Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Thatcher's rose-tinted American legacy

The American media’s reverential depiction of Margaret Thatcher this week says much about how the US and UK differ when looking at history.

As I’ve watched the international media coverage of the death of Margaret Thatcher over the past few days, I’ve almost felt like we're talking about different women.

In America, the wall-to-wall coverage – quite unusual for a foreign leader – has been downright worshipful. This tone has been matched by politicians on both sides of the aisle. "The world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend,” declared Barack Obama on Monday. “She helped restore the confidence and pride that has always been the hallmark of Britain at its best."

Here in continental Western Europe, where Thatcher was far less popular, the coverage couldn’t be more different. One French politician remarked that Thatcher will see the miners she put out of work in hell, while German MP Michael Roth declared "her radical market policies and her Europe-sceptical politics will certainly not be missed.”

In the UK the coverage has been more nuanced. As people say, she was a bit like Marmite – you either loved her or you hated her. The political persuasions of British papers has determined which side they’ve chosen to emphasise. But no media outlet has ignored the fact that she split opinions. Even Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron’s statement to the Parliament on Monday acknowledged this.