Canavan: Thatcher left a legacy of misery for many

An unidentified miner at Cardowan colliery speaking to Labour candidates Michael Connerty, Dennis Canavan and Adam Ingram in the run up to the General Election in June 1983.

An unidentified miner at Cardowan colliery speaking to Labour candidates Michael Connerty, Dennis Canavan and Adam Ingram in the run up to the General Election in June 1983.

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He was the crusading idealist who fought tooth and nail for Falkirk. She was the leader of the country - a headstrong woman who people either loved or loathed.

Dennis Canavan was the Labour MP for Falkirk West from 1974 to 2000. He gained cross-party respect as the longest serving parliamentarian in the Scottish Parliament, having completed 33 years at Westminster then Holyrood.

Now 70 years old, Mr Canavan currently chairs the advisory board of Yes Scotland, the campaign for a yes vote in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.

However, from the late ’70s to the early ’90s he was in the eye of the hurricane that was Mrs Thatcher’s reign.

While the daily cut and thrust of politics may be in the past for Mr Canavan, he still recalls one particular encounter with Britain’s first female Prime Minister.

He said: “When Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, she agreed to my request for a meeting to discuss the proposed closure of the Scottish Bus Group engineering workshops in Falkirk.”

Things started off in a civil manner, but her condescending manner soon got the Falkirk MP’s back up.

“During the course of the discussion, she told me that she understood my concern about unemployment in Falkirk, pronouncing the ‘a’ in Falkirk like the ‘a’ in Thatcher.

“She was not happy when I corrected her pronunciation, but she was such a megalomaniac that she probably thought she had the power to change everything, including the pronunciation of Scottish place names.”

Then a polite gesture by the Prime Minister led to the conversation, already strained by this point, taking a turn for the worse.

“Perhaps in an effort to placate me,” said Mr Canavan. “she then gave me a cup of tea and proceeded to pour milk into it.

“I said ‘Prime Minister, I don’t take milk in my tea’. ‘Take it!’, she barked. ‘It’s good for you’.

“I thought it rather ironic that she was dubbed ‘Thatcher the Milk Snatcher’ when she stopped free milk for school-children yet she was now trying to force it down my neck.”

Rather than choose to pay tribute to Mrs Thatcher, who died on Monday at the age of 87, Mr Canavan said her death failed to detract from the harm she did when she was alive.

“She is often described by sycophantic supporters as a conviction politician but her convictions left a legacy of untold misery for many people and many communities throughout Scotland and beyond.

“On a positive note, she helped unwittingly to bring about the birth of the Scottish Parliament.

“She treated the people of Scotland with such contempt that many Scots who had voted ‘NO’ in the 1979 referendum were eventually persuaded that Scotland’s democratic deficit had to be addressed by the creation of a Scottish Parliament.”

Mr Canavan’s disdain for Mrs Thatcher’s politics is shared by Falkirk East MP Michael Connarty, who would not be drawn into making a comment on the former Prime Minister’s death this week.

He simply stated: “I have spent my political life fighting against Thatcher’s policies which destroyed manufacturing and communities throughout Scotland and the UK.”