Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Margaret Thatcher Death Party, Trafalgar Square, 13th April 2013

I consider myself to be a pretty kind, calm sort of person, yet I spent my Saturday night howling in joy in Trafalgar Square in celebration of the death of Margaret Thatcher.  I’ve been repeatedly accused of being disrespectful and rude, and let’s be straight here - I am being disrespectful and rude.  That’s sort of the point.  Margaret Thatcher not only defined not just everything I oppose politically, but seemed to personify every aspect of humanity I despise.  Disrespectful? She doesn't deserve an smidge of respect.

So, as far as I’m concerned, acting disrespectfully is exactly the right response to her death.  The idea that anyone who sets themselves in opposition to Thatcher should restrict themselves to mumbling reverent platitudes words along the lines of “well, anyone dying is a tragedy and she was someone's mother after all” or "Well, love her or hate her she certainly got things done".  Drivel like this leads to a scrubbing clean of history - take heed of the sickening deification of Thatcher’s ideological partner, Ronald Reagan.  To stymie rot like that people need to stand up and nail their colours to the mast, to loudly and publicly yell that neoliberal Thatcherite ideology is eating this country alive, and we can't stands no more!

I’m not about to sit back and let them canonise a woman who wreaked so much harm in the world - her myriad crimes detailed usefully here: whydopeoplehatethatcher.com.  But the psychological pox she inflicted upon the country is difficult to sum up with just a list of her policies.  In an outstanding speech to the House of Commons, Glenda Jackson MP said it better than I ever could:-
"We were told that everything I had been taught to regard as a vice—and I still regard them as vices—was, in fact, under Thatcherism, a virtue: greed, selfishness, no care for the weaker, sharp elbows, sharp knees, all these were the way forward."
So on Saturday yes, Trafalgar Square was full of people rejoicing in the death of a demented old lady, but these people were teachers, nurses, lecturers, civil servants of all stripes - people who work for rapidly decreasing pay and close to zero respect from the government - These are the components of a mutually supportive society where the right-wing wet dream of self-reliance is proved as bullshit every minute of every day.  We all stand on each other's shoulders, an interconnected nation built around institutions like the NHS; a society linked in arms, each person to some minor degree improving the life of the person next to them.  It's those links that Thatcher and her minions seek to sever: their aim to condemn Britain to a nightmare world where a person's worth is dictated by the contents of their bank account rather than the contents of their soul.

Trafalgar Square was filled with a happy, upbeat atmosphere of celebration, yet nobody was under any illusions that this was a victory party.  One old lady has gasped her last, yet a few hundred meters away in Downing Street Cameron and Osborne squat, toadlike, slavering as they spy another opportunity to disembowel yet another aspect of the welfare state.  While Thatcher herself has proved mortal, her spirit lurks in the dark hearts of politicians nationwide.  Even our putative opposition curls up to her like a needy dog, with Ed Miliband comparing himself to Thatcher and this week literally falling over himself to prostrate before her memory.

As I stood, watching a giant skeletal Thatcher puppet looming over the crowd, partygoers dancing little jigs, the smiling faces of the old and young getting together to define themselves in opposition to Thatcher, a smile crept across my face - there was an electric thrill in the air.  Later in the evening a woman in a green taffeta dress climbed onto the front of the National Gallery and after leading the crowd in a spirited dance, stretched out her arms and swan-dived off the wall into the crowd, who caught her as she fell. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better metaphor for the evening, an expression of ecstasy on her face as she implicitly trusted strangers with her life.  If this had been a Thatcherite celebration party they'd presumably have let her splat onto the paving stones, walking away from the shattered body and muttering something about bootstraps.

But though there are snatched moments of happiness, there's gloom in the air, the one fact it's impossible to ignore: Thatcher won.  The political left has been getting the absolute shit kicked out of it since she came to power and what remains is either morally bankrupt or so obsessed with academic minutia.  If you're walking around with a head full of right-wing poison, why you can take your pick of the political parties, Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are all vying for your vote, perfectly happy to demonise benefit claimants and asylum seekers for a quick bit of positive spin in the Daily Mail.  Even far-right crackpots like UKIP are being taken increasingly seriously, getting hours of news coverage devoted to them.  But genuine left-wing ideas?  You're out of luck - reduced to hoping for the least worst option "Man, I hope the Green Party stands in my area".

That's why this was an important moment, a chance for the left to cast aside woolly liberal hand-wringing and scream that they reject materialism, reject judging people by their monetary worth and most importantly that they have a deeply held belief in the importance of the society that Thatcher disparaged.   The bedrock of my political beliefs are that the state has an obligation to provide for its citizens, that wealth should be redistributed from the top down and, most importantly that those with should help those without.  Thatcher believed in the exact opposite.

So, on Wednesday, when the military drags her carcass through London and burns it at vast expense to public funds, ignore the jingoistic pageant, and spare a thought for the millions of people whose lives she consciously decided to worsen.  The human misery that Thatcher created shouldn't be whitewashed from history and that's why I headed out in the rain on Saturday; to yell as loudly as I could; to add my tiny voice to the masses that declare they will never forget the horror she wrought. 

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