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In the wake of Margaret Thatcher’s death, euphoria appears to be sweeping over the nation, with calls to rename the August Bank Holiday ‘Margaret Thatcher Day’ and to replace the five pound note’s Elizabeth Fry with Maggie.
However, this is not as wide-spread a demand as it would appear to be; the demand is being exemplified by the media and the governing Tory party. In a bid to continue the celebration of the late Prime Minister, Tories are aiming to present the controversial leader on an everyday basis. But surely there are better and more politically neutral people who can take these places, if they do indeed need taking?
Margaret Thatcher’s death in April provided a fresh chance on the debate on her legacy – whichever side of the spectrum you swing, it is difficult to deny that she changed the scene of the UK forever – but the celebrations of this legacy have evolved into an unprecedented demand for everlasting jubilation. Tory MP for Wellingborough, Peter Bone, wants the country to celebrate the late August Bank Holiday as Margaret Thatcher day as early as next year, with the second reading of the Private Member’s Bill (aptly named ‘Margaret Thatcher Day Bill’) taking place today. At present, there are no days specially named after any politicians, let alone Prime Ministers, so it seems strange to allow the first one to be named after someone so controversial, who continues to provoke such strong debate nearly 35 years since she first took power. After all, surely there have been better candidates, solely within the Prime Minister category, for such an honour. Take, for example, Clement Attlee, the mid-20th century Labour Prime Minister who oversaw the creation of the NHS and the world’s most extensive welfare state. This man’s work improved (and continues to do so) the life of millions, significant reducing the deaths of diphtheria, pneumonia and tuberculosis within the working class very quickly, as well as providing well-paid work to consultants. Whatever your views on the current NHS, this legacy continues to live on and improve the lives of millions, and is undeniably a major benefit to the UK.
Furthermore, although not a direct decision of the Palace of Westminster but the Bank of England, there is a view to remove Elizabeth Fry from the five pound note and replace her with the Conservative Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. However, as the only female (excepting Her Majesty) remaining on UK currency, there is a large campaign to increase the number of women remembered on our banknotes. Again, we are presented with the proposals to replace Elizabeth Fry with dear old Maggie. There are most certainly other women we can be proud of and owe more of today’s rights and luxuries too. We have Florence Nightingale, the social reformer and founder of modern nursing, Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the suffragette movement, and Emily Davison, the suffragette who died fighting for women’s rights to vote, who are all deserving of a celebration of their contributions to Britain’s rights and freedoms. They draw respect and inspire many across the political spectrum and across the world that Thatcher does not share; they lived their lives to further the women’s cause in a way that Thatcher denounced; and, they formed a pillar of society alike to those that Thatcher wished to destroy.
Despite her undeniable changes to the country, Thatcher is far less deserving of the privileges currently being discussed to be given posthumously than others who lived before her. As a controversial character, she inspires both joy and hatred in citizens across the country and, indeed, world. There are most definitely other more unifying and celebratory historical figures who are worthy of the luxuries that are being granted to our former Prime Minister, whom we should ensure we consider.
I’m a little late to the mark, but the death of Margaret Thatcher troubled me. As a “lefty”, I was massively against the entirety of her neoliberal and conservative policies and I look back on the impact of the era as destructive and causing huge inequalities.