This is our truth, tell us yours
So, as all of us surely must, Margaret Thatcher has died.
I smiled, as we all must at the moment when schadenfreude flits across the stage and trips an over-weaning star performer into the orchestra pit. It wasn’t an ecstatic, epiphanic moment though. Such things rarely are.
Most days, the last few weeks, I’ve been listening to the Ballad of Joe Hill.
I was taught to sing it by a miner, who fought and won in the 70s, and fought and lost in the 80s.
His version was slightly different. The stanza where Joe is standing by the bedside ran ‘What they can never kill / went on to organize.’
You can’t kill ideas. You kill people.
Today, a frail, elderly woman, probably incontinent, reportedly unable to recognize friends and relations, suffered a stroke and died. Perhaps a merciful doctor chose not to intervene. Perhaps it was so massive a stroke that she was beyond intervention.
Thatcherism did not die as that flickering life light expired. Thatcherism is alive and well, and stalking communities of the poor, the marginalized, the unemployed. Just as it would have done even if the IRA had been a little better organized, or a little more lucky, in 1984.
My fury is not with that frail, incontinent, bewildered, privileged woman who faced up to the final truth that money can’t buy you immortality. Make no mistake, I have no time for those who would hail her statesman like qualities. In power she was vermin at best, at worst a feral scavenger, hurting and harming the people I live with and love in pursuit of a profit for those whose interests she represented. My fury is with the ideas, the cruel inhumane ideas she promoted and represented that live on after she has gone.
Celebrating her death would be missing the point. If I had done nothing she would have died anyway. For the sake of the people I care about, the world I inhabit and the world I wish to make I will make no truce with my fury at the inhuman idea of Thatcherism, and the harm it has done.
Postscript -some people also got upset about the policing of the funeral of Baroness Thatcher – we had this to say
I hate to say it, but we told you so.
The same government that gave you same sex marriage is presiding over a hagiographic orgy of eulogies to the late Margaret Thatcher, while sacking policemen who make dubious tweets and planning pre-emptive arrests of those who might protest on the day of the funeral.
Now, forgive me stating the obvious, but the fact that I think protesting at someone’s funeral is a narcissistic and pointless act doesn’t mean I believe people should be prevented from doing it by the full force of the law and more.
It’s possible to be socially liberal, like this government, and not to be a libertarian – in fact to be repressive and intolerant of dissent. Once such master of that divide was Roy Jenkins, Pontypool’s least lamented son, who managed to acquire a reputation as a liberal Home Secretary even though he presided over the passage of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
The real problem with this policing of dissent is not the Daily Mail publishing the tweets of teachers who affect pleasure at Thatcher’s death, but the way in which any revisionist analysis of the Thatcher years is damn nigh impossible. I don’t agree with Corelli Barnett’s revisionist analysis of the 1945 Attlee government, but it is an essential read if you wish to fully understand and explain the achievements of Attlee, arguably the greatest twentieth century Prime Minister.
By way of comparison the noise of the claque makes it impossible to fully analyze how it was Thatcher managed to amass her reputation while pissing away Britain’s North Sea oil wealth and auctioning off its assets in a series of spivvy giveaways that managed to widen the gap between richest and poorest. Any serious analysis might want to look, too, at the sheer incompetence of Thatcher’s personal relationships with her senior ministers, such that she was succeeded by the twentieth century’s worst and least expected Prime Minister, a man so inept and undeserving of high office that he managed to destroy his party for ten years after his demise, without even the excuses Jim Callaghan enjoyed.
When all is said and done, the Thatcherite claque know what they’re doing; by policing the puerile, febrile protests they’re putting down a marker, announcing that they will not tolerate anyone questioning the orthodoxy about Thatcher.