The Lady’s Not Returning – Why I’m Disappointed By The Reaction To The Death Of Margaret Thatcher
We Represent The Lullabye League
I despair of you lot sometimes, I really do. Margaret Thatcher, the closest thing this country has had to an absolute dictator since Oliver Cromwell, has died. And what do you do, my fellow Brits. Do you go out en masse and buy Billy Bragg’s “Between The Wars”?
Do you register your understanding of the enormity of The Iron Lady’s contribution to the financial cesspit we now wallow in by sounding that haunting anthem from the metaphorical rooftops of the world. No. You get together and throw stupid, hateful parties and play “Ding Dong The Wicked Witch Is Dead” over and over again.
In terms of political protest, you might as well be staging Naked Twister parties to the strains of “Jump Up And Down And Wave Your Knickers In The Air” by St Cecilia. For all I know, you’re probably doing that too. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least. And most of you weren’t even alive when we struggling under her yoke. I was. And I have mixed feelings about Mrs T’s passing away.
This Porridge Is Just Right
Margaret Hilda Thatcher. No one used her full name very much. Whenever I hear it, I hear it in the voice of Ronnie Barker in the opening credits to Porridge. Margaret Hilda Thatcher, instead of Norman Stanley Fletcher. You Tube the opening credits of Porridge and try it yourself. It makes sense in an odd sort of way.
I was ten years old when the Tories trounced Labour in 1979. And they did it with a woman at the helm. An astounding achievement given how sexist the world was back then. The ceiling wasn’t made of glass back then. It was just a ceiling. But the popularity of the new government did not last long. By 1981, after riots and general civil discontent, they were in big trouble, politically speaking.
By 1982, it looked a dead cert that they’d be out on their ear come the next General Election. Then Argentina invaded The Falkland Islands. Everyone panicked, because they assumed that The Falkland Islands were off the coast of Scotland somewhere. Then The Sun newspaper announced that they were actually 8,000 miles away so everyone relaxed and watched Brian Hanrahan commentate on a nice safe war that we could all cheer along to.
And being a 12 year old boy – and still an avid reader of Victor and Commando magazines- I joined in with the jingoism. Until I went on a school trip to France. It was May 1982, at the height of the Falklands Conflict. The school party was sweltering in a heatwave on the Paris Metro, chatting about going to see The Eiffel Tower or The Louvre. And a man approached us and simply said “English?”
He then got very emotional and tried talking to us in very broken English and we couldn’t really understand what he was trying to say. But he did keep saying “Falklands” and “Las Malvenas”. Fortunately, one of the girls one the trip was the daughter of the Spanish Teacher. She spoke fluent Spanish and she came forward to talk to him.
As it turned out, he was trying to express his horror at the fact that our two nations were going to war over something so stupid. He started crying and hugging us all. Knocked the jingoism right out of me, I can tell you. That’s one of the ironies about The Falklands War. The Argentines are actually Anglophiles deep down. The play cricket and polo and their upper classes really wish they were English upper class rather than Argentine upper class.
Riding on the wave of popularity that always comes from a war that you ostensibly won, mrs Thatcher went on to do many other things. Some of them good, many of them bad. Allowing families to but the council houses they had lived in for years and payed for many times over anyway was good in a way. Or it would have been if a new house had been built for every old one bought. But that didn’t happen.
You Are The Whirlwind Beneath My Wings
There’s no doubt that Mrs Thatcher needed to clip the wings of The Unions. Many of my childhood memories involve sitting in the dark with nothing but candles for entertainment, fervently wishing that the electricity came back on before Tomorrow’s World started. She needed to clip the wings of The Unions, but there was no need to cut their balls off too
It has been pointed out that Harold Wilson, a Labour Prime Minister, closed twice as many mines as Margaret Thatcher did during and after the ill fated Miners’ Strike. And he did. But this is like comparing the people on Easter Island who cut down the first coconut trees to make the monolithic heads to the people who cut down the very last tree for the same purpose and rendered the once fertile island a desolate wasteland covered in nothing but useless inedible vegetation.
There’s no doubt that everyone has strong feelings about Margaret Thatcher one way or the other. Whichever way those feelings go, nothing alters the fact that we bury her tomorrow. If you think she should be applauded, then applaud her with a little tear in your eye. If you think she should be vilified, then just remember this. She was a deeply flawed human being, but then again so are you.
She was ousted in a very undignified manner by her own kind. Once she was powerful and suddenly she wasn’t. She lost her husband, who was not the idiotic figure of fun the Spitting Image sketches would have you believe. And, at the end of her life, she was afflicted with Alzheimer’s. Like Al Capone, people who would have quaked in their boots at her edicts ended up laughing at her and pretending they still respected her. Whatever she may or may not have done, she’s been punished enough already. The Lady’s not returning. Bury her and leave her alone, because history will be picking through her bones soon enough
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2013