9:46am Wednesday 17th April 2013
IT COULD have been one of the most difficult and awkward moments in the Senedd when tributes were called for Baroness Thatcher yesterday.
But despite the opposition Lady Thatcher had generated across industrial South Wales, Wales’ first minister, Carwyn Jones, yesterday struck a respectful tone, while in measured terms outlining the huge impact she made.
Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood said Thatcherism was the cause of many of the problems faced in Wales, while in an unsurprising tribute the leader of the Assembly’s Tories said Thatcher transformed Britain for the better.
Some AMs deliberately stayed away, including Plaid AM Lindsay Whittle and Islwyn’s Gwyn Price, but there was not a mass boycott of the chamber and only party leaders spoke.
Mr Jones expressed sympathy to Lady Thatcher’s family and gave her somewhat muted credit for her “noteworthy moment” for the recovery of the Falklands.
“She was undoubtedly a decisive person, that much is there for all to see,” he said.
But he said she alienated both sides of the community in Northern Ireland, and turning to the mining strike: “It caused great hurt when many of our people were described as the enemy within.
“Those comments have not been easily forgotten in the communities affected, communities that feel that legacy till this day.”
He said it was “right to say she brought many of us into politics”, some in support and others in reaction, including himself.
But in a wholly positive reflection on her legacy, Tory leader Andrew RT Davies said Lady Thatcher transformed Britain from having the “sick man of Europe tag around its neck” to being a vibrant place for people to succeed.
“I passionately believe she was a force for good,” he said.
“Prime Minister Thatcher put the great back into Great Britain.
“Her steadfast determination undoubtedly freed many people on the continent of Europe.”
Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru leader, said she was not there to “pay tribute” but was there to mark Lady Thatcher’s contribution, calling on people to learn from the past.
“The bitter mining strike changed industrial policy and we are still paying the price,” she said.
“Thatcherism started the attempt to roll back the state,” she said, adding that it was the cause of many of the problems faced in Wales.
Kirsty Williams, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader, gave her condolences but said she became active in politics when she was 15 in opposition to her government and its policies where she grew up.
“She was an individual of immense strength and determination,” she said.
“Her legacies rightly evoke strong reactions. Whether for good or for bad, they still affect our lives today.
“Our presence here in this chamber, some would argue, is one of them.”
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