24 January, 2013

History of a Particular Woman

Richard Vinen

I was interested to read this when i saw it listed in a catalogue as i have different feelings about Mrs. Thatcher than, i think, any i have heard expressed since i returned to the UK some six years ago. In every case when she has been mentioned or, to a lesser extent, her government, i have received the impression that were it not for the politeness of the company the speaker would spit to cleanse his mouth after uttering her name.

My feelings about her, as i say, are quite different, in that i lived through some of the incredible and appalling mess of the 1970s Labour government, hamstrung by unions, humiliated by inability to pay debts, and unable to accept (or perhaps even to see) the lesser rĂ´le Britain was being cast in; i was fairly aware of the the beginnings of Mrs. Thatcher's government ~ i was in the UK at the very beginning ~ but after about 1985 my attention was focussed elsewhere as it became more and more apparent that i was to stay in the USA for at least the foreseeable future, and therefore i took an interest in their politics and politicians. So, having experienced the skill with which the Conservative government of '79-'85 was able to curb the power of the unions, most especially during the events of the miners' strike in 1984-85, and able to rein in inflation and bring the economic stability of the country back to an even keel, and able to support the financial growth of the UK through privatising some of the moribund state industries and allowing the City to begin its growth, i did not experience and was not aware of the difficulties she ran into, the Poll Tax riots, the social disjunction, and her fall from power and favour.

Fascinating it was, then, to read this account by Vinen, a man who is not a Thatcher fan, i would say, as he shows how and why Thatcher was successful, both as leader of the Conservatives and as Prime Minister, and why she ended up being removed. Also interesting are the links that he makes between Thatcher and Enoch Powell, a man who, perhaps, did not rise to the level of his potential, but pointed a way to the future. Altogether an enjoyable book and a success for me.

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