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The Thatcher divide

The Thatcher divide Enemies Allies Argentina Ronald Reagan No relationship defined the Thatcher era more than the personal friendship and political marriage she enjoyed with the US president. Ideological soulmates, they shared a zealous faith in the transformative Thatcher's determination to reclaim the Falkland Islands following the 1982 invasion galvanised her premiership and swept her to re-election on a wave of patriotism. Argentina's defeat by an overstretched British taskforce operating power of the free market, a deep suspicion of the state and a common enemy in Soviet thousands of kilometres from home in the South Atlantic was seen as a humiliation for the country's authoritarian military rulers, led by General Leopoldo Galtieri (pictured), and set the country on the path to democracy. The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges described the conflict over the still disputed islands as “a fight communism, bringing the US and the UK closer than at any time since World War II and making her a darling of the American right. Their alliance was candid enough to survive differences of opinion over the Falklands War and the 1983 US invasion of the Commonwealth island of Grenada. between two bald men over a comb." The miners Mikhail Gorbachev Dubbed “the enemy within" by Thatcher, the miners, rallied by Arthur Scargill (pictured), a charismatic union leader, offered the most concerted resistance to Despite her deep antipathy towards the Soviet Union, Thatcher famously said after meeting the future Soviet leader in London in 1984: "I like Mr Gorbachev. her policies and the sternest test of her efforts to break the power of the trade unions. The 1984-85 strike over pit closures saw the government employ brutal police tactics in pitched battles with picketing miners, union assets' seized and the miners' leadership infiltrated by security forces. It devastated communities in northern England and Wales, sending unemployment soaring and reducing families to poverty, and left British society deeply fractured. He is a man we can do business with." As the pair had exchanged barbed remarks about their ideological differences, Gorbachev had broken the ice by telling Thatcher that he had not been sent by the Politburo to convert her to Communism. Their relationship even became friendly as Gorbachev pursued the reformist policies that would lead to revolutions in eastern Europe, the demise of the USSR and the end of the Cold War. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) The City Thatcher narrowly escaped assassination in 1984 when an IRA bomber blew up the Brighton hotel where she was staying for the Conservative Party conference, killing five people. Her government took a hardline stance against the violent Republican campaign for a united Ireland, allowing Bobby Sands (pictured) and nine other hunger strikers to die rather than recognising their demands to be treated as political prisoners. Her period in office saw an increase in unrest in Northern Thatcher slashed through financial red tape, bringing a Wall Street-style investment banking culture to the City and transforming London into a thrusting capital of hypercapitalism in a blaze of deregulation known as the "Big Bang." A reduction in the top rate of tax from 83 per cent to 40 per cent hardly did her credentials any harm with the champagne- swigging young traders dubbed "yuppies" who came to epitomise the "get rich quick" era. The speculative boom also pulled in many ordinary Britons as state-owned utilities were sold off. The economy rollercoastered through recession in the late 1980s, but critics say the origins of the Ireland and IRA attacks on mainland Britain, and controversial military operations such as the killing of three unarmed IRA members in Gibraltar. 2008 financial crash can be traced here. Football Homeowners Thatcher had little empathy for the national game in an era when hooliganism was at its height and many stadiums were decrepit safety hazards. She tried to bring in identity cards for supporters in the aftermath of rioting by Liverpool fans at the 1985 European Cup final in Brussels that led to the deaths of 39 Juventus supporters. Meanwhile the full extent of police culpability in the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster, when 96 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death, was only admitted in 2012. Football organisations and supporters have rejected suggestions they should observe minute's silences in Thatcher's honour. Thatcher's "right-to-buy" scheme, which allowed millions of social housing tenants to buy their homes at discounted prices, was among the most popular of her policies with low-income Britons, transforming the country in the process into a society obsessed with house prices and home improvements. Many transformed paper wealth into small fortunes as the property market boomed, but recession brought repossessions and stranded many in negative equity. Critics say the selloff sowed the seeds of the UK's current housing crisis, with lengthy waiting lists for inadequate stocks of social housing. Europe Augusto Pinochet Thatcher refused to condemn the former Thatcher was deeply suspicious of closer political integration, calling the European Union “the greatest folly of the modern era" and her relationships with fellow leaders were frosty at best. French President Francois Mitterand described her as having “the eyes of Caligula and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe," while former West German chancellor Helmut Kohl (pictured) said her antagonism had soured Britain's relations with its continental neighbours to this day. In the words of Nigel Lawson, her finance minister, Thatcher had a Chilean military leader for human rights abuses committed under his 1973-1990 dictatorship, even taking tea with Pinochet when he was under house arrest in London in 1999 amid Spanish efforts to extradite him to face trial in Madrid. Thatcher credited Pinochet with saving his country from communist takeover and creating the conditions for the return to democracy. She was also grateful to Pinochet for Chilean cooperation during the Falklands War. "The British people still believe in loyalty to their friends," she said in 1999. "pathological hostility to Germany" and fiercely opposed reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Communism Tony Blair Thatcher owed her "Iron Lady" mantle to a Soviet newspaper that coined the phrase in recognition of her implacable hostility to Marxist ideology and her belief that Moscow was "bent on world domination." Once asked what she regarded to be her greatest achievement, Thatcher is said to have replied "New Labour," the right- leaning reinvention of the Labour Party under Blair that sought to reconcile the once-socialist party with free market principles and seemed to accept that the social and economic consequences of Thatcherism could not be reversed. Recognising a fellow Cold War warrior in US President Ronald Reagan, she allowed US nuclear missiles to be based on British soil, raising the stakes in an arms race that would eventually bring the USSR to its knees. An iconic image shows a headscarf-wearing Thatcher sitting behind the turret of a tank during military exercises in West Germany in 1986. "I always thought my job was to build on some of the things she had done rather than reverse them," Blair said last week. "Many of the things she said, even though they pained people like me on the left... had a certain creditability." Musicians and comedians Rupert Murdoch Thatcher became a hate figure for left- wing musicians, comics and cartoonists, fuelling the Red Wedge musical protest movement and a highly politicised alternative comedy scene. She was The media tycoon was a key ally to Thatcher in her battle to break the power of the trade unions, and his newspapers were among the loudest cheerleaders for her government's policies. Murdoch faced down one of the bitterest industrial mercilessly parodied in latex puppet form as a swivel-eyed bully by the Spitting Image satiricalTV show, which drew massive audiences throughout the 1980s, and inspired songs such as Morrissey's “Margaret on the Guillotine."The former Smiths singer subsequently said of her: "Thatcher was a terror without an atom disputes of the 1980s when print workers went on strike over job losses and plans to shift operations out of central London. Papers released last year revealed that Murdoch held secret talks with Thatcher prior to his acquisition of the Times in 1981. In an op-ed in that paper last week, Murdoch hailed her as "The woman who of humanity." gave us back our backbone." School children Saudi Arabia Thatcher was personally involved in negotiating the al Yamamah arms deal, the biggest involving a British company which is said to have earned BAE Systems more than $60bn in revenue in return for Long before she became prime minister, Thatcher had already been cast as a pantomime hate figure by the left for abolishing free milk for school children as part of cost-saving measures while serving as education secretary. “Margaret Thatcher, milk snatcher," went the song in playgrounds, a chant that would echo for the rest of her political career. Some revellers at impromptu street parties marking her death last week drank milk in celebration. supplying fighter jets to the Saudis. Allegations of corruption swirled around the deal, resulting in the company paying out $440m in fines, but an investigation by the UK's Serious Fraud Office was dropped amid government fears it could damage Saudi relations. "I am a great admirer of Saudi Arabia,"Thatcher said in 1993 after leaving office. "I have no intention of meddling in that country's internal affairs." Nelson Mandela Polish shipyard workers Thatcher was a villain in the eyes of most Denouncing the Apartheid-fighting African National Congress as a “typical terrorist organisation,"Thatcher refused to back sanctions against the racist state, allowing British companies to continue to operate in the country. Some members of her Conservative Party even called for Mandela to be executed, though current leader David Cameron apologised for the party's past mistakes on a visit to South Africa in 2006. But some supporters say her policy of "constructive engagement" with white-minority rule paved the way for Mandela's release and the transition to British trade unionists and industrial labourers, but to Lech Walesa (pictured) and the shipyard workers of the Solidarity movement in the early 1980s she stood for freedom and democracy even as Poland's communist leaders attempted to quash them under martial law. Visiting Gdansk in 1988, where she was greeted by cheering crowds, Thatcher said: "I knew that I had to come and feel the spirit of Poland for myself." Paying tribute to Thatcher, Walesa said she had "contributed to the demise of communism in Poland democracy. and Central Europe." ALJAZEERA BY NO ND

The Thatcher divide

shared by b_willers on Apr 17
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As Britain prepares to bury the former prime minister, Al Jazeera looks at her foes and allies.


Al Jazeera



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