Thatcher

“…her strength was that she understood a certain view of life and when she goes and she’s gone, there will be a great ideological vacuum. It’s no good saying ‘we will run market forces better than she did’ because her whole philosophy was that you measured the price of everything and the value of nothing. And we have to replace that.”

A rather famous clip of Tony Benn speaking following Thatcher’s resignation. It’s a brilliant assault on Thatcher’s legacy but, given what has come since (including Blair and Brown) it can’t help but speak to what we seem to have lost. Benn (and indeed Thatcher) seem like towering figures compared to today’s drab, uninspired middle-managers.

I felt surprisingly flat when I heard of her death yesterday. My thoughts quickly turned to my grandfather, a Labour MP and member of the Wilson and Callaghan governments. I visited Hansard to see if I could find any exchanges he may have had with Thatcher but had no luck. He was no fan of Thatcher but he also despised Blair and I wonder what he would make of the United Kingdom of 2013. One where aspiring politicians tweet their self-lovingly reasonable responses to a divisive death and berate others for not living up to their standards. It’s odd to think that the most common route into politics for Labour MPs used to be seen as trade unionism; now it would be the NUS and policy wonk jobs. I suppose that in itself is one small sad part of Thatcher’s legacy.

While I can’t say that I particularly care that Thatcher the person has gone, I do take some pleasure in the fact that people are currently sending ‘Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead’ soaring up the iTunes charts. Whatever is inspiring this, it feels like a massive rejection of Thatcher’s legacy, a ‘fuck you’ to our current government and everyone who glibly argues that people are ‘naturally’ selfish. It’s a welcome antidote to the fuzzy hagiography which is already in full flow. 

Whether this leads to further (current) political engagement is another matter. There does seem to have been an upswing in political activity amongst my peers in recent months – almost as if the coalition’s policies are proving so hateful that they are beginning to pierce the numbness of disinterest, irony and pop culture which has come to identify so many. The debates over Thatcher’s legacy, coming in the midst of this and campaigns like Left Unity, can only be welcome. It would be ironic indeed if her death contributed to the radicalisation of some who have previously proclaimed themselves to be apolitical. Because, my friends, even with Thatcher gone, cunts are still running the world.

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