ImageI can’t think of many people who have polarised public opinion in the UK in my lifetime quite as much as the late Lady Margaret Thatcher, who it has been announced died today of a stroke at the age of 87.

She was, lest we forget, the first ever female Prime Minister of the UK, reaching power as relatively early in history as 1979. As a strong supporter of women striving for and ultimately achieving an equal footing with men in the world’s leadership positions, I have to respect the strength, commitment, talent, resilience and many other attributes that she must have had in spades in order to secure the post back in the 1970s, and retain it all the way through three terms to the 1990s. What a fantastic advertisement to young women that they can achieve whatever they set out to.

Her time in power spread from when I was a mere babe in arms to when I was just starting secondary school so I have very little first-hand understanding of the actions she took whilst Prime Minister. However, like many people of my age, I was aware of the effect that she had on my school days. Many of my peers talk primarily of her decision to remove free school milk, and whilst I love the white stuff as much as the next person, for me, it was her Government’s introduction of the offensive, oppressive, discriminatory and (in my opinion) utterly ridiculous Section 28 that had the biggest, and most negative, effect on my school days.

For those who are unfamiliar, Section 28 was an amendment to the Local Government Act 1988 that stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. This rule was in place until as recently as 2003 (2000 in Scotland) and utterly coloured my experience of school, coming out, and coming out at school, which I did in 1997.

I know that for many people, Margaret Thatcher carried out far worse acts: the closing of the mines, the introduction of poll tax, privatisation of state owned services, reduction of the power of trade unions, her handling of affairs in Northern Ireland and the sinking of the General Belgrano in the Falklands war. However, most of these (and more) have had significant coverage in the news reporting of Mrs Thatcher’s death and on social media. Meanwhile, Section 28 has (at the time of writing) received around just 40 hashtag mentions on Twitter in relation to Mrs Thatcher. And to make it worse, a number of those are either asking what it is or exposing a misunderstanding of it.

I also know that for many other people, Margaret Thatcher was a fantastic ambassador for our country and made many changes for the better, including improving its economic standing, reducing the amount of tax on income, improving private individuals’ ability to own their own homes, ending the Cold War, liberating the Falklands Islands, to name just a few.

Doing my very best to take my personal views (in particular with regards to Section 28) out of the equation and putting it as simply as possible, it seems to me that Margaret Thatcher – in common, I’d suggest, with every other person who has ever lived – did some good things, and did some bad things.

What has really struck me in the immediate aftermath of her death is that in the reporting and social media discussions, there seem to only be people who “love” her and people who “hate” her. I’m sure that, if they were really honest with themselves, not everyone who “loves” her agreed with every single act she ever carried out, and not everyone who “hates” her disagreed with every single act. It seems to me that, for the most part, people focus on the one or two key acts that struck a chord with them most and as a result painted her as either a “bad” person or a “good” person.

For example, “she was instrumental in improving the economy of the UK and ending the Cold War” and therefore is a “good” person, or “she stole my free milk and introduced Section 28” and therefore is a “bad” person. Of course, the reality is far more complex than this. For example, were you aware that, before her political career, she helped to invent soft-serve ice cream? In my view, none of us – Margaret Thatcher included – are entirely good or entirely bad.

She has left behind an enormously powerful legacy, with both positive and negative connotations all bundled up within it. Life is not simple, straightforward and black and white. What almost nobody disputes is that she was a hard-working, committed, passionate woman and an immensely powerful leader. What we should also not forget is that she was a mother who leaves a family behind.

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