‘The Iron Lady’, the biographical film about Margaret Thatcher, which opens in January 2012, has attracted a mountain of attention as critics reassess her legacy. So this week we’re asking: Was Thatcher good for London?
Yes Iain Dale, broadcaster and author
‘Few can doubt that Margaret Thatcher changed London for good, but was it for the better? I certainly think so. Her government oversaw the Docklands redevelopment and poured billions into rejuvenating an area which had been in decline for decades. Related to that the Thatcher government singlehandedly revived the Port of London by abolishing the Dock Labour Scheme, which had given dock workers enhanced employment rights. ‘Perhaps the one thing which Thatcher is most remembered for in London is the decision to abolish both the Inner London Education Authority and the Greater London Council (GLC). The GLC is a bit like British Rail. People don’t seem to remember how awful they both were, and view them today through rose-tinted spectacles. Ken Livingstone wasn’t cuddly Ken that we know today. Thatcher stopped him in his tracks. And thank God she did. ‘Thatcher enabled hundreds of thousands of Londoners to buy their council homes; ordinary people became shareholders for the first time. She gave them opportunities they had never dreamed of before. She gave trade union members the right to a secret ballot on strikes and stopped a lot of the bullying that went on in chaotic mass meetings. In short, she gave individuals the right to decide things for themselves and started the process of getting the state out of people’s lives. Thatcher put this country, and this capital city, back on its feet. We should remember that, even though she left office more than two decades ago.’
Iain Dale presents the weekday evening show on LBC 97.3 and is the editor of ‘Margaret Thatcher: In Her Own Words’ (Biteback, £12.99).
No Matt Forde, broadcaster and comedian
‘Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s most radical prime minister. She was also the worst. The erosion of Britain’s manufacturing base is something the Tories now bemoan. Thatcher was the architect of that decay. In fact, our manufacturing and industrial base didn’t erode – it was smashed deliberately by a prime minister and a party completely detached from normal people and determined to demonstrate political strength at any cost. ‘She didn’t just sow the seeds of division, she watered and fertilised them too. Her attitude toward the public sector was disgraceful, caricaturing dedicated, talented teachers and nurses as lazy bureaucrats. It’s a hobby that still occupies the Tory party today. We all agree that entrepreneurs need encouragement and even at times a subsidy but that doesn’t make everyone else a useless waster. Many people did well out of Thatcher. They should at least have the humility to recognise that their success came directly at the expense of others. ‘Thatcherites themselves behave in a particular way. Cocky, clinical and bullish about work. Old mantras about getting on bikes rarely translate to their own lives. The defiance of the rich is one of life’s great peculiarities. Why are people who have done well out of life so angry and vicious towards the poor? Her legacy is of a Britain reduced to a service-sector economy, a country incapable of being self-sufficient for energy and agriculture and a benefit-dependent class that should never have been created. One word, more than any other encapsulates the very worst of Britain in my lifetime: Thatcher.’
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