MAGGIE, Maggie, Maggie; dead, dead, dead!" chanted the crowds in Brixton and Glasgow. Oh yes, Maggie Thatcher was certainly "divisive", to use the cop-out employed by writers too tired of the awfulness to engage with it.
Thatcher’s death was always going to bring out the worst of the unthinking, tribalist left. Left to their own devices, and drunk on the news of her passing, big-state collectivists, socialists and those who are still brave enough to call themselves communists, have, in vino, shown us their version of the veritas.
It’s violent, ugly, undemocratic and misanthropic. I’ve never understood why this hatred was never directed at the voters who elected Thatcher three times in a row. Those ordinary folk tired of the undemocratic brinkmanship of the shop stewards in the industries that even The Guardian, in its editorial yesterday, described as "unsustainable", which could never hope to survive without subsidy or protectionism.
The decline of British heavy industry and mining was desperate and awful. It was also inevitable. With hindsight, and knowing what we do about the Eastern economic superpowers, Thatcher wasn’t just right in the 1980s, she has been getting more right ever since.
The Guardian ran an unsentimental editorial on the death of a woman unloved by its readers. It was a critical, but reasonably fair, sum-up of Thatcher’s style and legacy. "There can certainly be no going back to the failed postwar past with which Margaret Thatcher had to wrestle," it said, quite sensibly. But its conclusion was really surprisingly weak. "Her legacy is of public division, private selfishness and a cult of greed, which together shackle far more of the human spirit than they ever set free."
It is, I think, as a leading article in the UK’s leading leftist publication, really quite telling. In other words, she was right, but we don’t like the way she did it. Like it or not, Thatcher’s legacy will endure, as is the way of truly consequential leaders. They don’t come along too often, but wherever governments — such as in Sweden — work on reducing the size of the state, on increasing individual liberty, on cutting taxes and encouraging entrepreneurship and free enterprise, she’ll probably come up in the discourse.
As a boy growing up in the 1980s in various locations around Europe, Thatcher was politics. I was three when she came to power and in high school when she was booted out — and the manufactured highfalutin accent was the very sound of political discourse. Along with my own mother and, of course, the evergreen Queen Elizabeth, the idea of strong women bossing the place seemed so normal as to be not worth mentioning. Of all Thatcher’s diverse and, okay, divisive, legacy, for English boys of my age this might be a smaller, forgotten consequence.
Who knows what Thatcher thought of the European Union (EU) in its present form? The woman who Francois Mitterrand once described as having "the eyes of Caligula and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe" had no soft spot for European federalism.
The EU’s love of regulation has had consequences of all sorts, one of which is the electric vehicle (EV). I have written about the concerns about the environmental efficacy of the EV. In short, when your electricity comes from coal-fired power stations, an electric car merely removes the emissions from the tailpipe and takes them to the smokestack. In purely carbon terms, it is actually cleaner to drive a hybrid car.
That said, the electric car is here. And when I say here, finally, I mean "in my garage". I’ve driven plenty but never lived with one, with all its plug-in paraphernalia and limited range. That’s why driving the BMW Mini E concept for a few days has been so illuminating.
The best bit about the Mini E is that it is a Mini, which is to say small, light and a hoot to drive. Added to the characteristics of the electric drive-train and, as a purely driver’s car, and given an understanding that the Mini E was only ever a concept car and never produced for sale, the Mini E is the best new Mini I’ve ever driven.
Power delivery, you see, is astonishing. No waiting for an accumulation of revs before disengaging the clutch. No waiting for the sweet spot in the rev range, no scrabbling for gears. In an electric car, you get everything you want, immediately.
The result is hilarious. Having just stepped into the car, I drove onto the N1 and, spying a gap, nailed the throttle to get up to freeway speed.
The Mini E instantly leapt forward like a scalded cat and torque-steered wildly onto the freeway. It genuinely surprised me.
Torque steer, when a front-wheel-drive car can wander about under acceleration, is usually reserved for those in-gear moments when a motor is delivering peak torque. In an electric motor, that’s all the time and, as a result, under acceleration, the Mini E is a visceral, fun and thrilling car that requires proper driving.
The Mini E was built in 2008 and such is the pace of advances in battery technology that its range is only about 130km. I found, however, in my life of zooting betwixt home, work, shops and schools, that it was plenty.
Ironically, electric cars will begin as a plaything of the wealthy.
Yes, taking the emissions out of town is great, and EVs are a blast to drive, but they’re also hellish cheap to run. As a commuter, for those with the means, an EV will be a great way to get about. A bonus feature will be watching the prescriptive left’s synapses explode as a wealthy elite adopts an environmental motoring measure because it’s fun and, in a high petrol-price environment, the market dictates that it makes sense. Maggie will love that one.