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Commentary on the extract from 'The Downing Street years', By Margaret Thatcher

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  1. Introduction
  2. A refuse to admit the impact of her economic policy on the riots
  3. A lack of understanding of the demands and conditions of living of the minorities
  4. The echo of the Scarman Report
  5. Conclusion

In 'The Downing Street Years', published in 1993, Margaret Thatcher tackles the subject of the Brixton riots of 1981 and relates how she dealt with the proliferation of riots after the publication of the Scarman report. In the extract studied here, she argues that her economic policy is not the cause of the protests. Then, we could wonder where she finds their cause? Is not there a lack of understanding of the minorities? In any case, what is obvious is that she echoes the Scarman report throughout this text.

Margaret Thatcher constantly refuses throughout this extract, the impact of her liberal economic policy on the riots. To do so, she gives back the fault to the Labors and to those who dare to critic her government. She calls the riots, cynically, a ?godsend to the Labor Opposition?. According to her, it seems that everybody - including some conservatives - was waiting for ?a long-awaited evidence? (l.2-3) of her failure.

She may begin by saying that her economic policy causes ?breakdown and violence? (l.3-4), but what is clear in her development is that she never truly argues that this is the case. On the contrary, she constantly affirms that her policy has nothing to do with the riots. She firstly writes that the increase of violence is due to the economic policies adopted in the 1960's and that these policies were not conservative ones, but the ones their ?critics were urging? them ?to adopt? (l.10-11).

She tries to reverse the fault here. By the way, she also critics in bitter terms Michael Heseltine (l.21-22), a conservative with whom she used to work, on his policy in Merseyside where he tried to make social policies towards the minorities. This could be due to the fact he caused her departure from government but also because of his social policy, which she clearly seems to despise.

In order to reinforce her argument on the fact her policy is not the cause of the riots, she uses an image of symbolic connotation: the ?West Indian ladies? (l.30) still working in the canteen, who were ?disgusted as? (l.34) she was about rioters. Of course, there is no emphasis on the fact that these women, if they were found in a riot by the policemen they are used to serving in the canteen, they would lose their job.

The fact they are employed is also significant of her refusal to say that unemployment is a cause of riots. Indeed, they are working. But then, if they did not have a job, what would they do? Unemployment there was estimated at approximately 55% among minority people. As being part of the few who are lucky enough to have a job ? and not a well-paid job - it can be understood that they do not protest with the other.

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