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Re Canada Needs To Get Its Messaging Right On India’s Farmer Protests (Dec 9): In trying to reduce the excessive role of government in the private sector, I see Narendra Modi as the Margaret Thatcher of India.
Her efforts were met with much resistance, but ultimately the British economy benefited – immeasurably. Let’s hope that clearing the cobwebs of socialism from India has an equally invigorating effect.
Adam Plackett, Toronto
Columnist Konrad Yakabuski would be correct to abhor how Margaret Thatcher’s record has been denigrated over the years, including most recently in The Crown.
My wife and I emigrated to Canada just before she came to power. We had lost patience with inept governments that resulted in, amongst many woes, never-ending strikes, rotating blackouts and a 95-per-cent peak taxation rate.
We never regretted coming to Canada, but in the late 1980s I visited Britain on business. I discovered an amazingly entrepreneurial country that I hardly recognized. Income taxes had been cut by more than half, industries privatized, monopolies eliminated and unions defanged.
The resulting dynamic economy was hard to resist, so through my employer I invested in cable franchises and my company even helped in building the Channel Tunnel. Yes it was Mrs. Thatcher that, after a hundred years of debate, got the tunnel built, too.
Her insistence on introducing local taxation, namely the “poll tax,” was sadly her undoing. But to paraphrase one wag’s remarks at the time: Her cabinet may have been all male, but she was the only one in it with balls. After Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher will always be, in my mind, Britain’s greatest prime minister.
Tom Hope, Toronto
Columnist Konrad Yakabuski lauds Margaret Thatcher’s “right to buy” policy as a means of encouraging the working class to own their own homes. My in-laws refused to take advantage of it because they knew that their council house was in a poor state of repair and would need significant (from them) investment to make it safer and more habitable. Their neighbours fell for the policy and had to incur massive debt to bring their properties up to a livable and saleable standard.
I believe it was a clever way for the government to contract out the accumulated costs of a failure to properly maintain the social housing my in-laws had lived in since the Second World War.
Penelope Hedges, Vancouver
In about 1992, I had the singular privilege to attend a business lunch at the Banff Springs Hotel where Margaret Thatcher was a speaker. It was captivating. Here’s a couple of highlights.
She described how, in 1979, she became prime minister in an environment of punishing marginal tax rates of 95 per cent. She changed that.
The Labour Party threatened her personally if she dared proceed with her agenda. She proceeded.
One important point she made was the inability of governments to say no to projects presented to them. She had “no” in her vocabulary.
The Netflix series The Crown seems an inaccurate representation of her legacy. The feminist movement should be appalled! Margaret Thatcher deserves better.
Charles Gorrie, Victoria
Margaret Thatcher perfectly embodies to me what Lord Dufferin, Canada’s governor-general from 1872 to1878, called “the vulgar xenophobia of the English middle class.”
She tried to prevent the reunification of Germany. She allowed Irish republican hunger strikers to starve in their cells rather than making concessions. What is now called the peace process in Northern Ireland did not really begin until she left office. She also refused to allow the establishment of a Scottish parliament.
Since she didn’t like any of the countries that my ancestors came from, I think I may be excused for not being an admirer of Mrs. T.
Garth Stevenson, Grimsby, Ont.
Thanks to columnist Konrad Yakabuski for putting words to how I felt after watching the Netflix portrayal of Margaret Thatcher. I recall several conservative leaders who have been considered heartless by those who want to spend other people’s money.
In 2011, our British relative showed us council houses that had been purchased by “people with agency” and extolled Mrs. Thatcher’s genius in giving the relatively poor the option to buy their homes. As he said, one can still tell which are owned.
We’ll always argue over who to blame for economic downturns and who to credit for upturns; perhaps this demonstrates once again that social well-being goes hand in hand with economic well-being.
Bill Bickle, Port Hope, Ont.
Margaret Thatcher broke wide open the sclerotic labour impasse in Britain. For low-income Britons, she made home ownership and personal equity possible by the sale of council flats at accessible prices.
Yet she also declared, “Who is society? There is no such thing.” She broke the tacit postwar understanding of the two parties in Britain that the state had an ultimate responsibility for the welfare of its citizens. Thatcherism reduced state responsibility to the minimum. It launched the individualist, self-interested mindset in many Western countries, which has culminated in the huge income disparity, inequality and social immobility we have today.
But in the 1980s, the welfare state needed reform. It was rigid, fostering dependency, and demeaning to recipients. Mrs. Thatcher’s answer was to reject the social contract on which it was based rather than reform the system.
Michael Clague, Vancouver
As someone who lived in London during Margaret Thatcher’s tenure – and was once hustled through a receiving line by her, unimportant as I was – I would say the Netflix depiction is entirely accurate, complete with rigid walk, helmet hair and her socially divisive rule. All too accurate, not to mention the strangled vowels she worked so hard on.
Columnist Konrad Yakabuski leaves out the disastrous miners’ strike, the social and economic divisions caused by austerity and the fact that even her party had enough by the end and abandoned her. I see the selling off of council houses as nothing short of disastrous for what had been a social safety net for the working class.
Anne Guthrie-Warman, Vancouver
Columnist Konrad Yakabuski seems to skirt over the unmitigated cruelty of Margaret Thatcher meted out to the less fortunate during her time in office.
As education secretary, she cut off milk benefits for poor children. Her steadfastness on the matter became a matter of pride as a “conviction politician.”
As prime minister, her government chose to leave hundreds of thousands of council flats vacant, choosing instead to house families in single rooms with a bed and a sink, in what were dubbed “welfare hotels.” I stayed at one such establishment for a fortnight back in 1987, and the despair was palpable and the suffering very real. The whittling away of the welfare state and the social safety net became a model for many of the young conservative classmates I had in university, becoming the template that they would enthusiastically follow with a smile at Queen’s Park and on Parliament Hill.
One could go on: her enthusiasm for Augusto Pinochet, the dogged resistance to sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa. But I only have a limited number of inches in a letter to the editor and will save that for another day.
Moses Wuggenig, Toronto
Letters to the Editor should be exclusive to The Globe and Mail. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. Try to keep letters to fewer than 150 words. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. To submit a letter by e-mail, click here: firstname.lastname@example.org