Margaret Thatcher has died of a stroke at the age of 87. She was a human being, made in the image of God; a mother, grandmother and friend who is now being mourned by those who loved her.
She was also a world leader who gave her name to a particularly regressive economic system. ‘Thatcherism’, together with ‘Reaganomics’, influenced Australia in the guise of ‘Economic Rationalism’. As a minister in a Church that continues to try to pick up the pieces of the lives shattered by these philosophies (and even in wealthy, healthy Australia there are such lives) it’s hard to hear Thatcher eulogised as a great statesperson. Under her leadership the gap between rich and poor grew and so for the poor (and those who are required by God to care for them) her leadership was a failure.
On the other hand, she was only one person, and she has been out of power for decades. The British can’t blame her as the onlie begetter of the social inequality within which they live, any more than we in Australia can blame everything on John Howard/Peter Costello. We all need to take some responsibility.
But as a second-generation Australian with relatives on the west coast of Scotland, who heard from them about the impact of the Poll Tax, I can understand why there are people dancing in Glasgow today. I wouldn’t do it myself, but then she only affected me from a distance and at second or third-hand.
According to the BBC Thatcher “will not have a state funeral but will be accorded the same status as Princess Diana and the Queen Mother. The ceremony, with full military honours, will take place at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral.” Given the pomp and ceremony with which she’ll be buried, it’s possible that Thatcher’s failings will be glossed over by the sentimentality accorded the illustrious dead. It’s important that this not happen. This is a time when ‘speaking ill of the dead’ is a historical necessity.