Thatcher still polarising opinion across St Helens

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher arriving at 10 Downing Street in London after winning the general election.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher arriving at 10 Downing Street in London after winning the general election.

FORMER Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher continues to polarise opinion in St Helens - even after her death at the age of 87 this week (writes Chris Amery).

Ex-miner Gary Conley, who was instrumental in the creation of the Dream statue at Sutton Manor, said he would never forgive her following the pit closures of the 1980s, which affected many of the pits in St Helens.

He said: “I think the death of Margaret Thatcher brings closure to an era that was pivotal to mining in St Helens. But celebrating her death, personally, I find distasteful.

“Margaret Thatcher polarised opinion and for better or worse, she made the way we live today. I personally cannot forgive her for her policies on pit closures - where economics overrode humanity, health and safety and national heritage.

“In 1984 we had more than 90 deep mine pits employing 160,000 men in the UK. We now have three employing less than 2,000. Communities, especially Sutton Manor, were decimated and still, to this day, the repercussions can be felt.”

Dave Watts, the MP for St Helens North, echoed Mr Conley’s sentiments. He said: “I’m sure Mrs Thatcher will be sadly missed by her family. She was a politician who held strong views and convictions, however I will personally remember her as a politician who was divisive and created a dog eat dog society in which the strong prospered and the weak went to the wall.

“Mrs Thatcher’s policies had a devastating impact on St Helens and many people lost their jobs, their homes and were left with little hope for the future.”

But local Tory leader David Monk, who met Baroness Thatcher several times, spoke of her hidden “warmth”.

He said: “Baroness Thatcher was our first female Prime Minister and the most famous since Churchill. She was radical and reforming.

“She was not widely loved but was admired even by those who disagreed with her. The respectful and generous tributes paid by Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and many others are testament to this. Her image was as a confident, dominant, unwavering woman but I was always impressed by her warmth.”

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