Margaret Thatcher – Was she really the devil in disguise?

Today, one of British politics’ most controversial figures passed away.

Margaret Thatcher was the longest serving Prime Minister in modern history. But today, following her death, you would have thought the Wicked Witch of the West, the Child-Catcher and Cruella Deville all wrapped into one had been laid to rest, and the whole world was dancing on the grave.

Now, don’t worry – this blog isn’t going to be about her politics or policies. To be honest, I don’t care much for politics and rarely do I vote.  So, I would be the last person to comment on the validity of her legacy (many others have done that today)

But I must admit, the level of vitriol, hatred, and down-right nastiness that spilled across the internet this afternoon following the announcement of her passing, has absolutely astonished me.

The many bullets of blame for all manor of the country’s ills, fired squarely at her still-warm corpse today reminded me of a meeting I had a while ago with an old business acquaintance of mine.

For the benefit of this blog we’ll call my friend Bill.

Bill left school in the 70s with no more qualifications than his Cycling Proficiency badge. Like most of his mates, he got a job as a miner (“A job for life,” his Dad told him) but within five years he found himself on the picket line and eventually out of work as the mines got shut down. This is where the story gets interesting. He never blamed Thatcher, he never blamed politics. Instead, he saw it as an opportunity.

An opportunity to get out of a job that it looked like he was destined to be stuck in all his working life.

Bill retrained as a driving instructor, and he set up in business teaching people how to drive. Along with many of his workmates.

So, that job failed as well. Did he blame the state of the economy? Did he blame the Prime Minister? Nope – he blamed himself. “Serves me right for diving into an already over-stocked pond,” he said.

What next for Bill. He set about getting a job as a door to door insurance man (which was where I first met him)

Many people told him that the job wasn’t what it used to be and that it was “much better back in the day”. But Bill just saw it for the future it offered him, not the past it used to be.

And as his new colleagues continued to tell him he would never make as much money as they had in the old days, he just worked hard and worked clever and earned far more than any of them had ever made.

After a while, he left the insurance company and set up as a broker. People thought he was crazy, because he was giving up a secure job. A decade later, he now has five broker’s shops – the latest of which he opened only two years ago: smack bang in the middle of our latest recession.

Which leads me to my recent meeting with Bill. I asked him if the economy had affected his business. He firmly said no. “The economy has nothing to do with my business,” he said.

Bill has always believed only he can make a success of his business. He has constantly looked to his competition as motivation to improve, not to any changes in political policy or the state of the economy.

Booms come and booms go, as do recessions and down-turns. But to blame your own situation on the decisions of politicians is like eating take-away food every day and blaming your metabolism for being overweight.

I’m not saying Margaret Thatcher didn’t have some effect on the lives of people who lived through the 70s and 80s. But I’m hoping those who are throwing the stones at her memory today don’t live in glass houses.

When I found out about her death today, I text Bill and asked him what he thought of Margaret Thatcher.

The text that came back said: “She gave me the chance to get out of that bloody pit, and stop being surrounded by people who thought the country owed them a living.”

I’m glad there is at least one positive word being said about the Iron Lady this evening.