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.