University of Birmingham Politics Society – Thatcher on Trial Event

Thatcher on Trial Event 09 November 2011
By Tom Heath, President, University of Birmingham Politics Society

The University of Birmingham Politics Society hosted a round-table debate that was intended to give former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher the ‘trial’ some believe she richly deserves. In front of a near-capacity audience in the Arts Main Lecture Theatre, guests on the panel included Professor Colin Thain and Dr. Peter Kerr from POLSIS, as well as Lottie Rowling, representing Labour, Christopher James from Conservative Future, Dave Glenwright of UKIP and Will Mièville-Hawkins, representing the Liberal Democrats. The event was chaired in judicious fashion by Dr. Bob Watt, who kindly agreed to divert attention from across the Atlantic for the evening.

The event certainly provoked some heated exchanges throughout, yet at the beginning the room appeared to be split ‘50/50’ between those who supported Thatcher and those who opposed. The first topic up for discussion was the UK Manufacturing Industry with broader thought turning to Thatcher’s economic performance in general. Described by one member of the panel as, ‘a disaster for the UK economy’, the general consensus appeared to be formed against Thatcher’s economic policy, described as ‘regressive and insidious’, particularly the way in which she not only, ‘fetishised the city’, but, ‘made an ideology out of doing so’.

Following statements and debate between members of the panel, the Chair opened up to the floor for comments and questions. There were a vast number of students willing to take part and some fantastic questions were put to the panel. One member of the audience managed to strike a chord with members of the panel by claiming that Thatcher had a lot of agency surrounding her, stating that she had the ability to, ‘change the weather of British politics’, as well as having a depp and lasting impact on the Labour Party (both New and Old).

With time running out quickly, the panel moved on to the issues surrounding the sinking of the Belgrano and the subsequent Falklands War. Members of the panel explained that in 1982, three years after Thatcher had come to power, the Conservative Party were in tatters with 3 million people unemployed, up from 1 million in 1979. It was argued that Thatcher needed a source of political capital in order to win the 1983 General Election and that the Falklands ‘conflict’ gave her the distraction she needed to win back No. 10 in ’83.

Unfortunately, by this point we had run out of time to discuss the final issue of Europe which was a great shame. This was a very wellattended event with excellent contributions from members of both the panel and the audience. I hope many of those who attended and even those who could not make the event continue to support the Politics Society in its future activities which will include a similar Blair on Trial event at the beginning of Term Two.

Special thanks on behalf of the Politics Society to Hannah Graham (POLSOC Political Officer) who was instrumental in organising the event and to all our guests, Professor Colin Thain, Dr. Peter Kerr, Dr. Bob Watt, Lottie Rowling, Christopher James, Will Mièville-Hawkins and Dave Glenwright. Finally - thanks to all those who attended and contributed to a very successful evening.