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The darker side of 'Iron Lady', nay 'Maggie, the milk snatcher'
For some she was 'Maggie, the milk snatcher' and for others she was the 'Iron Lady', but for the world, she was the most divisive figure in the British politics so far. Yes, the only woman Prime Minister Britain has ever seen, Margaret Thatcher, who died of a stroke on Monday at 87, has, anyway, been loved and loathed by her admirers and detractors respectively.

While her admirers laud her for breaking the country’s powerful trade unions and liberalizing London City’s financial services industry – steps they believe, halted Britain’s economic decline, her critics have an equally opposite take. They hold the 11-year tenure of Margaret Thatcher responsible for destroying the country’s economic base by refusing to pump capital into struggling industries, and destroying Britain’s mining sector by rendering impotent the National Union of miners.

During her tenure, the newspaper front pages were always full of brawls between workers and policemen, and how can one forget the skyrocketing unemployment.

Writes A.C. Grayling in The New York Times: “Mrs. Thatcher left behind a changed and divided Britain. She dismantled local government structures, leaving London without a unitary authority to manage its affairs, which meant that urban decay and the effects of unemployment were not adequately countered.”

With an axe of privatization and free markets, Thatcher dealt a deadly blow into the heart of Britain – creating a widening gap between rich and poor – one thing she is most detested for by the people in Britain coming from lower middle classes.

Deregulation of banks, which Thatcher presided over, led to Britain’s contribution to the global financial crisis of 2008. This is being seen as the delayed effect of Thatcher’s policies more than a decade after her rule.

“She reversed the trend of greater social integration and diminishing of the wealth gap that had characterized Britain in the three decades after 1945. Postwar convergences in class and wealth disappeared and former divisions resurfaced as consumerism and social incivility followed quickly on her brusque reorganization of British society,” the paper adds.

What will remain as the darkest stain on Thatcher’s resume is her contribution to the London riot of March 31, 1990. The riots happened in many cities as a result of the so-called Poll Tax, which ultimately led to downfall of Thatcher. Passed in 1988, the tax imposed a highly unpopular flat-rate levy on every adult, officially known as the Community Charge.

Her admirers have been crediting her policies for betterment, which Britain’s economy witnessed in post mid-nineties, but what one fails to understand is why it took so long for the policies to materialize.
In 1971, Thatcher, as the Education Secretary, was seen as the main villain responsible for removing free milk scheme under which students in primary schools would receive free milk. And for this action, Thatcher was given the tag, ‘Maggie, the milk snatcher’.

What reveals contradictory nature in Ms. Thatcher was she would hate extravagance and even pay for her Downing Street ironing board, yet she saw over a gigantic credit boom, privatization and capitalism.

Taking a look back at what she did to Britain, the familiar landmarks, unfortunately most of them disparaging, which stare at our faces are: the savage battle over the economy in the early 1980s, the bitter struggle with the miners in 1984-85, the deregulation of the City in 1986, and the disastrous introduction of the Poll Tax.

At the international level as well, her siding with extremists like Pakistan’s military dictator, Zia-ul-Haq, and training of Mujahideen in Afghanistan that ultimately led to the disintegration of erstwhile USSR, can never be forgotten. Pakistan is yet to recover from the radicalism that lies at the foundation of democratic institutions – thanks to the extremist policies of Gen. Zia, who was supported by leaders like Thatcher and the then US president Ronald Reagan.

What had even forced British Prime Minister David Cameron to apologise (though this is not the only place in the world where Britain apologized or should apologise for its colonial history), Thatcher supported the bloody apartheid movement in South Africa, and labelled anti-apartheid leaders like Nelson Mandela and his African National Congress (ANC) party as “terrorists”.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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