Stories of ‘Death Parties’ shocked me, they shouldn’t have done, but they did. I was not a fan of Margaret Thatcher or her politics, in fact I can think of no other person who at times made me so angry on so many levels. I’m not going to dance on her grave, but I will not pretend to find her admirable just because she has died. At the end she was a sad lonely old lady, out of the political arena for over twenty years. I don’t agree with celebrating someone’s death. But those celebrating her life should be even more ashamed of their behaviour.
Those pictures of people celebrating her death got me thinking though. Why do we feel so strongly about a woman who hasn’t had a direct impact on our lives for so long? Answer; because she has continued to have a direct impact, we lived with Thatcherite politics throughout the Nu-Labour years, and we’re living with them now. The question I should have been asking was, why has she continued to influence?
This is a politician, after all, who never won the votes of more than a third of the electorate; destroyed communities; created mass unemployment; deindustrialised Britain; redistributed from poor to rich; and, by her deregulation of the City, laid the basis for the crisis that has engulfed us 25 years later.
Her contraction of industry caused unemployment and misery for millions of people. We might – might – celebrate her achievements if she’d put something in place for after she made them unemployed, so they had something to go to. But she didn’t.
Thatcher was a prime minister who denounced Nelson Mandela as a terrorist, defended the Chilean fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet, ratcheted up the cold war, and unleashed militarised police on trade unionists and black communities alike. She was Britain’s first woman prime minister, but her policies hit women hardest, like Cameron’s today. She created the ‘me me me’ attitude we see today, the end of society and caring – and don’t get me started on ‘care in the community’ – doorways becoming the bedroom of those released from formal care without the ability to care for themselves.
Twitter has been ablaze with women saying things like:
“The death of Lady Thatcher reminds us what women can achieve (regardless of political views or legacy)” @libertylndngirl
To a degree that’s true, and Grace Dents piece in the Indie was well written and contained a lot of truths, however what she and the author of the tweet above have in common is that they are women in their thirties, slightly younger than me, we have differing impressions of the Thatcher effect. Thatcher hated feminists (“The feminists hate me, don’t they?” Margaret Thatcher once famously asked out loud. But she was okay with their disdain: “I don’t blame them. For I hate feminism.” And with those words she set the modern precedent for conservative female politicians to wave off women’s rights in their entirety by simply pretending that there were no women’s rights issues to worry about. – stableytimes.com), she didn’t so much lead the way for women, she pulled the ladder up behind her, she had only ever one woman in her cabinet, and when she broke the glass ceiling those of us coming up behind were pierced by the falling shards. She didn’t give a damn about the rights or opportunities of any women other than herself. If anything she set women in politics back substantially. How often have you heard the tired old joke that women shouldn’t be allowed in power because of the mess Thatcher made? Its never made about men in power who do awful things. Strong female leaders in any walk of life or job have to contend with being called Bitch, C**t, Witch – no strong male leader ever has to deal with that. That is one of the over-riding legacies Thatcher left for women.
If you want an example of strong women in politice look at Emmeline Pankhurst, Margaret Bondfield or my personal heroine – Barbara Castle who showed what women were capable of in the political arena long before Thatcher – she also did far more for women in what was a mans world than Thatcher ever did, with dignity and flair. She gave us the Equal Pay Act 1970 just for starters.
But, I do have something to thank her for, without Maggie I might not have developed a political conscience – I was on protests from the age of 14 or so: Section 28. Coal not dole. Poll tax riots. Student loans. Right to Buy and the destruction of social housing. My life would have been the less for not being so politically informed.
Celebrating the death of a senile old lady is however vulgar, I want no part of a Britain that thinks this acceptable – even if that little old lady did create the mindset that we see in those doing so.