Nihil nisi bonum ...

As a teenager I had as strong a reason to be angry with the 1974-79 Labour government as the vast majority of those who didn't like Mrs Thatcher had to feel the same emotion about hers. Indeed far more than most.

That Labour government both strengthened the power of the trade unions, and then, having lost control of the national finances and called in the International Monetary Fund, imposed cuts on public spending in general and the NHS in particular far more severe than anything Mrs Thatcher ever did.

Where Margaret Thatcher after 1981, John Major and David Cameron all protected NHS spending in real terms, Labour in the late seventies cut NHS spending and those of many other departments in cash terms at a time of 10% plus inflation

The result of these two policies was the "Winter of discontent" of strikes in which the dead were left unburied, rubbish piled in the streets, and NHS porters and cleaners blocked patients from receiving medical attention. One union leader said that "If someone dies, so be it."

And my father was one of the people he was talking about. One of those whose lives those trade unionists quite deliberately put at risk as a bargaining tactic.

He was rung up on the morning he was due to go into Guy's Hospital for a heart operation without which doctors considered that his life was in danger, and told that shop stewards had vetoed his operation. Trade unionists without medical qualifications representing hospital support staff had decided that they knew better than doctors whether this surgery was an emergency or not.

My father lived a further 21 years, thanks to the skill of the NHS doctors and nurses when they were finally allowed to treat him, and no thanks to the Labour government whose inexcusable incompetence and mismanagement of the public finances, the NHS, and industrial relations nearly killed him.

That is the context in which, as a teenager, I drafted a letter highly critical of one of a cabinet minister in that government which I originally intended to send to the papers when he died. A letter not dissimilar in spirit from some of the tweets, letters and quotes which have been appearing over the past few days.

But when that former minister did eventually die, I didn't send the letter. By that time I had had the opportunity to grow up a bit.

I still believe as passionately that the 1974-79 Labour government was an unmitigated disaster as Neil Kinnock believes the same thing about Mrs Thatcher's government. But I had realised that I don't want to be the sort of person who is so full of anger and hate that they will celebrate the death of any other human being or think the time of their death is an appropriate moment to criticise them or make a "clever" joke about it.

And the following day I was very glad that I never sent that letter, because The Times published instead a letter from a prominent figure who had been a strong opponent of the deceased former minister concerned. But who had the strength to remember his life of public service rather than his faults. I realised at that moment that if I had sent the letter I drafted as a teenager, I would have felt two inches tall.

And that's why, although I had as good an excuse to celebrate or post nasty things when former ministers in the Wilson and Callaghan governments died as anyone had to do something similar this week, I refrained. If I outlive Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, then when they die I will either find a few positive words about their lives which I can say with sincerity, or I will keep silence.

I rather sympathise with John O'Farrell, who wrote yesterday "Person I once hated more than any other has died. Now I'm just sad so much hatred was stirred up. Making a donation" (to charity in her name).


Jim said…
I really can not understand why some people are finding this unfortunate event a cause for celebration. I personally find that rather sickening, it speaks far more about the nature of those people than it ever will about the policy's Margaret endorsed in life.

I can understand people protesting in peaceful marches and things about current government "cuts". I of course do not agree with them, but I can see why they are doing it. They are protesting about current government decisions, in the hope the government may amend them.

I can not understand how celebrating the death of any person in anyway helps a cause. I have a very high disregard for a certain Mr Brown, but I would not see his death as a good thing. Would see it as an unfortunate turn of events really.

Think you have adopted the right policy here Chris, if you have nothing good to say about the recently deceased, then treat it with indifference, and say nothing.

Does not really matter if you liked her in the 80's or absolutely loathed her. Anyone out on the streets celebrating the death of a frail old woman suffering from Alzheimer's, needs to take a good look at themselves in a mirror.
Anonymous said…
So the sycophantic praise is welcomed, but any justified alternative perspective isn’t?
Chris Whiteside said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Whiteside said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Whiteside said…
Three years ago, when a public servant here in Copeland had died, an anonymous individual posted an "alternative perspective" which I've no doubt he thought was justified on the Obit piece which I had written as a tribute to the deceased.

Had that item been put up on a post during the lifetime of the individual concerned, or sometime after his death and in a less sensitive context, it would probably not have caused offence.

But posting what was seen as personal criticism on an obituary thread for someone who had just died, leaving a widow and three children, did cause significant offence to several friends and family members of the deceased.

One of the family members wrote and asked me to look at how I treated comments on my blog: I thought he had made a reasonable point and adopted the policy, which I have had ever since, of not allowing anyone to post negative comments about the person who has died on obit threads.

This policy is not unique to Mrs Thatcher, it would apply to anyone whose death I thought it appropriate to record on this blog.

And as I explained in the post, I won't be using this blog to take cheap shots at any of my opponents who have just died, either.

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