Margaret Thatcher was 87 when she died. Having suffered a series of transient apoplectic episodes in the not so distant past, she finally gave way to one final indefeasible thrombus and predictably, in her wake, Britain has been turned on its head (metaphorical, not literal) figuring out what to do with itself; whether to mourn in self-pity or not, and just how much black clothing should we be wearing. When do we start wailing and beating ourselves in public, oh ruler (David Camwrong). DELIBERATE PARODY NOTICE.
The problem with the iron lady was not so much division of opinion, but outright electoral polarity. I don’t think I would be wrong to suggest that simply dividing society into the “have” and “have not” is enough to identify her sources of support. There were countless reports of Britons mourning and rejoicing in tandem in our proud nation’s first manic-depressive pity party (BYOB). One minister of parliament, George Galloway even suggested she ought to
“Burn in hellfires….”
It has been an odd occasion.
As far as I am concerned, Margaret Thatcher was a deplorable woman. Here was a lady who stood for the abolishment of society, who viciously undermined the trade unions and labour industries, who enabled affluent class profiteering, who kick started the privatisation agenda of public services (from which we have never looked back), who consolidated the North-South divide, who alienated Europe and jeopardised trade; in short – she left an incredible amount to be desired. They didn’t call her the milk-snatcher for nothing.
For all of those who feel I should mention some positive attributes, the one lonely mandate that comes to mind is the selling of council houses to their occupying owners thereby enabling some investment into a system under which so many had been marginalised. Those who remember her ventures in the Falklands would do best to refer to the current celebrations by certain resident Islanders. Apparently they didn’t appreciate this benevolent act of jingoism as much as we presumed they might have.
I, like always, digress. My points are simple and two-fold. As far as I am concerned a death is a death regardless of the subject. Although I carry no sympathy for her as a politician, I mourn the passing of a person and my genuine condolences are sent to her surviving family. Those who find humour in this mortality might do best to recognise their own.
My second and final point is simple. We are responsible for remembering this lady. We will create her legacy. It is important that the very history which carved this country in two, does not progress into some perpetuated myth of honour and integrity. Disquiet is a disservice. Those of us who cast ourselves as liberal must resist the inevitable hagiography and preserve her deservedly shameful political thumbprint for the dark and ominous cloud it was.
To conclude I leave you with a quote from Billy Bragg. I don’t think I’ve heard it summarised better.
This is not a time for celebration. The death of Margaret Thatcher is nothing more than a salient reminder of how Britain got into the mess that we are in today. Of why ordinary working people are no longer able to earn enough from one job to support a family; of why there is a shortage of decent affordable housing; of why domestic growth is driven by credit, not by real incomes; of why tax-payers are forced to top up wages; of why a spiteful government seeks to penalise the poor for having an extra bedroom; of why Rupert Murdoch became so powerful; of why cynicism and greed became the hallmarks of our society.
Raising a glass to the death of an infirm old lady changes none of this. The only real antidote to cynicism is activism. Don’t celebrate – organise!