Margaret Thatcher’s divided legacy

Baroness Margaret Thatcher has died
Baroness Margaret Thatcher has died

TRIBUTES have flooded in from around the globe for former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher following her death yesterday aged 87.

But in East Durham, many figureheads struggled to find any sympathy for the woman known as The Iron Lady and insisted they could never forgive her for the part she played in the decimation of the area’s mining heritage in the mid-1980s.

The Queen was said to be “sad” at news of her death and Prime Minister David Cameron praised her as a “great leader” and a “great Briton”.

The man who was with the former prime minister during her famed “walk in the wilderness” on Teesside in 1987, described her as “great and sincere”.

Sir Ron Norman met the former prime minister several times when she established the Teesside Development Corporation in 1987.

As chairman, he was with her on a visit to Stockton-on-Tees in September 1987, where she posed for pictures on derelict land awaiting development. It is now home to homes, business and a Durham University campus.

Sir Ron, from, Hartlepool, said: “There’s great sadness today with the announcement of her death. I found her a very sincere and pleasant person. Putting politics to one side, I remember we entertained her for lunch during one of her visits to Teesside and two days later I got a handwritten letter thanking me. I still have it today and treasure it.

“She put a lot of money into the North-East. She understood about the region’s industrial decline and with that money we redeveloped Hartlepool and Stockton. These places would be very different today without that money. People will have their own political views, but I just remember her as a great person.”

Councillor Ray Wells, the town’s Conservative group leader, said: “I am deeply saddened at the passing of Baroness Thatcher.

“Despite the negative comments that have been bandied around the press in some quarters there are literally hundreds of thousands of people in our great country who would not be homeowners, or would not have got on the property ladder, without her forward thinking and aspirations for the people of Britain.”

Easington MP Grahame Morris said: “Baroness Thatcher evokes strong emotions and I would not want to make political capital out of the death of an elderly lady,

“But politically we are still living with the legacy of the Thatcher decade in power.

“That was an era which saw huge job losses in our traditional heavy industries – coal, steel, shipbuilding, manufacturing and the rest.

“It was an era which rolled back workplace rights and encouraged the ‘greed is good’ yuppie culture which led to the obscene banking and city bonuses culture which ultimately took our economy to the brink of collapse.

“Under her watch the North-East became an economic and industrial wasteland from which it has never fully recovered.”

Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond said: “I think it is fair to say she was not the most revered of people in the North-East because some of the decisions she took and some of her policies denigrated big sections of industry in this area.”

But he added: “As far as being a strong Prime Minister who stood up for what she believed in whether it was right or wrong, she was probably one of the strongest, and certainly Britain’s most well-known.

“I’m sure many will remember her for that as well.”

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright said he admired Baroness Thatcher’s leadership qualities, particularly her role in the Falklands War and said: “Today is a day for sadness.

“She was the first woman Prime Minister and longest serving in modern history, and she will be remembered for that and much more as well.”

But Mr Wright added: “I have to say I came into politics because I disagreed fundamentally with her social and economic policies. I think the impact on our communities and industries is something we are still dealing with today.”

Dave Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, said: “This woman did more damage to the coalfield in the North-East of England than what Hitler did during the Second World War.

“She destroyed our communities, she destroyed our mines, she destroyed the futures of our children.

As tributes poured in to the former premier, it was announced that she will receive a ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul’s Cathedral. Downing Street gave details of the event after the Tory former prime minister died on Monday morning.

After 11 years in office following coming to power in 1979, even critics admitted that she changed the face of the country.