In the decades since, communities like Newstead have paid the price.
All that is left of the mine that closed here in 1987 is a graffiti-
covered pump station a few yards’ walk from a lonely train stop. No new employer on the same scale ever came to Newstead, leading to a rise in joblessness and a loss of community self-esteem. In a part of central England that has the feel of the American rust belt, some longtime residents have moved away or gone on welfare. On a recent afternoon, youths loitered outside the one corner shop still open on Newstead’s Main Street, talking of their futures as dead ends in the making.
“We hate her; we do,” said Brian Walker, 84, who lost his last steady job when the Newstead Mine closed. He said he plans to turn off the television when Thatcher’s funeral parade — the most elaborate for any elected British leader since Winston Churchill — snakes through central London on Wednesday. “Destroyed our lives, that woman did.”
Britain this week will bury one of the most towering figures of the 20th century, a fierce Conservative who died April 8 at age 87 after a long struggle with dementia. But what this country of 62 million cannot seem to bury is the intense divide over Thatcher’s legacy.
The economic legacy
To be sure, the grocer’s daughter from Grantham stirs British hearts for staring down the Soviets and an Argentine junta that tried to waylay the Falkland Islands — both moves that slowed, if not quite reversed, the decline of a once-great empire. But nothing appears to polarize Britons more than Thatcher’s economic legacy and the way one woman’s will effectively reshaped the modern British state in ways that reverberate even today.
Thatcher decimated mining and yanked subsidies from shipbuilders, upending working-class lives. But she also dragged Britain to the forefront of globalization at a time when the word was only just being coined. Many argue that she merely sacrificed the gangrenous limbs of the British economy — subsidized industry — to save a body now running on white-collar services and global finance.
Indeed, if Newstead is the bust town that Thatcher built, her legacy also lives on 137 miles to the south, in the boomtown that is London’s Canary Wharf.
In the 1980s, Thatcher supported the regeneration of abandoned docklands into a wholly new financial district that today looks like a mini-Manhattan. Its glistening majesty was given its shine by her government’s “Big Bang” — the name for a massive deregulation of British financial markets that catapulted London into a global banking capital rivaled only by New York.