Before I embark on this (undoubtedly ill-advised) blog I feel I should provide a disclaimer: this is my opinion, nothing more. It was formed as a result of what I have read in the papers and on social media in the days following Margaret Thatcher’s death and has come off the back of no research whatsoever. None. It has no bearing on my political opinion either, which changes all the time anyway and which is none of your business. So, you know, chase me with your pitchforks, I don’t care. I didn’t do anything to any miners.
I was 3 years old when Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister (all right, I may have researched prominent dates). I was 15 when she was ousted and clearly remember being in my school form room at lunchtime when a girl from the year below burst in, regaled us with the news and declared herself “delighted”. I was confused. As a 15 year old I didn’t give a stuff who ran the country, or the Conservative Party or even the Monster Raving Loony Party (though if I’d had the vote I would have voted for them, they sounded fun). My eldest son is now 15, he also doesn’t give a stuff who runs the country, although he does agree with me that Ed Miliband has an annoying lisp and looks like a bit of a weirdo. And that the video of his “putting aside the rhetoric” interview is hilarious. Well, it is.
So my young life was never really touched by her politics, not directly. Sure, you could argue that she changed the shape of the country but did I care about that? Of course not. That was already over and done with and I was far more concerned with my face full of zits, a curly hair helmet Anita Dobson would have been jealous of, a pair of glasses larger than my face and the overwhelming sense that I would never, ever get a boyfriend. Ever. I am too young and too soft and southern to really recall the miners’ strike beyond thinking that Arthur Scargill was kinda funny lookin’ and as a result don’t feel it is my place, even now, to comment on something I can’t fully claim to understand (because I haven’t researched it).
I hadn’t expected Mrs T’s death to have brought about a spontaneous national outpouring of grief like that of, say, Kim Jong Il, but I found myself surprised and confused again by the vitriol in some of the words expressed about someone that hadn’t been in a position of power for over 2 decades. Perhaps my relative youth means I am enough removed from her premiership to say…hang on a minute! I hope so because I’m going to anyway: hang on a minute! Was she a ruthless despot that seized power in a military coup that brought about the death of thousands? Well, no. Did she act completely alone and without the support of her party? Er…don’t think so. Did she ramp up her country’s nuclear campaign while ignoring the fact that millions of people were starving and start making threats to the US? Definitely not. Oh. What’s this? She was democratically elected not once but three times? Once AFTER the miners’ strike? Have I read that right?
OK, I know full well that I’m not suitably informed to pass any sort of comment and so I’m trying not to. I don’t have an opinion on the policies of 30 plus years ago and I don’t feel that I’m entitled to. When I learned of her death I didn’t cheer or organize a party but I did make the mistake of watching the news and looking at twitter. First up in the inevitable vox pop on the news was an aging gentleman who said (and I’m paraphrasing, of course) he may not have agreed with her hardline politics but that it was a sad day, first woman Prime Minister, iconic figure blah blah blah. He was respectful, that was what I took away from his words. The next man, however, couldn’t have been much more than 40 and he couldn’t have been less respectful: (paraphrasing again) “Well, I come from Finchley so I am allowed to say I’m glad she’s dead.” What? Actually GLAD? Why? If nothing else you were a CHILD when she was in power! Did she nick your sweets? Push you over on purpose? What possible improvement to your life would come about as a direct result of the death of an old woman?
Now, I’ve come across some total bastards in my life who’ve done some pretty shitty things to me but would I ever say I was glad any of them were dead? Probably not. Margaret Thatcher is clearly a figure of hate for a lot of people even after so many years but to celebrate her death seems inhuman to me somehow, not the actions of those from a civilised society. But worse than that, so many of the vitriolic comments I witnessed on twitter were by people around my age and younger than me. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, of course, but how much of that is informed? Be honest, before you stood on national TV and declared you were glad an old woman had died were you fully apprised of all that occurred during the longest stint as Prime Minister in modern times? I’m not defending anything she did, I’m really not, but I would just question how much of what is said by those celebrating her death was based on informed opinion and how much is just recycled opinion inherited from parents. My parents have never been particularly outspoken when it came to politics, so perhaps that is why I didn’t feel compelled to download “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” and throw a street party. But even if they had been Thatcher-haters or Thatcher-lovers I would like to think I would be sensible enough and intelligent enough to make up my own mind rather than blithely follow the family line.
And what good do the words of hate do? Would she have cared that she wasn’t loved and revered by all? I very much doubt it. It’s all so unnecessary and all it does is hurt those she has left behind whose grief will be no different to yours or mine after the death of a loved one or than it would had she been a cuddly Granny figure. What did Carol Thatcher ever do to you “glad she’s dead” man? Perhaps she was the one that nicked your sweets.
There has also been a lot of talk of the cost of her funeral, how many nurses we could have paid for etc. In fact it was not dissimilar to my argument against the massive Diamond Jubilee celebrations (and the royal wedding). Whatever your views on Mrs Thatcher she will always have a place in history as the first female Prime Minister of a country where women haven’t even had the vote for 100 years. No, she didn’t come across as a particularly feminine person (I found her a bit scary) and I wonder if she didn’t over-compensate somewhat to make herself more acceptable to the British people and men in particular. She was a woman in a man’s world and would men find it more palatable to take orders from a slightly more androgynous version of a woman than a mumsy type with a high-pitched voice, warm tone and heaving breast? Who knows. And they’ll pay for the funeral and the diamond jubilee and the royal wedding and no doubt the next royal wedding and the royal christening partly out of the public purse anyway. At least (unlike the royals) she was elected. If nothing else Margaret Thatcher paved the way for more women to enter politics, although they are still seriously under-represented, and for more women to want to enter politics so we can thank her for the likes of Harriet Harman, Yvette Cooper and the godawful Theresa May. Mrs Thatcher, how could you?