Youth Thatcher-hatred is slightly embarrassing.

This post was written by Jon on November 16, 2010
Posted Under: Tories
When Margaret Thatcher entered hospital recently, her impending demise began trending on Twitter. I could quote some #whenthatcherdies tweets for you, but you know what I’m on about.

Mrs Thatcher: Not long for this world.

The fact that people were thrilled to hear of Mrs Thatcher’s ill-health simply isn’t surprising; the fact that so many celebrating her coming death weren’t even alive when she wielded power, is.

Laurie Penny addressed this in the New Statesman this week: ‘Why do young liberals hate Margaret Thatcher? It’s a fair question, given that many of us, myself included, were still potty-training when she left Downing Street 20 years ago…So why the drunken half-jokes about dancing on her grave?’

Today’s young people [she continues] are living in the shadow not of Thatcher herself, but of Thatcher the icon. Thatcher for us isn’t a real politician with convictions and committees to attend: she is an image, the wicked witch in the woods, the rubber mask of neoliberalism in drag gurning down a generation just beginning to understand how it has been cheated.

I’m not convinced.
Do the people who were barely able to form sentences (let alone political convictions) during the Thatcher years really base their #whenthatcherdies tweets on these grounds? I’m more inclined to believe that they are reacting as they think they should.
The joy felt at somebody’s death (there must be a German word for that) can’t be based on a nuanced, intelligent reading of recent political history of the kind Penny has provided – it is an emotion. The people who lost their jobs in the eighties, supported the miners and rioted against the Poll Tax viscerally remember how they felt at the time. These are emotions we have no access to; it is disingenuous to claim them as ours.
Witness this feeling up close from somebody who was there. I remember my very geordie uncle (the son of a miner, no less) actually welling up as he recounted the Thatcher years. He talked of how she had wrecked entire communities, wrecked people’s lives, destroyed the North; he listed the local steelworks and mines that were shut down for no reason, and even spoke of the perceptible change in outlook that her rule had brought about – the selfishness that replaced the old community spirit he had grown up with. He said he’ll crack open a bottle of champagne when she finally fucks off to the next world, and he’s welcome to.
We know that Thatcher is the embodiment of that awful neo-liberal turn of the eighties that we are still fighting, but recognising this isn’t the same as genuine emotion. We’ll have the deaths of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to celebrate; let’s leave this one to those who were there.
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Reader Comments

They only hate her because they’ve been taught and indoctrinated to. Hate is passed vertically down generations. In a similar way (though to different significance), as people in other countries pass on hatred of different groups of people down to their children, regardless of whether or not the original trigger for that hatred is still ongoing or even relevant any more). Memes die hard. And I for one hope those young who think this way learn to judge for themselves with the aid of historical perspective. It will be hard for many, especially for those from areas where such beliefs are so strong as to be articles of faith. But learning to think independently, and being prepared to let go of past injustices is essential for the world to move on and progress. IMHO.

Written By Owain on November 17th, 2010 @ 4:27 pm

I don’t agree with this at all.

Firstly, I’m in my early twenties and I’m pretty sure I hate her a lot. Is that not OK?

Secondly, working class memory is fuzzy enough as it is without us consciously trying to forget our own history. Saying that only people who experienced something can feel a certain emotion about it is a bit… sectional I guess.

Written By EDDM on November 18th, 2010 @ 5:02 pm

Why must there be a German word for “joy at someone’s death”? This sounds almost like a racist comment to me. My German partner tells me that she doesn’t know of any word or phrase that expresses joy at someone else’s death.


Written By Ralph on November 19th, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

Ralph – think author was referring to the fact that German has a unique and very useful word in ‘schadenfreude’ so might well have a similar one regarding death – don’t think it’s saying anything derogatory about Germans, the opposite if anything!

Excellent article. The left needs more than sloganeering and bandwagon-jumping if it’s going to put together a good critique of government, past or present.

Written By Majeed on November 20th, 2010 @ 10:09 am

I think you are on the wrong track completely with this article, as Laurie Penny was, and both are a rather patronising. Perhaps we should give at least some young people credit for recognising that Thatcher’s government shaped the country we see today and that she bears considerable responsibility for many of aspects of our political and economic life that the upcoming generation despise.

Written By frolix22 on November 20th, 2010 @ 1:06 pm

We hate thatcher because the worst victims of her policies were the (then) unborn, who are now feeling the results and on the streets in protest. Blogged about this here –

Written By Political Dynamite on November 21st, 2010 @ 8:54 pm

Good article. Although it’s heartening that many of us are facing in a similar direction, bandwagon-jumping and professing strong views on subjects you are not qualified to understand damages the credibility of wider causes.

Written By Laura on November 25th, 2010 @ 2:58 pm
Dr Paul

I and many other people who lived through the Thatcher era detest this woman intensely. She had no sympathy whatsoever for those who suffered because of her policies; I will show no sadness when she goes.

I welcome all those younger than me to join in the celebrations when this vile woman finally kicks the bucket.

If you hate what the Con-Lib coalition is doing, then you’ll have reason to hate Thatcher too. She started it.

Written By Dr Paul on November 28th, 2010 @ 9:55 pm