Friday, 12 April 2013

The death of Margaret Thatcher: Yet again, MPs in their ivory towers, fail to connect with ordinary people.

Like many, I've been stunned since Margaret Thatcher's death, at the way most politicians and much of the press have sought to rewrite history in their desperation to paint a portrait of her, most ordinary people simply don't recognise.  And just as with the barrage of negative stories about people on welfare last week, so we've had to suffer a bombardment of quirky little anecdotes and tales of heroic bravery, for fear that if the airwaves fall silent for a single moment, people might catch their breath and start to question some of these strange accounts.

Did she really go into South Africa and single-handedly liberate Nelson Mandela in February 1990? (I can't find any news footage of that at the moment!)
Did she demonstrate compassion for human suffering by regularly taking in waifs and strays at Christmas time?  (Well, Jimmy Saville, I suppose!)
Did she genuinely want to release thousands of mentally ill patients from the trauma of residential care, so that they could be free... (to travel the circle line from dawn to dusk, because they had no money and nowhere else to go!)

Politicians frequently express these sorts of polarised views, you're either good or you're bad and anything that casts doubt over the category you've been placed in, is ignored or denied.  George W Bush was famous for doing this; his Axis of Evil comments revealed just how paranoid he'd become, and here in the UK too, politicians made remarks which sometimes had you questioning their mental health as well.  Why did they think everyone was trying to f*** them over, screwing the system, at the time I didn't understand this at all.

Then in 2009 of course, the Daily Telegraph revealed MPs themselves had been claiming expenses, inappropriately, at least, we were frequently told these claims did not technically break the rules, but most were found to have claimed for things, the public were astonished by - from blue movies to duck houses and moat cleaning services!

Politicians had been obsessed with the public fiddling figures, because it appeared there was an embedded culture of this in Westminster.  They judged us, by their appallingly low standards!  Very few emerged with self-respect intact - though I have to say, the current Labour leader, Ed Miliband was on the Telegraph's short  "Saints" list of MPs for claiming very little in comparison to others and he was ordered to pay nothing back.

All too often our members of parliament seem to live in a world of their own, with no idea what life is like for the vast majority of us (who actually don't fiddle our monthly expenses and wouldn't have anywhere to put a duck house!)  They seem out of touch with the public's concerns and out of touch with reality.

On the passing of Mrs Thatcher too, politicians have read the public mood all wrong.  That's why so many people are objecting.  It's an insult to tell people who suffered as a result of her brutal policies, that we must all lavish praise and respect on her, because she was a woman who won three elections.  To be honest, she didn't have a lot of competition did she, the left was in chaos for most of the 80s and 90s!  So many people lost their jobs as a result of Thatcher's heartless economic policy; they lost their homes, their marriages, their dignity and any sense of hope.  Why on earth should they be expected to toe the Tory line and mourn the loss of a woman they only ever knew as a cruel, oppressive ruler, who condemned their own suffering through desperately hard times, as weakness!

But it's not just people who despised Mrs Thatcher, who are objecting to the extravagant funeral she planned for herself.  Many have come out and said they actually admired her, but they still find it outrageous that in times of extreme austerity, when we've been told vital public services must be cut back to the bone, the government has offered £5 million of taxpayers' money to help fund her send off.  At least £5 million, for they won't know the exact amount apparently until after the event.

And now we are hearing MPs and ministers are wading into an argument about what songs the BBC's official Chart Show on Sunday night should and shouldn't play.  There's been a campaign to try to get the Judy Garland song, "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" to number one, as a protest against the glorifying of someone whom a significant percentage of the population have loathed for over 30 years.  Considerable pressure is being put on the BBC not to play this song in their regular top 40 run down.   The track is currently number 4 in the charts, and actually number 1 in the download charts.  One wonders what Mrs Thatcher herself, would make of the Nanny State stepping in to take control of the free market!  As usual, Tweeters have been keen to offer advice to the BBC, the funniest one perhaps being: "Why don't the BBC play Ding Dong The Witch is dead but have the words spoken by an actor."

If MPs are successful in preventing this record being played, this might well be seen as the government upping the ante - is this really such a good idea with her extravagant funeral taking place on Wednesday?

However much MPs from both sides of the house have been keen to express their affection and respect for Margaret Thatcher, there simply hasn't been a mass outpouring of grief around the country, as there was, for instance, when Princess Diana died.  I cannot believe for a second that thousands will line the funeral route to weep into their hankies and throw flowers at her hearse.

While I imagine this must be a very sad time for Margaret Thatcher's family, I don't understand why everyone else is expected to mourn her. Yet again, MPs just don't get it.   Most people probably don't care any more about Margaret Thatcher, than she cared about them and the public is rapidly reaching 'Thatcheration' point.

I should close, by extending my appreciation and respect to those famous faces who have shown the courage and integrity to give a more honest view of how Mrs Thatcher's policies affected individual communities and society as a whole.  To Ken Livingstone, who was I think, the first to give a more balanced interview (and got cut off by Sky News I believe for doing so!), and to Glenda Jackson  along with colleagues, Michael Meacher, Diane Abbott and David Winnick, to Polly Toynbee on Question Time and to Mark Steel for writing an excellent, nail-on-the-head article in yesterday's Independent, which you can read here:

1 comment:

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