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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 12, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 15
Speaking ill of the dead - Views of Margaret Thatcher's legacy are decidedly mixed
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Speaking ill of the dead - Views of Margaret Thatcher's legacy are decidedly mixed

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

She had the 'eyes of Caligula,' the late French President Francois Mitterrand said about Margaret Thatcher, 'and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe.'

While Thatcher (1925-2013), who served as prime minister of the U.K. from 1979 to 1990, continues to be idolized by right-wing Republicans in the United States and even by the supposedly liberal U.S. media, in her own country - and even in her own party - she remains a hugely divisive figure. In the end, more Britons were repelled by her cold blue eyes than were seduced by her bright red lips.

Thatcherism was Reaganism with an attitude. While her pal Ronald Reagan was affable and pragmatic, Thatcher cultivated a hard edge. Where he was capable of working all sides of an issue, and apparently of persuading himself to believe whatever he happened to be saying at any particular time, she was rigid in following her ideological agenda.

'You can U-turn if you want,' she once told a Conservative Party conference, 'but the lady's not for turning.'

REJECTED HER ROOTS
Although she was the daughter of a grocer, she had no sympathy for Britain's working class or for the immigrants who came to Britain from the far corners of its former empire. During the almost 11 years Thatcher was prime minister, Britain's rich got richer, its poor got poorer, and social inequality increased to its highest levels since World War I.

She was finally forced from office in a 1990 coup engineered by her own party leaders, after her tax policies sparked riots in the working-class suburbs of London. Those same suburbs erupted in celebratory street parties when her death was announced April 8 by the BBC.

Although she smashed the 'glass ceiling,' becoming Britain's first and only woman prime minister, Thatcher was a self-proclaimed enemy of feminism.

'I owe nothing to women's lib,' she once told an advisor. 'The feminists hate me, don't they? And I don't blame them. For I hate feminism. It is poison.'

ONE PRO-GAY VOTE
In 1967, when she was merely one of many rising stars in the Conservative Party, she voted to decriminalize Gay sex - for some reason, sex between women had never been illegal in Britain. Both Labor Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Conservative Party leader Ted Heath had declared a 'free vote,' allowing their members to vote their consciences on this issue, and Thatcher joined a handful of other Tories and a majority of Labor members to pass the bill. It was the first and last time she demonstrated an affinity for her country's LGBT community.

When she was prime minister, her government approved a needle exchange program and a safe-sex advertising campaign to try to cope with the first stages of the AIDS epidemic, but the campaign was run by Viscount Willie Whitelaw, Conservative Party leader in the House of Lords, because Thatcher herself felt little sympathy for AIDS patients.

SECTION 28
In 1988 she introduced local government legislation containing the infamous Section 28, the forerunner of Russia's current 'Don't say Gay' laws. Section 28 forbade local governments, and therefore the schools under their control, from teaching 'the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.'

'Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be Gay,' Thatcher complained at the time.

While no penalties were specified in the law and no one was ever prosecuted for violating it, local councils, fearing they would lose government funding, removed any references to the LGBT community from school curricula.

Section 28 was eventually repealed by the Scottish government in 2000, and by the House of Commons in 2003. Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, who introduced and passed marriage equality earlier this year, felt the need to apologize for his party's role in passing the provision.

'Margaret Thatcher was an extraordinary woman but she was extraordinary for mostly the wrong reasons,' veteran LGBT activist Peter Tatchell said after her death.

'I commiserate, as I do with the death of any person. In contrast, she showed no empathy for the victims of her harsh, ruthless policy decisions.'

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