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Throw her up and catch her

Margaret Thatcher with the Shah of Iran

I continue to find Margaret Thatcher fascinating for her presentation, intelligence and remarkable achievements.

But on the sixth anniversary of Thatcher's death, a frank obituary would mark her as one of the biggest arms dealers of her time.

Her wares were sold to a panoply of repressive dictatorships she gladly dealt with (as long as they weren't communists). She arranged export credits so that 1980s-era taxpayers subsidised weapons purchases made by the bloodthirsty Suharto regime in Indonesia, which were used the mass murder of over a million people.

It runs in the family too. Just how did Mark Thatcher make £12m at 31 years old on an arms deal to Saudi Arabia? Mum's great, isn't she? And just what was that coup plot in Equatorial Guinea in 2005 all about? He paid $500,000 in a plea bargain, so we may never know.

It should tell you much that she is mourned by luminaries such as Henry Kissinger - a textbook war criminal - and doubtless would have been by Augusto Pinochet were he around. The Chilean dictator used to send her flowers on her birthday and visited on his frequent visits to London. She was doubtlessly grateful for his support during the Falklands War and he for the opportunity to test innovative cluster-bombing technology at RAF military facilities in England.

Thatcher didn't end the Cold War. The failures of central planning and Second Cold War military build-up took care of that. Nor did she bring peace to Ireland; Margaret Thatcher's uncompromising nationalist rhetoric was a gift to the IRA, who could not have dreamed up a more cartoonish figure of hate. She did not save Britain despite the hyperbole. Her institutional reforms in respect of housing for example were good for investors: today's crisis can be traced back in large to her neoliberal ideology. Even her role in promoting that odious free-market ideology at a global level was overstated. She may have occupied the same stage as Deng Xiaoping but she was not his equal, as the arc of history will attest.

What Thatcher's legacy represents is how the state can be instrumentalised to serve and legitimise the heaping up of wealth by elites. For the North, she personifies how London centralism has stymied opportunities for the rest of the UK. We should not mourn her but see the parallels with today’s cadre of Etonian twits, the tactics, the ugly motives dressed up as moral crusade and ask ourselves: who are these people working for?


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