Thatcher, a national saviour or ‘cult of greed’ leader?

2013-04-09 11:24

Britain’s newsstands today reflected the divisive legacy of the late Margaret Thatcher as headlines branding her the nation’s saviour jostled for prominence with those calling her the architect of greed.

Right-wing titles carried effusive praise, with the Daily Telegraph calling the former Conservative prime minister, who died yesterday at age 87, a “champion of freedom for workers, nations and the world.

“It is hard to appreciate the scale of her achievements, and to acknowledge the depth of our debt to her,” said its editorial.

“What can certainly be said is that, if she had never been prime minister ... this country would undoubtedly be the poorer, and the ambit of the free world smaller. If Britain is still Great, it is because of this greatest of Britons,” it said.

When she died, Thatcher was convalescing at London’s Ritz hotel, which is owned by the Barclay family, proprietors of the Telegraph. She had had minor surgery following a stroke.

The paper went on to credit Thatcher for “wrenching Britain from the path of demoralisation”.

The high-selling Daily Mail carried the front-page headline, The Woman Who Saved Britain, calling her “mother, wife, leader, stateswoman, legend”.

The centre-right Times, which published a 16-page supplement, made the case for her often controversial leadership in its leading article, calling her “a dominant political figure, the greatest, by far, of her time”.

Much of the criticism aimed at Thatcher centred on her single-minded drive to implement economic reforms, destroying Britain’s previously powerful unions in the process.

“It’s hard to see what alternative her government had,” argued the Times.

“Every other policy had been tried and had been a miserable failure. In 1981, Mrs Thatcher’s government simply came to terms with reality.”

The Rupert Murdoch-owned title recalled the St Francis of Assisi quotes spoken by Thatcher on her ascension to the leadership, saying: “She did indeed make Britain less discordant, less doubting, more optimistic.

“Where there was despair, she brought hope.”

Popular tabloid the Sun had a 24-page tribute in which it called Thatcher a “Unique PM of great courage.”

The paper said today’s voters were “crying out” for someone of her “clarity of purpose”.

The Financial Times celebrated her as “the great reformer” who “remade modern Britain.

“She reversed the sense of national decline, and remains the figure against whom all successive British politicians should be measured. She redefined leadership,” said its editorial.

However, the business paper acknowledged that “she could appear blind to the plight of the struggling”.

Praise was in much shorter supply at the other end of the political spectrum.

The left-wing Guardian called her a “political warrior” and “an exceptionally consequential leader”.

It also called for “no dancing on her grave” but heaped scorn upon her record.

“Her legacy is of public division, private selfishness and a cult of greed, which together shackle far more of the human spirit than they ever set free,” said its editorial.

“She glorified both individualism and the nation state, but lacked much feeling for the communities and bonds that knit them together.

“She abhorred disorder, decadence and bad behaviour, but she was the empress ruler of a process of social and cultural atomism that has fostered all of them, and still does,” it added.

Left-leaning tabloid The Daily Mirror also reflected Thatcher’s polarising influence, carrying the front-page headline The Woman Who Divided a Nation.

Socialist publication Morning Star went further, calling her “the woman who tore Britain apart” and the “PM who brought the country to its knees and ruined the lives of millions”.

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