Wales politics

Thatcher legacy: Welsh Labour and Tory leaders divided

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Media captionCarwyn Jones paid tribute to a 'remarkable personality'

Welsh communities still feel bitterness from the 1984 miners' strike, First Minister Carwyn Jones has said, giving his verdict on Baroness Thatcher's legacy.

He spoke in the Welsh assembly as AMs remembered the late prime minister.

Some Labour and Plaid Cymru AMs stayed away in protest as party leaders spoke.

Mr Jones sympathised with her family and described her as a remarkable personality, while the Tories' assembly leader called her a "force for good".

Mr Jones, who will attend Lady Thatcher's funeral on Wednesday, said: "It's right to say that there are many in Wales who still feel the legacy of her politics.

"The miners' strike and its aftermath are still very much felt by many of our communities and there is still great bitterness in terms of what happened at that time which lasts to this day.

"It caused great hurt when many of our people were described as 'the enemy within' and those comments have not been easily forgotten in the communities that have been affected."

The Welsh Labour leader said her three general election victories included the election of 14 Conservative MPs in Wales in 1983, "a feat that's not been equalled since".

Image caption The official portrait of Baroness Thatcher in Downing Street

He said the recovery of the Falklands was her most noteworthy achievement, but that her involvement in Northern Ireland "managed to alienate both sides of the community".

Mr Jones added that opposition to her policies helped lead to devolution and the creation of the assembly in 1999. Her family should be "allowed to grieve with dignity," he said.

Conservative assembly leader Andrew RT Davies said Baroness Thatcher took the reins when Britain was "the sick man of Europe" and "transformed this country for the better".

He hailed her "liberation" of the Falklands and her "stand against terrorism" on both sides of the community in Northern Ireland.

"I passionately believe that she was a force for good as many in my party and obviously of the centre-right persuasion believe and believe with considerable passion," he said.

"But I fully accept that being a politician there are two sides to every argument."

Labour AM Mick Antoniw was one of those who did not attend the tributes, which opened the assembly's first plenary session after the Easter recess on Tuesday.

In a letter addressed to the late prime minister, Mr Antoniw attacked her record in office and said her funeral was an "establishment charade".

In a YouTube video, Plaid AM Simon Thomas said: "I think it's important those of us who opposed Margaret Thatcher throughout the 1980s - and indeed chanted 'Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, out, out, out' - are not seen now to be somehow complicit in the way that institutions are somehow supporting that reputation."

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said she had been reminded of Lady Thatcher's "forthright style and plain speaking".

She said her legacy "for good or for bad, still affects our lives here today".

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said it was right to express sympathy with the former prime minister's family, but she rejected her politics.

She said: "Margaret Thatcher told us that there was no such thing as society. In Wales we don't believe that to be true. Community is important to us."

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