I must admit I was struggling for a topic this week. Then Margaret Thatcher died, which threw me into a quandary. I knew if I wrote about her it wouldn’t have much to do with photography; many great photos were taken of her, she was a great subject for press photographers, but I never got the opportunity to photograph her so can’t regale you with fascinating (snore) stories of the time I met Maggie.
Equally, I can’t bring myself to write about a corporate portrait session the day after such a big news event, so I find myself putting down a few, brief thoughts on Thatcher. I cannot deny, writing a political piece on my photography blog makes me nervous, but nothing else seems appropriate right now.
Ok, I never was a fan, but I won’t gloat over her death. And perhaps it would be trite to observe that she passed away at The Ritz. You may detect I’m struggling to not just “come out and say it”, so perhaps I should just say it.
The inescapable fact is she destroyed industries to an unnecessary degree. Granted, the country was a mess when she took over. I remember the power cuts, the terrible cars, and I’ll accept that British Rail was a basket case, though I was too young in 1979 to remember much about public transport, the steel industry and so on, but the headlong rush to lay waste to everything that could have given this country a sound future was frankly distasteful in its zeal, shortsighted in its goal.
Likewise, the unions were in dire need of reform, but now we’re left with very little in the way of organised help for workers finding themselves in need of a protective hand when they need it. Unfortunately, the unions were their own worst enemy and gave Thatcher the perfect excuse to have them crushed.
We could have replaced the broken, semi-Soviet economy with compassionate capitalism. This would have been achievable with patience and care, but what we’re left with 23 years after she left Downing Street is capitalism without a care, just the individual pursuit of personal wealth, resentment of success, resentment of failure, resentment of the disenfranchised and the poor.
I don’t rejoice at the passing of Margaret Thatcher because her death won’t change the route we’re on. The industries she broke can never be repaired, but maybe the next prime minister to be called genuinely visionary will be one that finds a way to nurture genuine industries and innovation (as opposed to the making of money by moving money around), make us all more understanding of each other, more genuinely compassionate and less self-absorbed… and I include myself in that criticism. There isn’t anyone in the current political class with such potential, so we’ll just have to hope hard for a future generation and spend the meantime striving to be better people despite the prevailing climate.