How many lives did she influence back then? Or even end?
But let’s start at the beginning. Sitting in chemistry class at my private all-girls school.
We adored our teacher. Slim, attractive, slick dyed hair, make-up, smart suits, high heels – and cleared out of class every twenty minutes for a fag.
One day she came back in from a fag break, and had obviously wandered down to the science teachers’ common room to glance at the television. Our science block was well-away from the main school blocks presumably in case there was an accident with our chain-smoking chemistry teacher and our Bunsen burners, so the science teachers had their own exclusive den.
‘Margaret Thatcher is now the leader of the Conservative Party, girls,’ she announced gloriously.
We cheered, of course. ‘Hurrah!’
Hey, she was a woman, a chemist, and ambitious. So were we.
Political fervour over, we settled back to work, as no doubt MT would have approved of.
My father did NOT approve of women prime ministers. Bandaranaike ( I never did know her first name), Indira Gandhi, and Golda Meir, bore the full frontal attack of his sexist patriarchal authority. (Post here about them here)
If you can’t be bothered to click, it was on the lines of ‘better a bad male prime minister than a good female one….’
‘They are terrible.’
‘Because they are women.’
went the endless discussions around the kitchen table at home. I couldn’t understand the (non-existent) logic.
But the truth is, when Thatcher came to power as prime minister she was the sixth ever woman prime minister in the world. The first in the western world. Good one.
Except, the others were equally important, so let’s not forget them. Despite my father’s comments.
When I went to university, I met people wearing badges that said ‘Don’t blame me, I voted Labour.’
How awful, I thought, telling people your political views like that. Even worse, that you voted Labour.
I had no idea how to speak to these socialist people. Life was no longer the all-girls private school. There were radicals about. I put my head down and tried not to mix with these communists who didn’t support MT. I found people with liberal and conservative views who had money. Unlike the dirty unwashed socialist masses who were all on full grants and wanted to take every hard-earned penny my parents had ever worked for. One of them even idolised Tony Benn and proudly waved his biography around. Horrors. I knew Benn was evil personified because my parents said he wanted to nationalise the banks. And we would be destitute if that happened.
I didn’t know very much about politics. My first vote that I cast was for Margaret Thatcher in the general election. (She won).
Of course, in my newspaper office, full of lefties, I didn’t dare admit this one. The only other closet Tory was someone else who had been to private school, and lived in an exceedingly large Victorian house (much larger than mine), and had a couple of black labradors to complete the image.
One day he drove me up the sweeping approach to the front door to meet his parents – no idea why, probably because like him, I had been to private school so therefore I was ‘a nice girl’, there was certainly no romance between us – and his mother came to the door complete with the obligatory labs. Inside there was one of those hallways that would house my current flat and still have space left-over.
We would have secret chats when all the lefties were out of the office and talk about the successful new government.
All our local councils were Labour-controlled. Naturally all the socialists were good and all the Tories were bad, apart from one who was grudgingly accepted to be not so bad. I particularly disliked one of the local councillors who was unemployed. He didn’t need a job, his total expenses claim was far more than my annual wage. I guess he must have been a very hard-working councillor.
Our local MP was Labour and when he visited the office we all got down on bended knee. I have no idea why. I didn’t like him and thought he was particularly sleazy. He was replaced by a blue-rinse (actually blond) Tory who probably modelled herself on Thatcher. I didn’t like her either. Neither of them lived in the constituency which racked me off. To me they were career politicians doing very little for the area.
There was more genuflection when the local – Labour – mayor visited. Everyone agreed how wonderful he was. I had no view either way. At one point however, there was a tragedy in his family and there was a discussion in the newsroom about whether it should be reported. It might add even more distress to an already sad situation.
Er – what about ethics?
We don’t pick and choose who we write about. Plenty of other people might have been upset about some of our stories. The next time he visited, there were endless apologies to him about having to print the story – and to be fair – he was totally charming about it. I guess he wasn’t a bad bloke after all.
But the insidious infusion of the anti-Tory brigade comments must have started to make their mark on me. I didn’t agree with the invasion of the Falklands. I have no idea why, maybe I just didn’t like the idea of war. Maybe I cynically saw it as no more than a political move to boost popularity at the expense of more than 200 British lives.
Just as well I was paid to report and not to think.