Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher looked a bit like my mum.
The incendiary stance of not viscerally hating the former Prime Minister is as much born from unformed political opinion, a lack of experience at the business end of some the policies rolled out under her leadership and an upbringing exclusively surrounded by Conservatives, as it is that at a glance she looked a bit like the woman who made me my tea when I got home from school or put a plaster on a scraped knee.
Throughout the 80s I went from pre-pubescence to young adulthood and the presence of Margaret Thatcher writ large over it all. Even though I was more interested in Razzle than Newsround her voice was either intoning a stoic mantra of belligerence aimed at her detractors or being fiercely lampooned by right-on comedy activists on Spitting Image. The face of Britain and of leadership. A face so recognizable it prompted a Pavlovian response in everyone in the country.
As an apolitical teenager her suffocating omnipresence and the reaction to it was fed to you, rather forcibly it felt, by the TV or radio or news print or adults or teachers or by any means possible at all times. An interminable white noise of angry people being professionally angry and hurting the people with whom they disagreed and sometimes with whom they agreed. Really hurting. Physically, emotionally, financially; in fact, in any way they could.
The hurt of those years has exploded onto our screens and newspapers once more, her death acting as the trigger for an outpouring from what seems to be two binary schools of thought. And it is these exclusively polar opposite opinions I struggle to comprehend.
On the one hand you have a hatred so pure it suggests the idea of Thatcher has over-taken the reality. One comedian on Twitter quipped he was disappointed she hadn’t been still born (LOL) and another commentator gleefully wishing for the death of one of her cabinet ministers (LMFAO). ‘Evil’ became the go-to descriptor and many of those who suffered directly, or through inaction, were basking in the sunshine of her passing. Free now. “Ding dong, the witch is dead!” peels across the country and somehow serves, to me at least, to dilute the political statement. A smart-arse paean rather than valid statement. To these people she represented every conceivable ill-fortune lain at their door and thank fuck she’s dead. Good riddance squared.
On the other hand we are treated to the baffling deifying of the former Member of Parliament for Finchley. The blonde halo of her hair so perfectly set in her favourite Mayfair salon framing the face of necessary and unapologetically severe change. Tellingly never described as ‘Good’ to counter the ‘Evil’ but referred to using power words such as ‘conviction’, ‘leadership’ and ‘great’. Willfully ignorant to the impact of change on so many and utterly convinced only the headlines mattered. The world was her stage not those collieries of The North; those mere consequences not a consideration. A deeply uncomfortable viewpoint and one so eagerly flippant. The tragedy of her death to be marked by a public procession, to mourn, to consider, to laud. Weep quietly for She lay at rest now.
The divide is dangerously polar. If you are of one camp then you will be hard put to hold together a discussion with a member of the other because the pain or the pleasure has managed to define who we are now, albeit older and flabbier. So your parents were stripped of their jobs, and seemingly hope, then chances are you’ve been noisily pissed since last week flopping your hatred about to all and digital sundry. Born to an enterprising lot irritatingly seduced by the promise of more gold than you could eat and there is a chance you’ve been pursed lipped and chastising those others for daring to throw a brick at the House of Thatcher.
Me? I don’t mourn politicians. I don’t cheer when a human being dies. I am a proud Briton and painfully aware that this nation has borne brute and brilliance time and again through history and we as a people suffer or profit as a result of their actions, and will do for generations as we have done for generations past.
Margaret Thatcher was a brutal enforcer of contentious change and that is how I will remember her. Oh, and she looked a bit like my mum.