Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Defending the indefensible

This is now somewhat old hat (I've been busy...) but I wanted to post it anyway.

Many of those who have voiced their broad disagreement with Maggie Thatcher's politics have nevertheless sought to defend her or at least temper their criticism in three ways - all of which are nonsense.

1. "You may not agree with what she stood for, but you should at least show some respect for the dead." Rubbish. Why suddenly start showing respect in death for someone who in life you couldn't stand? That would be hypocrisy. Those criticising anyone celebrating her demise claim such celebrations are in very poor taste - but isn't it in poorer taste to celebrate the life of someone while ignoring their numerous victims. Yes, Thatcher did indeed have family too who will be grieving - but then so too did those callously shafted by her policies.

2. "She was democratically elected - it was the will of the people." Yes she was voted in three times, but in 1979 the Tories polled 43.9% of the vote - enough to get into power in our first-past-the-post electoral system, but some way from being an enthusiastic mandate from the majority of the electorate.

3. "She showed it was possible for a woman to become prime minister." The implication of this is that she should be hailed as some kind of feminist icon (as, for instance, Geri Halliwell has done). It's a funny kind of feminist icon who declares feminism to be "poison", who adopts exactly the same sort of characteristics and tactics (aggression, bullying, intransigence, cheap jingoism, xenophobia) as male politicians and who actively seeks to restrict abortion rights, cut childcare funding and oppose European legislation on equality.

In some ways it's perverse that, at a time when key services and welfare provisions are being cut back so dramatically, Thatcher's funeral is to be financed by the public purse to the tune of £10m. And yet in other ways it's completely appropriate - the former PM inflicting one final bloody nose on the poor and unprivileged. Why couldn't we just have chucked her corpse in a skip? Minimal cost to the taxpayer and minimal involvement of the state - it's what she would have wanted, surely?

I think I probably would now agree with the claim that Thatcher's been a positive force for Britain, if only because her death has raised all kinds of ideological discussion and has hopefully helped to shake some people out of their apathy and ensure greater engagement with politics.

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