County divide over Thatcher’s legacy

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A MIXED reaction has been seen across Northumberland to the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Baroness Thatcher, who was Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, died peacefully on Monday at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke.

A ceremonial funeral will take place on Wednesday at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, following a procession from Westminster.

But there is a deep divide of opinion about Lady Thatcher’s legacy, with some saying the country’s only female Prime Minister transformed Britain from disaster to prosperity, while others believe that she destroyed communities which have never recovered.

The division has been highlighted by the county’s politicians.

Northumberland Conservative Group Leader Peter Jackson said: “I think there is no doubt that Margaret Thatcher fundamentally changed the country.

“Those of us who are old enough to remember life before Margaret Thatcher can remember a country that was significantly worse economically and it was an incredibly divided country. We can remember the piles of rubbish on the streets, the massive unemployment at the time, the three-day week and the winter of discontent.

“She had the guts to change the whole country and put us on the road to greater prosperity that we have been on for the last 20 or 30 years.

“She was also a shining example of a conviction politician who actually managed to change things. Whether you agreed with her or not, she didn’t just talk about things, she put forward ideas and implemented them, which is something of an example to a lot of people in politics at all levels at the current time.”

However, Labour Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery, a former miner, had an entirely different view.

“I’m not one of those who will be shedding any tears about the death of Margaret Thatcher,” he said.

“She was an elderly lady with a family and I respect that. However, the carnage of the damage and destruction that she carried out in the mining communities the length and breadth of this country will stay with me forever.

“I say this personally, Margaret Thatcher attacked me and attacked my family and attacked the people in my community and my friends.

“The scars of Thatcherism and all she ever stood for are still laid bare and open in the communities of Wansbeck and in all corners of this country.

“I will not be attending the recall to Parliament, I have more important things to do in the constituency.”

Liberal Democrat MP for Berwick Sir Alan Beith said: “Margaret Thatcher had qualities of steel-like determination, which meant that she got things done. The problem was that although they were sometimes necessary, they were sometimes the wrong things, and she believed that everything could best be controlled from London, which was no help to the North.

“The fact that she came from a modest background to be a strong leader of a party which was suspicious of women in leadership is a tribute to her strength of character.”