When Margaret Thatcher died on April 8th at the age of 87, she left behind a legacy of firsts… and a path of vitriol. In fact, it’s difficult to recall a leader whose passing inspired such a wide range of emotion from even the mild-mannered. Love her or hate her — and there were plenty in both camps — former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was not a figure who inspired ambivalence.
Alex Shephard, writing for Melville House’s MobyLives, speaks eloquently for the haters:
Over the course of her 11 year reign, Thatcher sold every government asset that wasn’t bolted down, crippled Britain’s once powerful trade unions, and even snatched the milk out of the hands of unsuspecting schoolchildren (also: exploited an unnecessary war to win reelection; supported apartheid, Pinochet, and the Khmer Rouge; discriminated against homosexuals; inspired Sarah Palin). Or, to put it in the emptier language of obituspeak, she was a transformational, controversial figure whose legacy is still felt today.
Then Shephard rounds out the “tribute” with quotes from five writers and five Thatcher-inspired songs. My favorite of the quotes comes from Martin Amis, who in a 1989 Elle interview said, in part, “…the only interesting thing about Mrs. Thatcher is that she isn’t a man. Tricked out with the same achievements, the same style and ‘vision,’ a Marvyn or a Marmaduke Thatcher would be as dull as rain, as dull as London traffic, as dull as the phosphorescent prosperity, the boutique squalor of Thatcher’s England (or its southeastern quadrant.)….British politics has long ceased to be sexy. But for the time being, at least, it does have plenty of gender.”
Meanwhile, The Guardian reports on the small bouquet of Thatcher biographies that are madly being rushed to print. It’s difficult to explain the reason they need to rush, though. The 87-year-old baroness had not been in the best of health for a number of years.
And though new books on Thatcher will begin appearing as quickly as the presses can crank, there are already armloads of books on Britain’s first and only female Prime Minister in print. Historian Richard Aldous rounds them up for The London Telegraph here.