Ruthless, devastating, dazzling – and kind

It’s amazing to think that even today, years after she faded from public view, Margaret Thatcher can still inspire vociferous disagreement. But even those who disagree with everything she stood for cannot deny she was a dazzling personality of breathtaking ruthlessness and courage who transformed this country. It’s hard to imagine the traditional working class ever forgiving her for the social devastation she wreaked on industrial heartlands like South Wales. But even there most people now accept that her nemesis, Arthur Scargill, shares the blame. Among the many positive achievements to be set against the negatives was labour relations legislation that allowed newspaper managements to throw off the crippling burdens imposed by print unions. Eddie Shah and Rupert Murdoch were the trail blazers, but without her the national and regional newspaper press would still be stuck in the technological Dark Ages and many titles would have died decades ago. And spare two cheers for her first astonishing achievement in politics, The Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960. It doesn’t sound very sexy, but it swept away much of the secrecy that infested local government and gave the local press the right to attend committee meetings, where many of the big decisions were made. As a rookie MP Margaret Thatcher launched the idea in her maiden speech to Parliament and pushed it through as a Private Member’s Bill. The Iron Lady was remembered locally in her constituency as a kind lady, and I can vouch for that.  As junior reporter in Finchley I was rescued by Mrs Thatcher from a Tory MP  who was hectoring me over a front page. “Oh do leave the boy alone,” she snapped at him. “It’s his editor you should be complaining to, not him.” – GARETH WEEKES, Deep South Media Ltd.