Monday, 26 December 2011
Instead of celebrating when Thatcher dies, the left should reflect on what a pig's ear it’s made of the past 30 years
Ever since Margaret Thatcher stopped appearing in public due to poor health, the fit and proper reaction to her eventual exit from the earthly realm has been discussed with increasing regularity by the left.
That rolling news will gloss over her legacy with the empty platitudes of the obsequious is entirely predictable. Nor will it surprise many to see the leading lights of the Labour Party queuing up to shower the former Prime Minister with praise.
There are, however, plenty of us who haven’t forgotten the lives she destroyed, the dictators she championed or the unmitigated social disaster set in motion by her particular brand of finance capitalism. We do not feel the need to do what many formerly of the left now do, and parrot the dictum that we are ‘all Thatcherites now’ (just a hint, but when a person says neo-liberal capitalism is ‘inevitable’ what they really mean is that it is desirable). Many of us are not, and never will be Thatcherites, and we will continue to feel no shame in believing that there is more to life than the winner-takes-all capitalism she so unapologetically championed during her lifetime.
There are of course also those, on the other side of the fence, who view Thatcher’s eventual demise as an opportunity to get one over on her family, her friends, and her supporters in a way that was not possible in an era when her ideas triumphed so emphatically. In this regard, Margaret Thatcher’s death is not only to be greeted with sullen contempt, but is to be actively celebrated.
The idea of getting back at this almost mythical figure for the numerous defeats she inflicted on the left is strong motivation for those planning to crack open the Champers on learning of her passing. Considering that during her reign she trounced us at every opportunity, revelled in her victories, and then did it again, the desire to see the back of the woman is perhaps understandable, even if the outright celebration of her passing is, to my mind at least, taking things a bit far.
What we on the left would do well to remember, however, is that the ideas embodied by Mrs Thatcher are not going to be dented, let alone killed-off by the departure of their most famous living embodiment. ‘All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come,’ Victor Hugo once said, and if the left is to recover from the tremendous setbacks it has suffered during the past 30 years, it is the ideas embodied by Mrs Thatcher that must be replaced, not the worn-out figure of an elderly lady.
Rather than celebrating the death of a human being, even a not particularly endearing one, the left should instead examine with clear-sightedness where it has gone wrong, how it has behaved and how it can do better – and boy, can it do better. Considering the complete failure to make any political inroads since the 2008 banking crash, this should be clearer today than ever.
Time and energy spent celebrating the deaths of those who popularise ideas we dislike is time that would be better spent popularising our own ideas. With this in mind, morbid celebrations are better left to the psychologically unhinged. The media already does an effective job in portraying us as morally detached from the values of the average person; they certainly don’t need us serving up ammunition on a plate for them.