certainly reject the claptrap issued from the White House: “the world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty.”
The indictment of her as Conservative Party prime minister of Britain for 11 years is long and harsh:
•Thatcher betrayed her class. She was a grocer’s daughter who served the upper classes epitomized by her husband Denis, millionaire businessman.
•She ushered in a wave of “sweeping privatizations and deregulations, legitimizing wealth and unleashing acquisitive and entrepreneurial passions,” the New York Times reported.
•She promoted Thatcherism, pushing economic freedom and demonstrating the right wing principle that “greed is good.” She “propagated a faith in the redemptive power of capitalism that would dominate the world and hasten the fall of communism,” the Times reported.
•She cut aid to the impoverished —even milk for poor kids.
•She smashed British unions.
•She crushed the opposition Labor Party.
•She slashed funding for the arts and academic establishments, revealing her narrow-mind and provincial tastes.
•She labeled the great Nelson Mandela as a terrorist while backing South Africa’s apartheid regime. She opposed Mandela’s release from prison.
•She provided critical support to the odious Chilean dictator Pinochet.
•She was a steadfast friend of another brutal dictator, Suharto of Indonesia.
•She sent a British military force to retake the Falklands from Argentina in 1982, post-stamp islands still a lingering product of colonialism. She did so against wiser heads in her cabinet. But she knew what she was doing politically, her ugly chauvinism rousing the people to re-elect her.
•She was an ally of President Reagan, her companion in reaction. They bitterly opposed communism. They declared that Cuba’s Fidel Castro was exporting revolution to Nicaragua and other Latin American nations. They cut taxes.
•She granted U.S. permission to launch warplanes from British bases to bomb Libya.
•She opposed feminism and denounced homosexuality, declaring no one had a right to be gay.
Such a record made her critics legion.
A former Labor Party chancellor of the exchequer called her “La Pasionaria of Privilege,” callous to the plight of the have-nots.
“There is something creepy about this ritual of praising and annointing as saints political leaders like Thatcher at their deaths,” another writer observed: “It is an absurd concept.”
Her hard headed and bullying style forced the Conservative Party to drive her from office in 1990. Much too late. The frightful damage had been done with little hope that it will be reversed anytime soon.
Thatcher had a malignant impact on Britain. She ruined the welfare state ushered in after World War II by the magnificent Prime Minister Clement Attlee.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.