The interesting David Williamson wrote a piece about Margaret Thatcher's legacy which was published in Thursday's Western Mail. I know its two days late, but I want to chip in my 'two pennyworth'. Perhaps unusually for a Conservative politician, I don't think I've ever invoked the name of Mrs Thatcher gratuitously, either to praise or condemn. But I do consider her to have been the best Prime Minister of the United Kingdom within my memory - particularly during the early years of her premiership. It seemed to me that she sought office to make a difference, rather than for its own sake. And in general, I approved of the difference she made. Its interesting that both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have wanted to associate themselves with her during their stays at No 10, Downing St..
It was the Thatcher Government that dragged industrial relations and the British economy back from the brink of chaos in the early 80s. There was a stand off with militant trade unions that the Government simply had to win. She was fortunate that the powerful coal mining union was led by a vain and foolish man named Arthur Scargill, who was sustained by a loyalty that he did not deserve. It was truly a case of lions led to defeat by a donkey. The legacy of this war still marks political opinion in the valleys of Wales. I sometimes try to imagine how much of the economic base of the coalfields would have been saved if the miners had been led by a man with the vision and skill of Tyrone Sullivan, who led the Tower buy-out and has always been a genuine Welsh hero to me.
The Thatcher Government also displayed great courage in international politics - and much of this was down to Mrs Thatcher's determined personality. History will probably record that it was Mrs Thatcher who put the necessary steel into George Bush to emancipate Kuwait following the Iraqi invasion. And I suspect very few British politicians would have had the b**** to take on Galtieri to expel his occupancy of the Falkland Islands. She helped bring order on both the national and international plane.
But her greatest achievement was to roll back the state through measures such as the privatization of utilities and the sale of council houses. There are still some who believe that nationalisation of business is sensible (Northern Rock being a current example) , that the state should act as social landlord to the population, and that there is no room for independent alternatives or involvement in the delivery of our public services. But thankfully not many.
I did not agree with all that Thatcher Government's did. I was Chair of a Welsh Local Authority when the Community Charge (usually referred to as the Poll Tax) was introduced - and I accepted our Treasurer's opinion at the time that it was unworkable. And I thought the uncompromising rhetoric during the latter part of her premiership portrayed us as being much more uncaring and divisive than we need have been. But I still think she stands head and shoulders above anyone else who has held the office of Prime Minister since the war. She set out to make a difference, and she succeeded. And the credit balance far outweighs the debit side.