So much to say about Thatcher and so much has already been said. This morning’s Today programme was the political equivalent of the Here and Now tour, stuffed with 80s veterans rolling out the hits. My small contribution was a blog for the Guardian about her impact on music:
Protest songs thrive on combat. Complicated policy details may cause the songwriter’s pen to freeze but larger-than-life politicians who polarise opinion enable the ink to flow. It is striking that, despite all the frustration and ferment of the punk era, nobody wrote a memorable song about Jim Callaghan. But to musicians on the left Margaret Thatcher was an irresistible super-villain who threw all the conflicts of the time into sharp relief. Penny Rimbaud of anarcho-punk radicals Crass once told me: “I think Thatcher was an absolute fairy godmother. Christ, you’re an anarchist band trying to complain about the workings of capitalist society and you get someone like Thatcher. What a joy!” More…
If I’d been smarter I would have written it well in advance instead of in a rush and I wouldn’t have forgotten one of my favourite, and most overlooked, condemnations of Thatcherism. If Ghost Town, A Town Called Malice and Shipbuilding defined pop’s response to her rocky first term, then King’s Cross did something similarly potent during the period when it became clear that she had won many of the key battles and reshaped Britain forever. The nauseous sadness of songs like this feels more powerful than more direct assaults on the woman herself. It was certainly the anti-Thatcher song that, given my age, first resonated with me and ran counter to the values of the true blue London suburb that I grew up in.
Rather than bombard you with links, I’ll just quote this response from Morrissey, which sums up the feelings of so many who opposed her during the 80s. It’s the best thing he’s written in ages.
Every move she made was charged by negativity; she destroyed the British manufacturing industry, she hated the miners, she hated the arts, she hated the Irish Freedom Fighters and allowed them to die, she hated the English poor and did nothing at all to help them, she hated Greenpeace and environmental protectionists, she was the only European political leader who opposed a ban on the ivory trade, she had no wit and no warmth and even her own cabinet booted her out. She gave the order to blow up The Belgrano even though it was outside of the Malvinas Exclusion Zone—and was sailing AWAY from the islands! When the young Argentinean boys aboard The Belgrano had suffered a most appalling and unjust death, Thatcher gave the thumbs-up sign for the British press.
Iron? No. Barbaric? Yes. She hated feminists even though it was largely due to the progression of the women’s movement that the British people allowed themselves to accept that a prime minister could actually be female. But because of Thatcher, there will never again be another woman in power in British politics, and rather than opening that particular door for other women, she closed it.
Thatcher will only be fondly remembered by sentimentalists who did not suffer under her leadership, but the majority of British working people have forgotten her already, and the people of Argentina will be celebrating her death. As a matter of recorded fact, Thatcher was a terror without an atom of humanity.
UPDATE: Morrissey fans pointed out that his “statement” was in fact a shoddy mash-up of comments he had made to Loaded months earlier. He subsequently released an official statement which makes many of the same points, notwithstanding its idiotic final sentence.
The difficulty with giving a comment on Margaret Thatcher’s death to the British tabloids is that, no matter how calmly and measuredly you speak, the comment must be reported as an “outburst” or an “explosive attack” if your view is not pro-establishment. If you reference “the Malvinas”, it will be switched to “the Falklands”, and your “Thatcher” will be softened to a “Maggie.” This is generally how things are structured in a non-democratic society. Thatcher’s name must be protected not because of all the wrong that she had done, but because the people around her allowed her to do it, and therefore any criticism of Thatcher throws a dangerously absurd light on the entire machinery of British politics. Thatcher was not a strong or formidable leader. She simply did not give a shit about people, and this coarseness has been neatly transformed into bravery by the British press who are attempting to re-write history in order to protect patriotism. As a result, any opposing view is stifled or ridiculed, whereas we must all endure the obligatory praise for Thatcher from David Cameron without any suggestion from the BBC that his praise just might be an outburst of pro-Thatcher extremism from someone whose praise might possibly protect his own current interests. The fact that Thatcher ignited the British public into street-riots, violent demonstrations and a social disorder previously unseen in British history is completely ignored by David Cameron in 2013. In truth, of course, no British politician has ever been more despised by the British people than Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher’s funeral on Wednesday will be heavily policed for fear that the British tax-payer will want to finally express their view of Thatcher. They are certain to be tear-gassed out of sight by the police.
United Kingdom? Syria? China? What’s the difference?
9 April 2013
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