There was a period in the 1980s when it seemed that famous people only died on Sundays.
Every Sunday night there’d be a news programme on ITV at about ten o’clock – and this was in the days when ITV had a serious approach to news, as opposed to today, when they seem determined to outdo The Day Today for unnecessary graphics and dramatic delivery – and seemingly at the end of every bulletin, a publicity shot of somebody famous would appear on screen. Alistair Burnet would solemnly inform you that ‘The actor…’ ‘The Singer…’ ‘The entertainer…’ ‘…has died. He was 84.’ And you’d go ‘Ohhh…’ with shock, or sadness, or surprise, depending on who the deceased was, and how old, and how beloved.
Baroness Thatcher is, it has to be said, nearing the end of her life. I have no love for the Baroness, and consider her and her legacy to be among the worst things to happen to Britain both economically and socially.
My original plan for when the Baroness’ death was announced had two main points;
1: Find her grave, dance on it
2. Find her grave, piss on it.
I may have mellowed a little since then. As time’s winged chariot draws near, every man’s death diminishes me, and all that. But I still believe that when the day arrives, I shall allow myself a smile and a celebratory dram.
It seems that the Baroness has many admirers still, as one of them, a Conservative MP who I shan’t name as she’ll only enjoy it, has been pre-emptively haranguing those who intend to celebrate the passage with a little more abandon than I. The MP claims that anybody not stricken with grief is of the ‘Ultraleft’ and should be horsewhipped (I paraphrase, but that seems to be the gist).
Well, first of all, if she’s entitled to her opinion, then so are all those who disagree with her.
Second, there are a lot of people who genuinely still hate Thatcher, even now, some twenty years after her unseating. I happily sympathise with them, and believe that those people should be allowed an outlet for their rage.
Third, the Conservative MP’s announcement is, to me, part of a longer narrative put in place by her party. Thatcher is looked upon by a great number of today’s Tories as The Greatest Prime Minister This Country Ever Had: a lot of them were either starting out when she was in power, or were very young, and have been influenced by her in a way that nobody has been by Callaghan before her, or Major or Blair after her. It’s vital to the modern Conservative Party that Thatcher remains seen as The Great Leader, Vanquisher of the Unions, She Who Freed Enterprise. She must remain spotless.
So far, with Blair/Brown’s generation acknowledging her influence, Cameron desperately attempting to be her, and most media still overawed or cowed by her followers, the narrative has been owned by those who may not outwardly support her, but who labour in her shadow.
But she will die. One Sunday evening, the nation will go
‘Ohhh…’ with shock, or sadness, or surprise, or quite possibly glee.
And nothing ruins a reputation quite like death. Certainly there’ll be a period of mourning: it may not come close to the hysterical grief that met Diana’s fatal crash, but it will without doubt put the Queen Mum into third place. There will be hagiography and attempts at canonisation in the media.
Then, as always happens, the truth will come out. There will be an unbiased history of her period in power, there will be an unvarnished account of the heavy-handed reaction to all who opposed her, from the wets in her cabinet to the union members who suffered at the hands of her police, to the families torn apart and pushed into poverty as part of her Chancellor’s ‘price worth paying’. There will be a long-term account of how her relentless policies of deregulation and privatisation led inexorably to today’s collapsed banking system, to our utilities being owned by enormous global corporations, to fuel poverty, to the wrecked and staggering economy we have today.
The Tories will lose control of the narrative, and those who still look up to Thatcher will lose not only their guiding star but also any shred of credibility they may once have had. They will be as outdated, exhausted and ineffectual as any member of the Socialist Workers Party is today. That is why they so desperately attack anybody who dares suggest that the death of Baroness Thatcher is anything less than a tragedy. That is why they traduce their opponents in language from the political equivalent of the playground.
And that is why they never, ever, mention that the people who ultimately brought about the Baroness’ downfall was their own party.