17 April 2013

As Margaret Thatcher's Funeral Takes Place, People Who Knew Her - Or Of Her - Tell Us What Britain's First Female Prime Minister Meant To Them

This morning, more than 2300 guests will pay their respects at the ceremonial service for former prime minister, Baroness Thatcher, at St Paul's. Admired by some and detested by others Margaret Thatcher, who died at The Ritz last Monday at the age of 87, had a huge impact on everyone who met her, not to mention the millions of us who lived under her power in the Eighties. Here, Grazia collates some very differing memories…

Steve Nallon, The Impersonator
'They thought 'How can a 22-year-old possibly do Margaret Thatcher? But at the interview I told them to ask me questions aimed at Mrs Thatcher, and I improvised her answers. They loved the idea of a man doing her voice and I got the job on the spot. We captured her dominance and whole attitude in [these] lines: She orders a steak, the waiter asks: “What about the vegetables?” Surveying the room, she replies imperiously: “They’ll have the same.”'
Steve voiced Margaret Thatcher on Spitting Image

Damian Barr, The Child Of Thatcher
'Thatcher changed Britain for better and for worse. And she changed me too. She ripped the heart out of the community I grew up in in Scotland, closing the steelworks and putting my Dad and thousands of others out of work. She cut the benefits my Mum was forced on to when she became gravely ill. Yet she also taught me that I could be my own person--a self-made man with a university degree. She showed me you could survive against all the odds. I did. And she did too.'
Damian’s book about Thatcher, Maggie and Me, is published at the end of the month by Bloomsbury

Louise Mensch, The Female MP
'My earliest political memory is aged 8. I asked my mother if men were allowed to be prime minister because I grew up seeing this woman running the country. It seemed like a very female dominated era. Margaret Thatcher was never defeated in a general election, the public liked her, they voted for her again and again. It was only her own party who threw her out, never the voters.'

Lawrence Gilbert, The Guard
'Thatcher wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but she was very pro-police. During the time I guarded her door, she was always very pleasant. She still took the time to say hello or good morning. Many politicians wouldn’t give you the time of day. She was the same at a cocktail party she held following the Poll Tax Riot. I went as a representative of the police and she gave equal time to all of us. I wouldn’t say I was pro all of her policies, and I am biased since I was in the police, but as far as my experience goes with Maggie, I can’t grumble. Lawrence guarded Thatcher’s Downing Street residence and her personal address while she was in office 1983-5.

Karen Brady, The Miner’s Daughter
'When I think of Thatcher, I see my father’s face lined with anxiety, as he left our home in the Scottish town of Kirkcaldy for another day on the picket line. I was 15. My father went on strike for a year. Money was tight, and my mother was reduced to accepting food vouchers. I was too embarrassed to accept the free school meals given to striking miner’s children, already ostracised by classmates whose families didn’t support the strikes. My father and his colleagues resorted to stealing potatoes to feed their families. At night I heard my parents argue about whether he should become a ‘scab’ and return to work. I knew he was battling his guilt. I was too young to understand much about the politics devastating my community but I knew Thatcher was to blame. She was an uncaring, uncompromising Prime Minister with no interest in the terrible hardship she caused and lives she destroyed.'
Karen’s father, a miner, went on strike in 1984 in protest at the Conservative government’s plans to close pits



Eleanor Mills, Sunday times columnist
'I was eight when Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister; it meant that for my formative years both the top jobs in the UK - Queen and Prime Minister - were held by women. That gave me as a young girl a great sense of agency. I always knew I would have a career and assumed that all the other women I knew would too. As I've got older I've been bemused to discover that the world isn't as open to talented women as it should be; just published figures show that only 8% of Executive Directors of FTSE 100 companies are women. Thirty five years since Thatcher took power and the world is still run by pale males. Perhaps Thatcher's death will revive a bit of that can-do spirit.'

Steve Whyles, The Miner Who Crossed The Picket Line
'The memories will haunt me for the rest of my days. I can remember when the bus first pulled up. The drivers got crash helmets on. If it hadn’t been for other people being on the bus helping you through it, I’d never have done it I don’t think. I saw my dad on the picket line, along with friends and people I’d worked with. That’s the divide it caused, you either went with the mob rule, or stuck firm to what you believed in. I went up to the house to see him before I went back. But all I could get out of him was that you don’t cross picket lines. We never spoke much after that. It was very bitter. All I wanted was to be able to make my own choice in peace. Obviously that wasn’t the case. There has to be a cost and the cost to me was a family breakup, which, by and large, is still prevalent today. It is the one and the only regret I’ve got.'
Steve was one of the 850 miners who used to work at Whitwell colliery, Durham. Here he is talking about how in 1984 he crossed the picket line.

Romany Blythe, The Hater
'People say you shouldn't speak ill of the dead - but it depends who the dead person is. We just don't want to whitewash what happened when she was Prime Minister.’
Romany organised ‘The Witch is Dead Party’ Facebook group

Christine Cooper, The Schoolfriend
Recalling Thatcher's response to winning a prize: 'Someone said "you are very lucky" and she replied "no, I deserved it"'.
Christine was Thatcher’s schoolfriend from Grantham



Andrew Roberts, The Historian
'I remember her commandeering a street-cleaning machine on a walkabout in Battersea. 'Women can get into corners men can't reach!' she shrieked above the roar of the motor.'

Patrick Delaney, The Removal man
'I was very privileged to have known her. I got to talk to her in the short time that I was with her in her houses and to me she was a very ordinary woman, she would have time to have a conversation with people.
'She was friendly with all the workers, she always have tea, biscuits and coffee and after the first time I met her she never forgot my name, and I found that quite amazing. She had a great memory for names. She'd say: "Don't call me Mrs Thatcher, call me Margaret".'
Patrick helped Margaret Thatcher leave Downing Street

Sophie Wilkinson, The Young Writer
'People my age are celebrating Margaret Thatcher’s death, but I can’t pretend to hate her. I was only two years when she stepped down as Prime Minister, so how could I know what Thatcherism meant? I know - secondhand - she took apart the country, but I also know - also, secondhand - that the 1970s were meant to be utterly rubbish. To celebrate her death would not only insult the thousands who truly suffered under her rule and those still suffering because of the current housing crisis she laid the bricks for. But without her, I’d have not grown up during New Labour’s heyday where I was taught that people were brilliant and could do anything we set our minds to.'

Conor Burns, The Confidante
'We would have a couple of what she called 'proper ones' — stiff gins — or a bottle of wine. If she didn't want to talk, I would give her a magazine or read a newspaper. If she did, I would tell stories, read her poetry. She adored Kipling. One of her favourite poems from childhood was The Owl and the Pussycat. She would recite the words along with me. She still had a great sense of humour. "I told her about Nick Clegg's plans to abolish the House of Lords," he said. "She said, 'Well, we should abolish the Liberal Democrats'. She was still capable of delivering the odd devastating one-liner.'
Conor was a Tory MP, would visit her at The Ritz every week

Alan Davies, The Pub Landlord
'One thing I will say about Thatcher is that she never forgot a name. I was just a barman and she always remembered who I was. She was always very kind, she knew what to do, she had charisma. Most of the Finchley population was in awe of her. Obviously, towards the end she did get things wrong but love her politics or not, she was part of Finchley and did us proud.'
Alan is a former publican who served Thatcher more than a dozen times in Finchley.

[Sources: Telegraph, Channel 4 News, BBC, Guardian, granthamjournal.co.uk and Daily Mail]


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