Mixed reaction as the upper Calder valley reflects on Thatcher’s legacy

Margaret Thatcher in Todmorden, February 10, 1978, with Todmorden Councillor Harry Tottell pictured left
Margaret Thatcher in Todmorden, February 10, 1978, with Todmorden Councillor Harry Tottell pictured left

Politicians in the upper Calder Valley have been sharing their memories of Margaret Thatcher following the death of the former British Prime Minister on Monday.

Baroness Thatcher, the country’s first female Prime Minister, passed away aged 87 after suffering a stroke.

Sir Bernard Ingham, Baroness Thatcher’s former press secretary, said: “I think that the country has lost its outstanding Prime Minister of the 20th century.

“She was an outstanding woman and an outstanding Prime Minister.”

Conservatives in Calderdale have paid tribute to Baroness Thatcher.

Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker said: “She was a character and one of Britain’s most famous Prime Ministers.”

Mayor of Calderdale John Hardy, who met the former Prime Minister several times at party conferences, said he always found her to be a caring woman.

“I met her in 1979 and later at party conferences. She was a very nice lady to deal with,” he said.

“Whenever there was a tragedy in the country, during her time in office, she was always there in person as soon as possible.

“She led from the front.

“She was the one who broke the mould for women.

“She showed that in a man’s world a woman was just as capable.

“So many women managing businesses today wouldn’t be doing that now if it wasn’t for Baroness Thatcher.”

Coun Hardy said the former Prime Minister turned the country around when she came to power in 1979.

“The decision to go to the Falklands was a courageous one and privatisation has led to lower bills pro rata for home owners,” he said.

“Overall, the majority of things she undertook were good for this country.

“She really was a great Briton.”

Andrew Tagg, chairman of the Calderdale Conservative Association, said: “The passing of Baroness Thatcher is greeted with great sadness.

“She was probably the greatest Prime Minister of the post-war era.

“On behalf of the association I would like to offer condolences to the family.

“She was a great leader and a great Prime Minister.”

But members of other political parties have mixed views on Thatcher’s legacy.

Coun Janet Battye, deputy leader of Calderdale Council and a Liberal Democrat Calder ward councillor, said: “I have very mixed views and memories of the Thatcher years.

“I’m not sure what she did to help women get into positions of power except to show that it can be done – and that’s still a problem now with low numbers of women MPs and directors of companies.

“My children were young during the 80s and I remember my son being worried that the high rates of unemployment would mean that he wouldn’t be able to get a job.

“Around 1990 I was doing my management course, studying local government – looking at the way that she was ‘modernising’ public services with the introduction of commissioning services, rather than councils providing them directly.

“On the big picture, the 1970s were very difficult and she seemed to bring a more decisive style of leadership which many people liked.

“She did help to shape my views of the importance of local government, community and society, as well as taking notice of the views and needs of individual people.”

Labour Calder ward councillor Nader Fekri, who became politically active around the time Baroness Thatcher became Prime Minister, said she ultimately left a deeply divided and unhappy country.

“My first thoughts are for her children and extended family,” he said.

“She was probably the most divisive political figure of the 20th century.

“Her assertion that there was no such thing as society still has repercussions today.

“Her disdain for anyone who thought, acted, or was different from her was palpable - teachers, nurses, steel workers, gays, foreigners, the North.

“But it was her treatment of the miners, calling them the ‘enemy within’, that is still raw nearly 30 years on.

“She and her governments demonised the poor, the weak, the defenceless and the outsider.

“Her glorification of the individual hurt society as a whole and ruined communities up and down the country.

“Ultimately she left a deeply divided and unhappy country of the haves and the have-nots.”

Baroness Thatcher became the Conservative MP for Finchley, north London in 1959.

She won general elections in 1979, 1983 and 1987.

She retired from the Commons in 1992 after presiding over the introduction of the Poll Tax and the Falklands War.

She made several trips to Calderdale including a visit to Todmorden in 1978.

During her election campaign of 1979 she visited Elland with former Calder Valley MP Sir Donald Thompson.

She came to Halifax and opened an an extension to the Courier offices in 1983.

In 1988 she took in the sights of the newly developed Dean Clough.

In a speech outside Downing Street on Monday evening, Prime Minister David Cameron described Baroness Thatcher as “the patriot Prime Minister” and the country’s “greatest peacetime leader”.

While acknowledging that she had divided opinion, Mr Cameron said she had “taken a country that was on its knees and made it stand tall again”.

Floral tributes have been placed outside her central London home.

Her funeral is expected to he held next week.

The ceremony, with full military honours, will take place at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.