Having said that, I’m not about to bury her in vitriol. It’s fascinating just how much has been stirred up by Thatcher’s passing and, tempted as I am to start on a tasteless gag and finish on a chorus of ‘Ding-dong, the witch is dead,’ I’m going to try to make a serious point instead. Sorry. I wouldn’t give up on the chance of a tasteless joke popping up in the process, though.
Worry not, I’m not about to get respectful in the face of death – as this well-considered piece from the guardian recommends. If I had the time or the objectivity, I’d like to try to emulate the function of Orson Scott Card’s ‘Speaker for the Dead’ and describe her life with nothing but the truth but I don’t and, frankly, I detested the woman. That’s not what I’m here to write about, though.
Thatcher is a pantomime villainess; we’re doing our bit, loving to hate her; we booed and hissed when she was on stage and now… well, time for the munchkins to dance. But we enjoy booing the panto villain precisely because they’re echoes of our own bad sides writ large: Thatcher ushered in an era of greed and whatever we think of her, we let it change us. We can’t help but envy the ill-gotten gains of the vultures that Thatcher unleashed to pick the carcass of the economy. I want a big country house and my own aeroplane and to lord it over the likes of you lot. And a part of you wants it too. And that’s what we’re booing.
Thatcher’s economic legacy is all around us; she started the move towards deregulation and laid the groundwork for the exponential growth of inequality.
There will be plenty of noise from those who want her laid in state and those who want to dance on Thatcher’s grave and both are entitled to their opinions. We should feel free to offer an opinion about ‘that bloody woman’, and whether you think that smell is the rust on the Iron Lady’s reputation or the blood on her hands, I can’t help but think that the BBC has never seemed more of a propaganda machine that it does today. Look at this from Stephanie Flanders – the argument “But, we shouldn’t forget how little governments trusted markets or individuals back in 1979. I doubt you would find many critics of modern capitalism who would want to turn the clock back to 1979.” is one of the most facile I’ve seen in a long time. Just because I wouldn’t go back to pre-antibiotic times doesn’t mean that the conduct of pharmaceutical companies should be accepted wholesale. Yes, a lot of things are better than they were in 1979. A lot of them are worse, too.
So make your own mind up. Remember that most ‘economics’ is a load of made-up horseshit to justify daylight robbery. Remember the Belgrano. Remember the 1980s. Then make up your own mind, grab your tap shoes and let’s go camp outside the bone orchard.