SCOTLAND/ Thatcher's modes and methods set Glasgow's teeth on edge
It wasn't the kind of reception that a visiting prime minister out to reverse the sagging fortunes of her political party in Scotland would hope to get. When Scottish workers at the Jetstream airplane factory got wind last week that Margaret Thatcher was coming to visit them, they vowed not to meet her, and to turn their backs on her if she spoke to them.
In Aberdeen, the Labour-controlled District Council was determined to embarrass Mrs. Thatcher by flashing antigovernment slogans on a screen at a dinner she was attending. The plan was foiled when Conservatives drew the curtains across the screen before she arrived.
Thatcher soon learned she was in hostile territory.
Both Labour and Conservative members of Parliament are up in arms about the government's closure of the Glasgow's Gartcosh steel mill. It will mean the loss of 710 jobs, and will increase Scottish unemployment, which already stands at 15 percent. But Thatcher, whose government recently agreed with British Steel Corporation to keep another Glasgow steel mill, Ravenscraig, open for three more years, refuses to budge on the closure of Gartcosh.
``[She's] tough as old boots,'' says one union leader of her.
Conservatives have seen their party's popularity rating in Scotland slide to 15 percent; in 1983 it was 26 percent. The closure of the mill, and whopping increases in Scottish rates under the Tories -- as much as 50 percent in some cases -- are taken by many Scots as two more signs that Thatcher doesn't care what happens here.
Nowhere in Scotland is hostility to Thatcher more evident than in Glasgow, Scotland's largest city.
Much of the antagonism stems from the city's character. Set in the heart of Scotland's old west-central industrial region, Glasgow is robustly working class. As a result, unemployment stands at 20 percent, 5 percent above the Scottish average.
No city in Britain has such a large stock of public housing as Glasgow. There are some 170,000 council houses, whose residents are almost invariably Labour Party supporters.
It's not just Thatcher's policies that set Glaswegians' teeth on edge. It's also the way she presents her policies.
Jean McFadden, Labour leader on the Glasgow District Council, says the effect of watching Thatcher on television is enough to make any woman want to throw a chair at the TV set. ``She comes across as patronizing, uncaring, bossy. People don't like bossy women.''
With unemployment so high and the housing situation in a crisis, the disparity between Glasgow and the more affluent south of England is stark.
``I am very struck when in London how obvious the English upper class is,'' says Jack Brand, senior lecturer in politics at Strathclyde University in Glasgow. ``You go to a party up in Highgate and you meet people you never really meet in Glasgow -- people who have gone to good public schools, a senior civil servant maybe, or a person occupying a senior position in industry. Glasgow is very much a working class culture. There is a middle class but there is not really an upper middle class.''