Friday, July 18, 2008

 

No State Funeral but Thatcher Deserves a Great Send-Off

My reading of Simon Jenkins today was preceded last night by a viewing (thanks to Sky+)of The Long Walk to Finchley, the dramatisation of the Iron Lady's early life and entry into Parliament. Jenkins lambasts those Guardianistas who spit hate at her memory and at the very contemplation of the idea of a state funeral. Allowing for the fact that it is a bit distasteful to talk about someone's funeral while they are still alive, the topic is now 'out there' and being discussed, so here goes.

My own attitudes to Thatcher, as a Labour supporting public sector employed person during the 1980s were almost manically hate-filled. I could not bear to see her picture in the papers or her face on the television. I was furious at her divisive style and imperious belief that she alone had the answers. That small, town precious conformity to the values of the fifties also made my blood boil even more ferociously, as did her condescending preachy voice. And don't ask me to recall my lunges for the sick bag, when I heard some senior Tories had taken to calling her 'Mother'. She got me out there leafleting and letter stuffing for Labour at local and Westminster levels. Oh boy, I hated her.

I daresay the above paragraph would describe the feelings of a pretty broad band of voters. But how do we feel now? Well, I can only speak for myself but I have mellowed quite a bit.

i)Even as a Labour supporter I was not at all happy about the unions who strutted though the seventies far too destructively for the health of our economy or our political system. Thatcher took them on and, even though her methods were brutally uncaring and her tone nauseatingly triumphalist, she did correct an imbalance from which the economy and millions of ordinary folk have benefitted. Maybe, in retrospect, we needed that harsh, ice-cold shower and it has to be said, she delivered.

ii)One has also to grudgingly admit also that, allowing for policy mistakes and some apalling fatcattery, privatisation, on balance has done more good than harm, given the corrupt inefficiency of the nationalised industries at the end of the 1970s.

iii) It also has to be said that the Falklands War was, on balance, a just war and she did prosecute it with a resolution which one cannot imagine being matched by Labour's then leader, Michael Foot.

iv) Finally, life is just too short to cling on to one's hatreds. My feelings towards her are still far from warm, but seeing Andrea Riseborough's inspired depiction of Maggie in trhat TV drama, one could only admire in retrospect her fight against the bitter, crushing misogyny within her own party. Her main failing has been, perhaps, a complete lack of empathy with people outside her own narrow social orbit. But as a politician fighting against cruel odds, she proved a superb performer; just as a cricket fan, Ricky Ponting arouses feelings in me of great negativity, I have to admit in all honesty: 'What a player!'

Jenkins is right that a state funeral should be kept for the likes of Churchill:

Her mark on history is great and merits due celebration, but it should honour a revolutionary political leader, not a figure of state. Thatcher's legacy deserves an oration, not a gun carriage.

Comments:
Great post Bill and I wish more on the left had that maturity when it came to judging her.

As someone usually described as being on the right I'd have to say I agree with every word you've written on her here - faults and strengths.
 
I think that some of this stuff makes sense, but you're failing to see some of the alternatives. If the left was in a better condition, Thatcherism would have been redundant, and would have appeared extremist.

Consider her approach to the unions. She would have looked like a nutter if the proposals in 'in place of strife' had been correctly implemented. At the end of the day, her basic premise that trade unionism should be democratic and consensual is a correct one even from a socialist standpoint. What was not correct was the arbitrary use of state violence and the theft of union funds.

By the same token, council housing. Why not allow people to buy them, but allow councils to build them?

On privatisation, getting rid of BT, Leylad and BA definitely make sense. But why didn't she instead mutualise gas and water, etc?

If our left had had its head out of the Leninist idiocy to which it had consigned itself, she would never have got away with her excesses, extremes and offensive language.

She may have increased life for millions. But people of my generation have no homes to buy.

The question, surely, is 'which millions?'
 
improved life, even.
 
It always does you well to admit it when your enemies are great, and I congratulate you for this. So the Romans did with Hannibal and (alas only some of) the British did with Napoleon. And Thatcher was great in any sense of the word.

Bad taste aside(ie she is alive and well thankfully), I wouldn't think a state funeral is either likely, desirable or even sought after by Thatcher. It wouldn't make sense. Churchill was a worthy exception and it should stay this way.

But let us be honest. The unions of the 1980s were every bit as dangerous as Hitler's panzers, and they came considerably closer to destroying our country. Thatcher destroyed them and I rejoice in that. Even most of the left now realise that this was for the best(as most young Germans know Churchill's victory was for their long-term benefit).

In terms of personality, well you either liked her or you didn't. Some of the fawning was at times nauseating, I agree. But not unusual for great and successful leaders. Some of the people who clustered themselves around Thatcher were odious. Alas many of these odious types have faired EVEN better in Blair's Britain.

But leaders cannot be blamed for their followers. Thatcher was always remarkably gracious to her enemies(magnanimity in victory). But she ws always sure to win. Alas her victory against the federalist agenda was only temporary, but her victory over the Unions appears to have dealt a fatal blow. An achievement of the highest order. Their dislike of her is merely proof of this(rancou in defeat).
 
God bless Maggie - you and your 'readers' are all England-hating scumbags.
 
RJP
I've been wondering about your comment- though not a great deal- and wondered if your name owed anything to the author of a once standard textbook on British Government and Politics by Punnet but his initials were PM, not RJ and I can't think why you would have purloined his name unless, of course, you are totally rather than just slightly unbalanced.
 
As a hard line Tory myself, I must say that I agree with you that Mrs T probably doesn't deserve a state funeral. Churchill was an exception and I think it's important to preserve the British tradition that politicians, even PMs, are treated as commoners like the rest of us. They are not heads of state and I think treating Thatcher as one will merely make the lesser ones think even more of themselves, alas.

One of the weird things about Brown is that he seems to be uniting us all, left and right, against him and his political class. They have abandoned healthy political debate and seem only interested in power.
 
State funeral? What a joke! I just happened to be driving through Orgreave last week.
Yes, I still hate her.
 
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