Thatcher death: Low key reaction in Newton Mearns

Margaret Thatcher. Picture: Getty
Margaret Thatcher. Picture: Getty
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THE former Conservative heartland of Newton Mearns, south of Glasgow, seemed unfussed yesterday by the death of Baroness Thatcher.

At the heart of what was once the safest Tory seat in Scotland, the only sign of her death were nine different photographs of the former Tory prime minister, staring from the front pages of newspapers on sale outside the Mearns Cross filling station.

Next door, the Union Flag and Saltire were at half mast at the Mearns Bowling Club – but as a mark of respect for a deceased club member, and not Lady Thatcher. Down the road, there wasn’t even any sign of her passing at the tiny Eastwood Conservative Association office, which was closed with its blinds down. Round the back, a discarded poster stand read “Changing Times”.

The former Renfrewshire East seat became the Conservatives’ safest north of the Border after Allan Stewart succeeded Betty Harvie Anderson – who once shared a Westminster office with the then Mrs Thatcher – as its MP in 1979, building up a 12,000 majority.

However, the constituency has been held by Labour’s Jim Murphy since 1997, who increased his majority despite his party’s defeat in 2010.

But though there was a lack of physical symbols locally marking her death, many residents yesterday readily spoke up for her, albeit mindful that they might be out of tune with other parts of Scotland.

Fiona Connell, out walking her three terriers past the Conservatives’ office, said: “I think it was super she lived to be 87. She was a strong woman and great for females .

“We needed someone strong at the time and we need it now. She was not one to mess with.”

The 49-year-old health service worker also echoed others in Newton Mearns in expressing upset at criticism of the ex-Conservative leader in media coverage of her death, including of the protest held in Glasgow’s George Square on Monday night. She said: “It’s in bad taste. Why criticise her now?”

Outside the Whitecraigs Bowling Club nearby, Winifred Scott, a retired primary teacher, said: “I think she was a lady who had very strong views. When she said ‘the lady’s not for turning’, she was very uncompromising. I did agree with most of her views, but I think she was a bit extreme – she did not agree with people getting into Europe. She lost a lot of people through that.”

A man arriving at the club, who declined to give his name, said: “She did a lot of good but did a lot of harm as well. My uncle was a stockbroker and said she had ruined many businesses in Scotland.”

Discussing with his friends whether Lady Thatcher deserved a state funeral like Winston Churchill, he argued: “He was a different person”.

Back at Mearns Bowling Club, members were readying their clubhouse for the season.

Lady president Kay McKenzie was fulsome in their praise of Baroness Thatcher.

She said: “She got a lot of good work, and was popular in this area – but not in Glasgow. I do not think Scotland liked her too much.

“There was [the closure of] Ravenscraig [steelworks], but she let people own their own house and did good over the Falklands.”

Across the road, outside The Avenue shopping centre, views were more mixed.

Peter Neilson, 27, a retail assistant and self-confessed socialist, said: “I think her legacy will be negative. I do not think she will be remembered favourably in Scotland at all.”

But Tino Rossi, 64, a retired roads engineer, said: “She was quite remarkable. We needed strong leadership and she gave a direction. She blew away the myth that women could not manage.”