I HAVE never belonged to a political party, but gladly accept that most of my leanings are to the right. Yet with the hest will in the world I cannot learn to love or particularly like Mrs Thatcher. I regard her as I used to regard iodine on an open wound: by God it will hurl, but in the end It will do you good and might even save your life.
And the sad fact is that what Britain needed after the calamitous governments of Heath and Callaghan was not a shot, but a barrel-full of iodine poured into the gaping body politic. The lady obliged, and here she is queening it over us still, the longest-serving Prime Minister this century. What, then, should we make of the celebrations for her ten-year rule?
We should applaud. Hers is a stupendous achievement, made all the greater by the fact that she had not only to revive a nation riddled with doubt and collectivism, but also tread through the minefields of antiwoman prejudice. What rankles with so many middle-class intellectual women is that it was the diehard party of "male chauvinism" and last-ditchery that smashed the political mould and set a provincial woman on the road to power.
W hat on earth happened to the
Shirley Williamses, the Jenny Lees and the Barbara Castles who hitched their stars to the parties of progressive thought? Many Tories were afronted and poor old Ted Heath is still ablubbing in his beer.
Mrs Thatcher also had to ride the tide of pernicious English snobbery. Who on earth does this grocer's daughter think she is? She also. front the snob's point of view, had the ill grace to read a scientific subject at Oxford. Dead common, you see. More at home with Bunsen Burners than the works of the Brontes. Her old university snubbed her.
She has been derided by most of our alleged egg-heads as a natural philistine. Perhaps she is. but the onslaughts of these material and intellectual snobs have given her a large sympathy vole. She certainly gets mine.
Her greatest triumphs have been personal ones. She knocked Scargill and trade unionism generally almost into the twentieth century. She simpls knocked Galtieri out of the twentieth century when the male fainthearts were blanching at the prospects of blood. But above all she gave this country back its confidence not by shirking issues but by meeting them head-on. Thatcher is radical and antiestablishment. The Foreign Office, the City, the law and the doctors now know that they are not dealing with a political patsy.
Yet Thatcher has done something else which is rarely mentioned. She has reformed the Labour Party and the whole opposition. If there had been no Thatcher or Thatcherism, Neil Kinnock would still be in charge of a spineless rahhle that made up the mass of Foot's and Callaghan's army. Because of Thatcher, Kinnock now leads a better drilled, and disciplined force that can fight the next election largely with modern weapons. It could be quite a fight now that General Kinnock has realised that the crossbows of nationalisation and the like are a bit old hat for contemporary battle.