UK Politics

The case against a ‘Margaret Thatcher Day’

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Amongst the recent chaos of 2022, a minor news story has picked up a lot of steam recently. That being that some Conservative MPs have proposed a commemorative day to celebrate our first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.

As far as tokenistic gestures go, it is a very interesting one. As a Conservative party member, I can recall first-hand how revered the Iron Lady still is within our circles – even more so than the likes of Winston Churchill, someone far more noble and honourable in his deeds. Yet, her god-like reverence is sometimes cringeworthy and often a deterrent when it comes to modern politicking.

There is no harm with such nostalgia in moderate forms. However, to dedicate a day to her seems rather uncouth for many reasons.

Firstly, it is because such an idea – to have a commemorative day after any political figure – is quite alien to most Britons, as most of our holidays or special days come from festivities or celebrating historic events, like that of D-Day. The only people who we have days for are saints, not politicians, which is very telling in and of itself.

The idea is an American one – naming holidays after famous public figures, like Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, which makes sense in a country without monarchs as there is more chance to prop up the ordinary men and women who serve in high office. In our country however, that seems rather off, given that we have an unelected head of state to revere, making criticism of elected politicians more palatable.

To import such an idea for Thatcher would be to set a bad standard in this regard. No prime minister, no matter how good or bad they may be, needs a special day – even popular ones like Churchill or Clement Atlee. It would be yet another bad import from the Americans, alongside Critical Race Theory and a Los Angeles dress sense amongst many of the young.

However, there is a more serious matter to contend to. The likes of Churchill and Atlee among many other respected prime ministers don’t need days for them, but there’s no doubt that they’re great, unifying figures who occupy special places in British history.

Thatcher on the other hand, is a totally different kettle of fish – she was without question the most divisive PM in our post-war history. And it’s not like her critics have no legitimate points.

The deindustrialisation of Britain has undermined many communities across the country and left us utterly vulnerable to global supply chain freeze-ups and depressions. Section 28, while enjoying much popular support at the time, now looks like a bigoted relic of a shameful past concerning the British LGBT community. Her cosying up to media tycoons like Rupert Murdoch are one of the reasons much of the British media is now a part of entrenched power, not a critique on it. Her hand in giving Rhodesia to Marxist guerrilla fighters has turned the bread basket of Africa to a basket case.

And most damningly of all to social conservatives, she did little to reverse the left-wing cultural revolution in our midst that still plagues us to this day – hence why any Conservative government now is up against what Antonio Gramsci would call ‘the superstructures of civil society’ when wanting to change things.

Sure, there were certainly good parts about her era. Her victory in the Falklands War is still very inspiring nearly half a century on, given the logistical challenges against Britain, something also reflected in her bold stances against the IRA. Her neoliberal economic revolution while problematic in its continuation, was at least the adrenalin shot to save the country’s economy at that time. The underrated aspects too must not be overlooked. Her administration was also quite strict on immigration, and her concern on climate change was ahead of its time.

However, all these things can be appreciated while admitting that a day to celebrate Thatcher would be a terrible one – not to mention ironically quite immature and alien to the sort of politician that was around during her era.

It is not only un-British to do, but also divisive given the person in question. It is also inappropriate, not only given the current situation we’re in, but because many of the party’s Red Wall voters didn’t vote for a Thatcherite party but rather a post-Thatcherite one, left-wing economically and right-wing on social and cultural issues.

As my Mallard colleague Henry George noted, ‘The conservatism of Thatcher is dead. Maybe it’s time we let the dead rest.’ A step like this is retrograde to that, and hopefully the party will not take it further.

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