Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Why I didn't celebrate the death of Thatcher (but why others did)

Compared to many other parts of the city, where I’m from in Liverpool is a relatively affluent area.  People aren’t overwhelmingly rich, but they tend not to be particularly poor either.  Many people own their homes, the schools tend to be good, there are relatively high levels of employment and more 18-year-olds than anywhere else in the city go to university.

I’m a product of this part of Liverpool. My upbringing was safe and secure and I went to university. So although ideologically I have always been against what Thatcherism stood for (at least as long as I have known what ideology meant), I cannot claim to be a victim of it.  For that reason, I also cannot claim to be happy that Thatcher herself is dead.

But you don’t have to stray too far from where I grew up to find the victims of Thatcherism and witness the devastation its policies brought about.  As you drive towards Lime Street from the far north of Liverpool, the houses become more boarded up, the shops more derelict and the streets more empty.  The neighbourhoods just north of Liverpool city centre have failed to recover from an economic war waged against them 30 years ago.  Opportunity is scarce, jobs even scarcer.  There is a sense that whole communities are dying.

The same scenes are repeated across many of the industrial cities that had the same war waged against them.  Thirty years on and not much has changed.  New Labour should – and could – have done much more.  That they didn’t is a testament to the power that Thatcherism has.

I don’t think people like me have a reason to celebrate the death of Margaret Thatcher: even if we disagree with the principles she believed in and the policies she implemented. This is why there is repulsion from many towards the street parties in places like Brixton.  A sense that the misery of some has been appropriated by the fortunate.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t people who suffered and continue to suffer as a result of her legacy. And when it comes to these people – the real victims of Thatcherism – it is difficult, and perhaps wrong, for any of us to feel too self-righteous.

1 comment:

  1. It seems to me from people I know that a lot of people who live in the South East of the country don't appreciate quite how decimated a lot of communities in the formerly industrial North are. The consequences of deindustrialistion just aren't as visible as there, which I think is one cause of the North-South divide in attitudes towards Thatcherism.