Glenn Greenwald writing in the Guardian earlier this week argued that upon their demise public figures are due a frank, rather than respectful assessment. The ‘death etiquette’ which means we shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, should not apply to public figures he maintains. The demand for ‘respectful silence’ is, he asserts, politically irresponsible.
“Those who admire a public figure are not silent at all.” he notes. “Demanding that no criticisms be voiced to counter that hagiography is to enable false history and a propagandistic whitewashing of bad acts, distortions that become quickly ossified and then endure by virtue of no opposition and the powerful emotions created by death. When a political leader dies, it is irresponsible in the extreme to demand that only praise be permitted but not criticisms.”
During Margaret Thatcher’s time in office the ILP stood against much of what she said and did. ILPers fought hard against policies like the YTS scheme, the cut backs in local government, policies that ensured high and persistent unemployment, and attacks on the health service.
The ILP stood with many others in supporting the miners’ strike in 1984/5. And the ILP led the way in arguing that the left, and particularly the Labour leadership, should lead a broad, inclusive campaign against the Poll Tax.
However, unlike many on the left, we recognised that her politics had considerable support in the country. While, in her early years, some thought she would be defeated quickly and easily, we recognised that developing a successful alternative would be a long, hard process.
In the end, the Tories were replaced in office only by a new Labour leadership that accepted much of what she had done. While Thatcher is gone, Thatcherism, unfortunately, continues to exert a huge influence on British politics.
Now is the time for critical reflection on her politics and her lasting impact on Britain. In a media climate that is already producing the hagiography Greenwald warns about, it is also time for those who opposed her to air our recollections and our emotions.
We invite you here to post in the comments below your thoughts, assessments, memories, humour and links to pieces you think provide the right kind of critical appraisal of Thatcher’s legacy.