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Margaret Thatcher versus the Scots


Margaret Thatcher, The Guardian cover with headline 'She became harder than hard'While agreeing with Donne's 'any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind', I must admit to pouring a glass of good malt at the news of Mrs Thatcher's passing.

In Glasgow, hundreds partied in George Square at the news. As one commentator said, 'I wish there had been a statue of Thatcher so that I could have hit it with my shoe', bringing to mind the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The Southern English may laud her as the greatest prime minister after Churchill but for us Scots — and many in Northern England — she was a hate figure who in the febrile, last days of her premiership scarcely dared to cross the border for fear of being assassinated. Why?

Primarily because she was an ideologue, a Schumpeterian who believed in 'creative destruction' in economics, setting entrepreneurs free (Schumpeter's 'wild spirits') to do as they pleased, and in ignoring the will of the people in favour of the decisions of politicians.

Her policies were like those of the IMF during the time of structural adjustment policies — experiments which omitted to note the effect of these economic games on the lives of human beings.

I lived in Scotland through her time as prime minister and saw my country's industries disappear like snow off a dyke, plunging thousands into poverty. She eschewed negotiation with the unions and preferred all out war, regardless of the consequences. Once her legacy is reassessed, she will have the unenviable reputation of being the PM who caused most poverty in UK history.

She supported tyrants like Pinochet, called Mandela a 'terrorist' and ordered the sinking of the Belgrano, an Argentinian battleship which was moving away from the Falklands and was outside the exclusion zone; 368 Argentinian sailors were killed and the Iron Lady was pictured smirking triumphantly at the news, no doubt approving of The Sun's notorious headline of 'Gotcha!'. That act scuppered the emerging UN peace deal.

She ushered in a culture of greed disguised as entrepreneurial spirit that resulted years later in the Global Financial Crisis. And she hectored our allies in the European Union like the Little Englander she became.

Above all, she was hated for using Scotland, with its separate legal system, as a guinea pig for another experiment — the introduction of the poll tax which was seen as a tax on the poor to benefit the rich.

It caused the largest civil disobedience campaign in Scotland's history. A theologian friend filled out his tax form in New Testament Greek. I pretended to be a war veteran and said I had not fought for my country to tax the poor. We hoped for policy death through humour. We were threatened with the courts but how could you try a million Scots? The policy was defeated, and Thatcher was dumped, when she tried to introduce it into England.

Her most telling phrase was that 'there is no such thing as society', showing a complete misunderstanding of the communitarian nature of Scottish society which actually believes in the common good — as illustrated in the near unanimous support for a free health service, free (and good) education for everyone (a policy stretching back to the Middle Ages), a healthy civil society, a parliament designed to avoid the adversarial politics of Westminster, and free transport on buses for everyone over 60, all paid for willingly through our taxes.

This was anathema to Thatcher and she was anathema to us.

Thatcher said in 1988 'as long as I am leader of this party, we shall defend the Union and reject legislative devolution unequivocally'. The Scottish Parliament has been running successfully for over a decade, for much of that time under an SNP administration, and will oversee a referendum on independence in 2014. Thatcher's party, on the other hand, has been reduced to one lone Conservative MP from Scotland in the Westminster Parliament 

In the end, Scotland has the last laugh.

Duncan MacLaren headshotDuncan MacLaren was a researcher in the House of Commons and national press officer for the SNP in his youth. 

Topic tags: Duncan MacLaren, Margaret Thatcher



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Existing comments

"I must admit to pouring a glass of good malt at the news of Mrs Thatcher's passing." What the hell has this supposedly Christian sponsored ejournal come to when such a comment as this appears in an article? This is an absolute and utter disgrace. I have lost count of the number of times I have read editors, contributors and posters lamenting the hatred out there in the community, clerics chief amongst them. Yet Duncan MacLaren can express his vile delight at Thatcher's death. What you think of her policies and legacy is irrelevant. There is no excuse to cave in to our baser instincts and rejoice at the death of another, a fate that awaits us all. It's time Eureka Street's editors and moderators started thinking more with the mindset of Christ rather than that of Socialist Worker before they publish articles. Shame on you!

John Ryan | 09 April 2013  

Moira Rayner began her article "The Murder of Osama Bin Laden" from Eureka Street 3 January, 2012 with the following verse from scripture. "'When thy enemy shall fall, be not glad, and in his ruin let not thy heart rejoice.' Proverbs chapter 24, verse 17." Perhaps Duncan MacLaren should ponder on it for a while. It may just make him lament two things: (i) he states without regret that his fellow Scots wanted to murder Thatcher, (ii) he celebrated her death.

MJ | 09 April 2013  

John and MJ, it's autumn, but I invite you to consider the spiritual benefits of a cold shower! You are of course entitled to forgive or forget Margaret Thatcher's policies or legacy as you see fit, but what we think of them and what they were are hardly irrelevant at her passing. (I'd be wary too of assuming things about ES' mindset.)

smk | 09 April 2013  

SMK, you have misread the cause of my outrage. I was NOT talking about Ducan MacLaren's assessment of Thatcher's policies made at the time of her death. A person's passing is always a fit time to assess that person's life. Accordingly, Duncan MacLaren is entitled to condemn or damn Margaret Thatcher's policies and legacy as he sees fit. I myself neither made nor make any comment on Thatcher's policies or legacies whatsoever. (So be wary yourself of assuming things about my mindset). My outrage is due to Duncan MacLaren's crowing of his celebratory drink at Thatcher's death. While I am having a cold shower, I invite you to read the New Testament. I think that it is safe to say that Duncan MacLaren's response is diametrically the opposite of the example of Jesus. You may remember verses like loving your enemies and doing good to those who hate you. I don't recall Jesus saying have a drink when someone you hate dies. Eureka Street is the de facto public voice of the Society of Jesus. They are meant to promote the message of the Gospel and the Church to the world. Their mindset should be that of Jesus. I don't see how Duncan MacLaren's article is consistent Jesus's policies and legacy.

John Ryan | 09 April 2013  

Clearly there's always a place for good ol' fashioned Caledonian anti-English sentiment here. While Duncan MacLaren is right in expressing his proud Scottish loathing of Maggie T. because of the affect her appalling economic policies had on Scotland; Thatcherism as both a political mistake and moral blunder was never more stark than in Scotland. It made Thatcherism largely responsible for the rise of the SNP as the alternative conservative party to the Tories in Scotland. Yet Thatcher could easily be seen as a very Scottish politician. She believed in hard work and thrift and was a product of a provincial small town, a god-fearing Methodist. It is not hard to see that she had more in common with folk raised in the bosom of the Kirk than she did with flash Londoners or the Eton educated hooray-henrys of the Conservative party. But I suspect it was more a case of "two of a trade never agree". What a shame she wasn't born north of the border. Scottish antipathy to the southern sassanack has always been an issue in British politics and I suspect that it also plays a much bigger part in Duncan MacLaren's article than he lets on.

DavidSt | 09 April 2013  

What a brilliant nation Scotland once was. Magnificent people, soldiers, and entrepreneurs who built everything great in the world, from Clyde ships and the Canadian Pacific Railway, to the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank which Thomas Sutherland wanted built on “sound Scottish banking principles.” Today, Scotland is in a demographic death spiral, with The Scotsman warning some years ago that pensioners would outnumber school students by 2009. Yet the present dependency-culture, with jobs-for-life for public sector employees guaranteed by sclerotic trade unions, will ensure that Scotland gradually becomes an irrelevant, statist backwater. It is ironic that it was a Scotsman, Alexander Fraser Tyler, who predicted that democracies would collapse because “the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing.” And it was Margaret Thatcher who tried to reverse this. But then anyone who is fiscally responsible and who, along with Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan could bring down the seemingly invincible evil empire the Soviet Union, will always be hated for their greatness, Duncan MacLaren.

Ross Howard | 09 April 2013  

I take no issue with Duncan Maclaren's understandable desire for an independent Scotland. The rest of his piece is pretty much, to my mind, boring leftist swill, but on a subject to which, to my mind Catholics may legitimately disagree. But his unqualified drinking to the death of a member of the human race is, quite frankly, profoundly un-Catholic. I wouldn't ascribe to such actions, even for someone such as Adolf Hitler. Why did E.S. even consider publishing this under its bannerhead? Hats off to John Ryan, MJ and DavidSt

HH | 10 April 2013  

Ooo, let me weigh in here. I heard of her death this morning. I hope that which we call the Mercy can forgive her, for there are many on earth who will find it difficult; those who watched their children wither and die without health care, those whose jobs and careers and occupations were wiped away with the sneer of her pen, those who were the objects of her consistent and unyeilding scorn. I cannot remember a leader of an ostensibly reasonable society in my lifetime who had such scorn for the poor and the struggling, such rage at those she was elected to lead. Let me quote the great musician Declan McManus, better known as Elvis Costello on Mrs Thatcher: "when they finally put you in the ground / I'll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down." We can and ought to pray for her soul, and hope she finally found light; but we are fools if we do not call actions like hers what they are, sneering and cruel. I can, and I certainly try, to hope that thugs like Mao and Stalin and bin Laden and Hitler were drawn back to the Generosity from which they came; but I too will not mourn the loss of a woman who esteemed money over life.

Brian Doyle | 10 April 2013  

I didn't have a drink when the news came out - it came thirty or so years too late. Since when do Christians have to refrain from applauding the demise of bullies? Did you weep over Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot? She may have cloaked herself in the rhetoric of democracy, but she stood in the ranks of the powerful oppressors of the 20th century. Right on, Duncan.

SDC | 10 April 2013  

John Donne's 'Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind' is the absolute antithesis of Margaret Thatcher's 'There is no such thing as society', and it's a lot nearer to Christianity.

Michael Grounds | 10 April 2013  

I hardly think, John, that Duncan MacLaren's statement was a "crowing", more an "admission". I read his piece as a timely perspective, one that explained why many Scots hated her, and no more. And indeed, my point was, that feelings about a person are inextricably bound up with their deeds. The question of whether the author can or has entered the domain of Christian love is not answered by this particular article and I think your criticism of ES is disproportionate. That said, I acknowledge it is yours to make, whatever its merits.

smk | 10 April 2013  

I was never a supporter of Baroness Thatcher and her "Greed is Good" policies. This is still a mean-spirited article, unworthy of Eureka Street.

Bob Faser | 10 April 2013  

I'd happily join Duncan in a glass of good malt. And I'd expect Christians, whose Christ loved the poor, to vehemently condemn, on Christian principle, and be repulsed by Thatcher, not Duncan: who "lived in Scotland through her time as prime minister and saw my country's industries disappear like snow off a dyke, plunging thousands into poverty. She eschewed negotiation with the unions and preferred all out war, regardless of the consequences. Once her legacy is reassessed, she will have the unenviable reputation of being the PM who caused most poverty in UK history. Thatcher was UK's Pol Pot of poverty and suffering.

Vacy Vlazna | 10 April 2013  

Has today's cartoon suggested that Thatcher might receive a very warm welcome in the hereafter? A guard of honour perhaps, including such luminous dignatories as Henry VIII, Cromwell, Hitler, various mass murderers and those who showed no love nor compassion for their fellow men. The world became a better place with this passing.

john frawley | 10 April 2013  

I think this article is about the most disgusting dribble I ever read in this so-called Christian magazine! If somebody passes away, they leave behind grieving families and friends. To celebrate somebody's death is just inhuman and I feel for the people who loved Margaret Thatcher. She took over the UK when its economy was as good as the economy of Greece is today. She worked hard to overcome socialist inefficiencies within Britain and worked hard against a highly aggressive USSR, which did threaten the West with a massive nuclear arsenal. Decent people mourn her, praise her achievements and forgive her mistakes.

Beat Odermatt | 10 April 2013  

Duncan's article showed the true spirit of the Scots at a wake. A wee drink and a discussion of all aspects of the departed. If you only read the British press you will not get the perspective of the poor and those affected by the inhumanity of the ruling politicians of the time, especially the leader. Drink up and pour another!

Carmel Sheehan | 10 April 2013  

It seems to me the point made in the article is missed by some who commented. Margaret Thatcher did immense damage to the British economy and her policies engendered a greed attitude in Britain that divided north and south. In fact the south-east forgot about the rest of the country. Her policies are probably still affecting Britain today. I thank ES for publishing this article. It's just a pity the British people put her party back into power so many times. I found that hard to understand. I bear her no ill will as a human being but I do as regards what she did to the British people and in her foreign policies (the Belgrano episode etc).

Mary | 10 April 2013  

I don't presume to know a great deal about Thatcher's politics. However, these words from John Donne may also be relevant to this discussion: "Not to pray for them which die without faith is a precept so obvious to every religion that even Mahomet hath inhibited it. But to presume impenitence because you were not by and heard it is an usurpation." To watch people on TV last night dancing in the street at the news of her death was mortifying.

Pam | 10 April 2013  

She gave the famous "Sermon on the Mound" to the General Assembly of the Church Of Scotland including interalia "the church is about spiritual redemption not social reform" and quoted Paul "if a man will not work he shall not eat". At conclusion Moderator presented her with report on poverty in Scotland.

Brian Poidevin | 10 April 2013  

Our home grown version, name o' Howard, has just reasserted the benefits to mankind of his decision to help in the destruction of Iraq. I have never seen a word from him that shows he knows about, or even cares about, the hideous suffering he and his friends visited on hundreds of thousands of defenceless Iraqis - destruction that is still going on in terms of uranium induced cancers and birth defects amongst other things. But then, if it helps you win an election, what the heck!

Joe Castley | 10 April 2013  

I myself personally would probably never drink to someones death, but I do not object to Duncan MacLaren or anyone else for having their reasons for doing so, or object to ES for printing such an article. In fact it is very catholic of Eureka Street to provide such a forum. I get a little sick of the narrow minded sensures that advocate that freedom to say what is in ones heart should not be said. Surely we can agree to disagree - must we always need to stifle and convert other people to our thinking!

John Whitehead | 10 April 2013  

The sinking of the Belgrano was a legitimate act of war: even the Argentine navy has long held as much. Thatcher was no murderer, and to imply (as a poster above has) that she was in the face of the evidence is, quite frankly in my opinion, a gravely sinful act of rash judgement. Her government didn't lift the UK totally out of the dreadful economic mess that the previous Labour administrations had created, but she took significant strides in that direction - notably breaking the coercive power of unions in major industries. If Tony Abbott can do half as much as Thatcher did for her country, to eliminate the structural weaknesses imposed on the Australian economy by the most incompetent government in our history, he'll be doing very well. R.I.P., Mrs Thatcher.

HH | 10 April 2013  

@Vacy Vlazna. The next time someone asks me for an example of moral equivalence, I could do a good deal worse than your closing statement, "Thatcher was UK's Pol Pot of poverty and suffering." Where were the millions deliberately killed under Thatcher? Where were the extermination camps? You were arguing your case soundly until you slipped into an obviously hyperbolic and fallacious analogy.

MJ | 10 April 2013  

As the son of a Scot, I was totally disqusted with Duncan MacLaren's article on the death of Margaret Thatcher. No matter what side of politics you are on, there is no reason to "pour a glass of good malt" at the passing of a former Prime Minister. I am surprised also that you would even print such an article.

Fr. John Begg, s.m. | 10 April 2013  

Duncan, where can I send you a bottle?

Shane Maloney | 10 April 2013  

As always our own views colour our opinions. I don’t believe I would celebrate the death of another person, although I saw the jubilation of some Christians when Osama bin Laden was euphemistically “taken out” a couple of years back, so it does happen. But who am I to judge someone else’s experiences? I was never a beneficiary/victim of Thatcher’s policies. Was she Britain’s greatest PM? I don’t know, but she certainly ranks highly as the most divisive PM and that legacy is clearly enduring in parts of the UK. She took Britain to war with one South American military dictator and openly courted another. Like our own John W Howard at the time, she never supported the release of Mandela from prison during the 1980s. I don’t think Thatcher, Reagan and Pope JP2 brought down Communism in Europe. They opposed it but the collapse was much more the result of built-up internal economic and social pressures. Good on ES for having the guts to publish this provocative article.

Brett | 10 April 2013  

"I get a little sick of the narrow minded sensures that advocate that freedom to say what is in ones heart should not be said. Surely we can agree to disagree - must we always need to stifle and convert other people to our thinking!" says John Whitehead with compassion. Thanks for the article, Duncan. Predictability for such a divisive figure as Thatcher opinions differ about her life and influence. Though Duncan writes about Scotland an Irish author or a northern Englishman could write similarly. And what's all this de mortuis non nisi bonum stuff? Is there some suspicion that if you speak ill of the dead God will hear you and mark their card? Good on ES for letting people have their public say, even the censorious do not get censored. Thatcher: "There is no such thing as society" Society: "There is no such thing as Thatcher and Thatcherism is terminal."

Michael D. Breen | 10 April 2013  

We need only look at her own testament - THE DOWNING STREET YEARS (HarperCollins) to identify the totally inadequate human being that was Margaret Thatcher. With messianic conviction she could quote Chatham: "I know that I can save this country and no one else can". She was justified in her hectoring because her reputation had been "burnished internationally by the Falklands War" and, along with the inept Reagan she personified "the West's system of liberty". "The Germans", she confided, "are nervous of governing themselves" and Chancellor Kohl "promised to do" what I told him. She couldn't understand Kaunda telling her "Africa is not your area". When she told the Chinese she would be "prepared to consider making recommendations to parliament about Hong Kong" they dismissed her as irrelevant. She found Nelson Mandela "outdated in his attitudes" and Indira Gandhi "never grasped the importance of the free market". For Thatcher, the market and free enterprise, Chicago School of Economics style, untrammeled by any human consideration would lead to the Holy Grail. On her own evidence she was incapable of critical self-assessment and positive self-doubt. She was, accordingly, never able to learn. Her assessment of other leaders was demeaning of herself and her lack of knowledge, understanding and appreciation of other cultures and other traditions was equaled only by her arrogance. The Reagan-Thatcher legacy will not destroy our hope for the future.

John Nicholson | 10 April 2013  

No doubt Maggie will be sitting up there between Papa Doc and Mother Theresa reinforcing the idea of keeping the poor and downtrodden down where they should be!

Philip.thomas@live.com | 10 April 2013  

Duncan,I'm with you! I'm not Scottish at all, but have visited Scotland and have never forgotten the hospitality (which I didn't find in England) which they bestowed upon us, being so much poorer than the English! When I heard she had died I said : 'Thank God this evil woman has passed away!' Being a strong unionist I really felt for the miners during those years, and nothing people says about her will ever do away with the evil she did to the workers! And thanks to Eureka Street for publishing this opinion! If people don't like it (after the first sentence) they don't have to read it. Voila!

Nathalie | 10 April 2013  

I too was shocked at the totally negative and nasty article which is Eureka Street's first printed reaction to a profoundly influential leader's death. I fully understand that she made mistakes and a lot of enemies, but surely you could have printed a dignified and balanced piece as your Christian periodical's initial appraisal.

Murray Sandland | 10 April 2013  

SDC asks "Since when do Christians have to refrain from applauding the demise of bullies?" The chorus emanating from the Eureka St glee club puts me in mind of a stanza from Oscar Wilde's Ballad of Reading Gaol: "The Chaplain would not kneel to pray By his dishonored grave: Nor mark it with that blessed Cross That Christ for sinners gave, Because the man was one of those Whom Christ came down to save" Nothing too pious there, I hope.

DavidSt | 10 April 2013  

I await with the utmost anticipation the passing of Fidel Castro. Then Eureka Street can put in a piece from one of the many Cubans who has fled from the Socialist paradise. When this person writes with delight at Fidel's passing and says that he poured himself a Havana cooler to celebrate, then we will know that Eureka Street is looking for balance. However, given the eulogy that Chavez got, I may be waiting in vain.

Nugyen Duy | 10 April 2013  

In any case, Nguyen Duy, there's no need to fret unduly. If ES doesn't provide something on Fidel Castro along the lines you seek, there are plenty others. Om.

smk | 10 April 2013  

Never liked this woman. I don't even like facebook but this is an interesting article about this creature who ultimately I'm sure will be shown to have done a lot more damage than good. Maybe she obtained much of her economic idealogy from reading those extremely unreadable Ayn Rand books that espoused the 'greedy' society. I particularly do not like her because of the treatment of the wounded veterans of the stupid Falklands Island war when at the ceremony in St Pauls Cathedral after the war the wounded were kept out of sight at the rear of the church. She was as dislikable as Presidents Reagan and Bush Jnr. Bush Jnr only wore the Air Force uniform when he was safely away from the front line and decades from when he avoided active service in Viet Nam. And Reagan had to quote his 'active' service from the second rate movies he was in. The stupid English newspapers at the time of the Falklands Island war were also heavily responsible for the loss of British lives when they heaped scorn on the Argentinans for not being able to adjust their missiles (Exocet missiles I think - certainly purchased from France) to explode inside the British ships they hit. So guess what - the Argentinians can read newspapers too. They were more succesful after that. I heard someone on the radio say this morning that she was five minutes in hell and she'd sacked 20% of the devils. I would not be so cruel to a dead person or her family. Now I must get back to slagging off that other crazy person - Mother Theresa.

Joe | 10 April 2013  

I find it mystifying that those who find this column objectionable and attack those responsible, Jesuit publications, have overlooked the fact that Tim Fischer, Tony Abbott, Peter McGauran, Joe Hockey, Richard Alston, Christopher Pyne are all Jesuit alumni. I know that Fr Frank Brennan said that Jesuit education didn't seem to work in their case - and no doubt the Jesuits are embarrassed by the results of their educational efforts - but don't you conservative, liberal supporters think you are well represented by these (Catholic) members of parliament when they talk about asylum seekers, single parents and a thousand other issues of which the Gospels speak? The late, not lamented Thatcher addressed the Scottish assembly and said: "The Church is about spiritual development not about social justice". That reveals how much she knew about Christ, the Gospels and social justice. Nothing.

John Nicholson | 10 April 2013  

Oh dear! Someone actually admitted they were not grieving at the news of Mrs Thatcher's passing! How dare they? How un-Christian! Sorry, but I didn't see 'vile delight' in this article. I am sure that her loved ones will be feeling the loss, but don't let's pretend that those who suffered at her hands must feel grief or stay silent forever because of her demise.

Annemp | 10 April 2013  

Yes, SMK, but as long as they are not Christian websites they will not be open to the charge of hypocrisy.

Nguyen Duy | 10 April 2013  

"... if you opposed Thatcher's ideas it was likely because of their lack of compassion, which is really just a word for love. If love is something you cherish, it is hard to glean much joy from death, even in one's enemies." Russell Brand The Guardian Tuesday 9th April. And, "I hope I'm not being reductive but it seems Thatcher's time in power was solely spent diminishing the resources of those who had least for the advancement of those who had most. I know from my own indulgence in selfish behaviour that it's much easier to get what you want if you remove from consideration the effect your actions will have on others." Deft eh?

Michael D. Breen | 11 April 2013  

It seems to me that the death of an inactive 87 year old is an occasion rather than an event; to celebrate such a death is very different from rejoicing over the death of an active rival. I think Mrs Thatcher sowed the seeds of the GFC and the ongoing difficuties faced by most of the western world. The Canberra Times published on Wednesday a good collection of opinion pieces; cool reflection on Mrs T's work is a long way into the future for many people.

Jim Jones | 11 April 2013  

I've come across the commentary in ES on Margaret Thatcher's death (euphemistically descibed as "passing") a bit late. So I may be repeating some points that other commentators have made but here is my immediate reaction. "A publication of Jesuit Communications Australia" is how Eureka Street describes itself. Therefore I expect such a publication to print a range of views. I do not expect all its articles to be express or defend Christian principles, although for the most part they do. There has been so much eulogising of Baroness Thatcher in the last two days that I was beginning to think she was the Mother Teresa of British politcs. As a tee-totaller I cannot identify with Duncan MacLaren's "pouring a glass of good malt at the news of Margaret Thatcher's passing". I presume he went ahead and drank his scotch and felt a warm inner glow and then went ahead and vented his spleen. As I say I cannot identify with MacLaren reaching for a celebratory drink and his emotional reaction. But Eureka Street did me a service by giving me another heart-felt point of view on The Iron Lady.

Uncle Pat | 11 April 2013  

HH this is supposed to be about Thatcher's legacy and you drag Aussie politics into it, referring to "the structural weaknesses imposed on the Australian economy by the most incompetent government in our history". Care to elaborate with something called evidence or are you just making it up as you go along?

Brett | 11 April 2013  

Sure, Brett, and yes, this is about Mrs Thatcher. But to gain a handle on the challenges she faced and how she fared, it's fair to try to imagine what she might do in our current circumstances vs what Tony Abbott might do. OK: some of the (many) structural weaknesses of this government. 1. Fair Work Australia, which is stacked with pro/ex-union, anti-business mates of Labor supposedly capable of impartially divining what is a "fair" balance between business and labour in any dispute. 2. The NBN, an "off-budget" item which is threatening to blow out cost-wise to something near $90 billion from the projected $43 odd billion (the blow out keeps growing) 3. The deficit, which Swan/Gillard haughtily dismissed as even a remote possibility as late as February 2013, but, as Swan, poker-faced, now concedes (two months later), will dominate the budget for years to come. 4. The carbon tax. Like Thatcher, I expect Tony Abbott's first term to be one of desperately trying to plug the leaks stemming from these deficiencies, yet incurring the blame in the leftist-prone MSM for the consequences of the previous Callaghan/Rudd-Gillard regimes' lunatic policies. Unlike Thatcher, I unfortunately suspect Abbott won't have the guts to deploy the necessary blowtorch to the most destructive items. But I'm prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

HH | 11 April 2013  

I did not pour a malt at the news of Mrs Thatcher's death but I did at the news of her retirement from Parliament.Please God we will not see her like again in a position of power.

PHIL | 11 April 2013  

Eureka Street has become the mouthpiece of narrow minded hate mongers and nothing to do with Jesuit principles.

Beat Odermatt | 12 April 2013  

Thatcher was not adored by all the English! I was in England during the dying days of her premiership, and well remember even my Tory cousins were sick to death of "that bloody woman". People just got plain sick of her.

Louw | 12 April 2013  

I'm with Elvis Costello- Tramp the dirt down.

John Gallagher | 12 April 2013  

Thatcher's first words to Gorbachev: "I hate communism." The word "feisty" comes to mind. What a woman.

HH | 12 April 2013  

I misunderstood you Double H. When you wrote of “structural weaknesses imposed on the Australian economy by the most incompetent government in our history” I was expecting a brief critique of structural economic weaknesses. Things like evidence of market failure linked to the Government, huge increases in unemployment or inflation undermining our economic foundations, the structural problems still coming from the Global Financial Crisis in most other developed economies, you know, something of that ilk. Instead all I got was a grab bag of political points straight out of the Coalition handbook. The language – “ex-union, anti-business mates”, “lunatic policies”, “destructive items” – indicates that. Hard to see where the claim of incompetence comes from but you seem to be confusing minority government with economic mismanagement. They do have a problem with communications but the underlying structural fundamentals of the Australian economy are still quite sound. But back to Maggie, if Tony Abbott can do half as much as Thatcher did for her country, he will probably go down as Australia’s most divisive PM, assuming of course that he wins the election this time.

Brett | 12 April 2013  

Your account of the Belgrano sinking is very telling - do you get all your information from the Socialist Worker magazine? - the only unjustified aggression in that war was from the Argies - "GOTCHA"

Adrian | 12 April 2013  

As a Methodist and someone who has always lived in Southern England, in adulthood, I share many of the sentiments but none of the vitriol of the article. I profoundly disliked the woman and thought her domestic policies were hugely damaging. But we give her supporters and allies further fuel if we give her too much profile by responding in an unchristian way.

Pearl Luxon | 12 April 2013  

Brett, clarification first: why would you want me to cite structural weaknesses allegedly coming from the GFC as caused by the Gillard government? That makes no sense, so I may have misread you here. OK: I cited,instead, eg, Fair Work Australia and its pronounced anti-business bias - which has given rise to labour market rigidities which hurt workers by discouraging labour hire and even deterring investment from Australia. And, so what if the Coalition (and Blind Freddie) agrees? Only an ad hominem-dependent, evidence-challenged leftist would find that a sufficient reason for rejecting such a proposition, as they so often do. Thatcher believed that breaking coercive union power over was essential to improving the structure of the UK's economy. She did that, magnificently, as proven thus: in the clamour of visceral invective against her, can you hear a vast majority in the UK hankering now for a return to the union-dominated system under Callaghan's Labour that she obliterated? I can't. Game, set and match, Mrs Thatcher.

HH | 12 April 2013  

Goodonya Uncle Pat. Always the source of good sense. I see nothing of small-minded malice in Duncan Maclaren's article, and fail to see how a passionate defence of the poor is in any sense unChristian. "Woe to you scribes and Pharisees," said Christianity's founder, "because you place on people heavy burdens hard to bear." A sentiment not unlike Duncan's own I think.

Anna Summerfield | 13 April 2013  

You may well have misread me HH. I responded to your statement of “structural weaknesses imposed on the Australian economy by the most incompetent government in our history”, which sounds more hyperbolic with every reading, asked for evidence and gave some examples of what would be structural weaknesses if they were happening. Still haven’t seen any. Fair Work Australia responded to Howard’s excessive Workchoices which does not make it anti-business and when you look closely at FWA decisions you will see this is the case. Your other three “examples” are similarly not structural weaknesses. The Government will probably lose the election for reasons related to infighting and lost public confidence, despite having a sound economy and generally effective policies (excluding their treatment of refugees). It will not be for the reason given in your statement. Someone wrote on the weekend that Hawke and Keating achieved much the same result in Australia as Thatcher in the UK, without anything like the divisions, grief and anger she caused. An accurate assessment and a reminder that extreme policies are usually unnecessary.

Brett | 15 April 2013  

Thanks Brett, but - and I know this is seemingly pedantic - you still haven't bothered to clarify for us: supposing there were structural weaknesses from the GFC, why would you want me to brand them as being imposed by Gillard/Rudd? Communications problem there - seems like federal Labor is not the only cripple in that department, if that is indeed the root of their difficulties. Also, I'm very interested in your last comment: Hawke/Keating did what Thatcher did, but in a different way. Oh. So the evil, hate-worthy Mrs Thatcher's fundamental goals were fine. She just went about them in the wrong way! Can you say a bit more about that?

HH | 15 April 2013  

Politik - Look at earth from outer space. Everyone must find a place. Give me time and give me space. Give me real; don't give me fake. Give me strength; reserve control. Give me heart and give me soul. Give me time; give us a kiss. Tell me your own politik. And open up your eyes. Open up your eyes. Open up your eyes. Open up your eyes. Give me one, 'cause one is best. In confusion, confidence. Give me peace of mind and trust. Don't forget the rest of us. Give me strength; reserve control. Give me heart and give me soul. Wounds that heal and cracks that fix. Tell me all your politik. But give me love over, love over, love over this, a And give me love over, love over, love over this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVFKPBiOw5A

Damaris | 16 April 2013  

Pedantic or mischievous Double H? Can’t say, but I’ll explain again. You made a statement about “structural weaknesses imposed on the Australian economy by the most incompetent government in our history”. I asked for evidence of these alleged structural weaknesses. You gave four examples, none of which indicates structural weakness and which were pretty much opinions rather than facts. I gave some examples of the sort of things that would undermine our economic performance if the economy was structurally weak, which in fact it is not. Keep reading, it isn’t complicated. I’m not asking you to criticise the Rudd/Gillard response to the GFC. That Australia suffered much less from the GFC than comparable countries is a pointer to our economic strength. The point was that your statement was an exaggeration to be kind about it, unsupported by evidence. Are we clear now?

Brett | 16 April 2013  

HH, Hawke and Keating had an agenda to reform the Australian economy away from the largely protected model they inherited. It was a diverse program across all economic sectors. Space does not allow detail but on the point you raised, Hawke and Keating brought unions and management into the process through the Accord and reached agreements on trade-offs to avoid inflationary wage increases. To be blunt, as she often was, Thatcher’s idea of economic reform did not seem to be any more sophisticated than smashing the unions. There would have been an economic case for closing some industries but there was very little planning for the longer term economic transition that Australia went through with nothing like the pain she created. Evil and hate-worthy are your words; I said she caused division, grief and anger. So no, she did not go about it the right way when you compare the results to Australia.

Brett | 16 April 2013  

Congratulations to Duncan MacLaren on his assessment of Margaret Thatcher. Hands up all of you nice minded critics who actually lived in Scotland or any other part of the UK during her time. I was never aware of any christian example shown by her. She did get the heave from the Tory Party as she became unelectable. Mrs Thatcher will be remembered by many, perhaps, in a similar way to those people abused and abandoned by the Church. May she rest in peace. Thank God. I believe her real Vocation was as a Bus Conductor. She was forever telling us where to 'Get Off'

James Gunn | 16 April 2013  

Brett, you seem to be reading from a leftist comic book about Margaret Thatcher. She never wanted to smash the unions per se - she just wanted to end the coercive hold on the economy they had managed to acquire over previous decades. There's no way they would have given this up without a fight. Hence she did what she had to do, and was successful, to the lasting benefit of the UK economy. A sign of this is that when UK Labour was next in power, it didn't seek to return the unions to their pre-Thatcher status, as it could so easily have done. So she was vindicated. Thatcher initiated the privatisation process that later swept the world, and was taken up to some extent by Hawke/Keating. Good for them. But as Thatcher courageously denationalised the coal industry, risking political annihilation for the sake of principle, Hawke and Keating should have ended the massive subsidies/protection of the car industry. She had the guts to. They didn't. (Neither, of course, did Howard/Costello - more shame on them, since at least Hawke/Keating tiptoed to the brink with the half-baked Button Plan.) Now that's one suppurating sore in our body economic that Gillard/Rudd didn't inflict. But of course, for fear of union backlashes, neither will Gillard do anything about it, even as its absurdity becomes more manifest by the day.

HH | 18 April 2013  

Leftist comic book HH? Cute, but take the logs out of your own eyes before disparaging the views of others. “She never wanted to smash the unions per se”? Seriously, read a bit more about the Iron Lady. Smashing union power was what it was all about from the start. For Thatcher it was ideological as much as economic. She was of no mind to negotiate but wanted a conflict where she could force home her advantages. Did she succeed? Yes. Were changes needed? Obviously yes. Was hers the only way to do it? Definitely not – see my previous comments about Hawke/Keating. Did the end results vindicate her actions against the misery she inflicted on northern England and Scotland? I doubt it. Your comment that she had the guts to end massive public subsidies of industry is another exaggeration. John Major did more in that area than Thatcher. Your criticism of the Button Industry Plan as “half-baked” ignores the effectiveness of Button’s industry policy in its day. Context is important when looking back 25 years.

Brett | 20 April 2013  

"Context is important when looking back 25 years." Indeed, Brett. Which is something you're studiously avoiding in your assessment of Mrs Thatcher. And I note you've failed to respond to my point that no UK government since Thatcher's has sought to restore union power to anything like the level it was when she assumed the premiership. If what she did was so horrendous, why is that? Like Mrs Thatcher, I'm all for voluntary unions, just as I'm for scout/guide groups and stamp-collecting clubs. They are indeed the vital stuff of our communities. But unlike you, it seems, I oppose the right of unions (or anyone, if it comes to that) to bully people of another persuasion not to work for employers when they choose to, to the point of smashing their cars, equipment, etc. Which point of view is what Thatcher was defending. Kudos to her. And you misunderstand my point about the Button Plan. A refreshing move, it was objectively-speaking a limp-wristed step in the right direction - a grudging acknowledgement of the free market. But under Thatcher, there would have been no taxpayer-underwritten car industry in Australia from the 80's. Which would have benefited millions of hapless taxpayers in the decades up to now. Cf, the hopelessly uneconomic state coal industry in Britain until Thatcher.

HH | 22 April 2013  

I actually did look at Thatcher in the context of her times Double H and I don’t think I’m the one who is revising history. Bullying is wrong in all areas, whether it be the workplace, unions or governments imposing their ideology on the community. You don’t seem to think the great damage and despair Thatcher’s policies brought to communities in northern England and Scotland was important or worth thinking about in the context of her legacy. This is not a case of the end justifying the means, which seems to be your main argument in her support. Her approach was extreme, even in the context of her times and little thought was given to the longer term consequences for the people her policies hurt the most. But I suppose when you express ultra dry right-wing economic views nothing moderate is going to please.

Brett | 23 April 2013  

Brett, you're naively unaware that the taxpayer is always the first sucker to be bullied for the sake of other politically convenient causes. If union coercion wasn't the hallmark of the system Thatcher inherited, I don't know what was - from the then sclerotic massively taxpayer-subsidised coal industry to the ludicrous Luddite objections to computers in publishing in Wapping. Thatcher showed the way by punching these balloons, and helping the taxpayer. I note, BTW, that northerners, on the day of her funeral, were bitterly complaining - with some justification - that there's tons of coal underground of their poor villages that could be mined at a handsome profit. Someone who REALLY cared for those miners might advocate that they be allowed to form companies and mine that coal they insist is, "but for Thatcher" (so they say), there for the taking. Now, what, do you suppose, is stopping them from doing so? Hint: it's not Margaret Thatcher, RIP and out of power for decades. Step up, Brett and your ilk, for the mining communities for whom you claim to weep.

HH | 24 April 2013  

You keep avoiding the point Double H. Thatcher had no intention of taking any other path. She wanted a fight, she had the fight and she won the fight. No argument there. But what happened (or didn’t happen) next? There was very little longer term planning about what to do afterwards. Thatcher never REALLY cared for those miners. She wasn’t interested in those communities or the damage her policies caused. Her constituency was elsewhere. She had responsibilities and she was found wanting. You don’t seem to think that is important. I suppose when the end result justifies the mean, the people who suffered just aren’t worth thinking about.

Brett | 25 April 2013  

Brett, the end of the sclerotic, taxpayer-underwritten coalmines in Britain was a Really Bad Thing for the subsidised miners, but a good thing for the British taxpayer. In contrast to Mrs Thatcher, Arthur Scargill and the Labour Party didn't give a fig for the British taxpayer (or non-union workers for that matter). So which is worse: Margaret Thatcher "not caring" for those miners, in that she merely refused to continue subsidizing their living with money ripped from other people - including poor people - yet not preventing their gaining jobs in more profitable sectors; or Scargill and Labour, propping up their vested political and union power bases at the expense of workers and entrepreneurs all over the UK? Like I said - who seriously wants to undo Thatcher's abolition of the national coal industry? Yet who but Thatcher would have taken that step? The suggestion that she "wanted a fight" is in your head only. Had Scargill, etc, agreed to repealing all laws repealing the coercive "rights" of unions, Thatcher would have agreed without any further ado. Proof of this is that, having ended those state-created coercive union rights, and in her prime of power, Mrs Thatcher didn't go on picking fights with the unions. Like all true free marketeers, she was never opposed to voluntary trade unions as such. On the contrary.

HH | 28 April 2013  

Repeat your opinions and assertions all you want Double H, it doesn’t make them true. The facts are Thatcher never had any intention of doing things any other way. Far from tempering her fire, she continued the anti-union rhetoric almost to the end of her term. The easing did not come until John Major, often the forgotten man, was PM. Thatcher’s was not the only way to go, as evidenced by other Governments achieving genuine economic reform without anything like the pain Thatcher’s policies caused. Thatcher’s approach was ideological rather than economic – play up the “us and them” mentality to achieve her ends. I don’t think it was unreasonable for her opponents to oppose her. Her Government showed scant interest in the longer term impact of its policies on the people most affected by them. It was all about the end result justifying the means of getting there, which is a very dry economic argument that ignores the impact of the means. Having re-read your contributions on this topic, I don’t think this is a point you comprehend.

Brett | 29 April 2013  

Brett, I'll call your bluff. I've asserted that Mrs Thatcher's crusade all along was against coercive union power - the kind that, eg, allows unions to harangue and forcibly prevent so-called "scabs" from entering a work site. And she rightly (IMO) continued that campaign to the end of her premiership. That opposition doesn't disprove my thesis. What you have to show is that, as a matter of historical record, Margaret Thatcher opposed voluntary unionism per se. OK. Go ahead: evidence, please. We're waiting. And despite your hosannas to a warmer, gentler approach than Thatcher's ... it's failed. To the extent that subsequent regimes departed from Thatcher's policy, they've not exactly proved successful. For example: Guess what? We in Australia still, 30 years later, have a massively expensive union/crony-capitalist car "industry", bleeding the national economy. I can hear the Aussie taxpayer now saying "Thanks, Bob, Paul and Johns - Button and Howard - Kevin and Julia for eschewing 'brutal' Thatcherism. We just love forking out for union-featherbedded jobs." But I've no doubt you've got some really really nuanced way of ending that monstrous rort without confronting the unions. Care to share?

HH | 29 April 2013  

To say that I loathed Margaret Thatcher is an understatement. I dont think anyone outside the UK really understands the misery wrought upon those not included amongst the Tory elite. To walk upon the streets of Hull in this period strengthened my resolve to see the theories of such maniacs as Milton Freidman and Frederick Von Heyek cast into into oblivion, regrettably we now have periods of depression as regular as Tory governments in which the poor are reminded of their place as the unworthy.

Areyth Schoibler BA.MA.Bth | 30 April 2013  

I thought you didn’t get the point HH, now I think you either can’t acknowledge it or just don’t care. Thatcher’s approach to industrial relations was confrontation, confrontation, confrontation. Her ambition was to emasculate the union movement to the point of irrelevancy – where it did not matter if they survived in some minor form. She succeeded to a great extent, as you keep reminding us. Australia took a different path to economic reform and was largely successful in delivering its economic objectives with nothing like the pain Thatcher inflicted on whole communities in the UK. I’m not talking “warmer, gentler”, but about a considered policy approach that does not treat communities as expendable. Your ongoing whinge about support for the car industry in Australia does not exonerate Thatcher from responsibility for her actions in the UK. If any of the Tories deserves credit it is John Major, but nobody seems to remember him. When you take an extreme, ideological position on the hard, dry right, you will never support a more moderate economic approach, just blow the consequences.

Brett | 30 April 2013  

OK, Brett, so: no concrete evidence forthcoming that Thatcher really wanted to destroy voluntary unionism as such, as opposed to merely eliminating coercive powers of unions in her day? Why am I not surprised? And no solution to the Aussie car industry rort, a legacy based on not addressing the economic realities regardless of entrenched union opposition, a la Mrs Thatcher? Merely a "Don't whinge about that! Look over here!" Right. Further, I note you've not responded to my challenge above to support the revival, desired by the local anti-Thatcherites, of coal mining in those towns Thatcher allegedly destroyed when, if those aggrieved ex-miners are correct, there are millions of tons of coal to be profitably exploited. Why not? Don't tell me you actually support Mrs Thatcher's (alleged) policy in retrospect?

HH | 30 April 2013  

Your challenge? Come now Double H, you ignore the arguments you can’t answer. You can’t ignore the evidence of Thatcher’s own union busting actions which were largely successful from her point of view – emasculated unions that became largely irrelevant to the industrial relations process. It was about confronting the unions, not the form of the union, but you only address one half of the issue. You have not responded to the many opportunities to opine on the great damage done to communities in northern England and Scotland by Thatcher’s policies. This was damage that lasted for years, well after the Tories themselves kicked Thatcher out when she grew too extreme even for them. Remember the Poll Tax? As for your whinges about the Australian car industry, not much to do with Thatcher really but having the hindsight to criticise what happened over the past 30 years isn’t all that helpful. Perhaps you should join forces with Clive Palmer to set Australia right.

Brett | 01 May 2013  

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