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Editorials

Have a heart

I grew up in a Welsh mining town during the 1984 strike, so you already know what I think of Mrs Thatcher. Just like the recent obituaries that only told you which side of the political line their authors fell, it was difficult to pretend to arrive at a nuanced conclusion after that. Policemen in funny accents waving money at us on the school bus. Brothers and cousins who couldn't afford their doctor's prescriptions. A sorry list.

Of course it was impossible to know whether the prime minister was aware of how her forces were acting on the ground. But the point at which those decisions become wilful community-breaking acts is difficult to discern.

Mrs Thatcher began her political career as someone who understood lack of privilege. Understood, as a grocer's daughter, what it was to have to count pennies. Surrounded by public school grandees in her party of choice - almost all men, too, of course - as a grammar school girl she knew what it felt like to battle through haughty condescension. It was from this background that she realized, for example, that people in council houses wanted to own their own homes. Had the same aspirations as everyone else. At some point she had had a heart, and made it hard.

But it is not our job, as followers of Christ, to judge someone's heart. We can only try to take positions on whether her policies were good or bad for the country - for the flourishing of human development. But equally it is worth noting how even our highest values, held as principles rather than in the operation of compassion, can become millstones. Christian history is littered with examples of how people, clinging to some deep-rooted piece of theology, have overlooked their first law of love.

How wrong it would be, then, to forget it ourselves when considering the life and work of a woman whom only God can judge. Whom God loved and held dear. I cannot pretend to hold Mrs Thatcher dear. But we must continue to hold to a power that did.