Among The Ruins


Lector si monumentum requiris circumspice.
(Reader, if you seek a monument, look around you.)

The media had decades to prepare for the death of Margaret Thatcher, who checked out at The Ritz today. It still seemed this evening to have taken them by surprise. The BBC were the worst, like a bunch of prefects, busily orchestrating the nation’s grief. Female chauvinist cooing about how she was the first woman Prime Minister (which she was, and a pretty rotten example for any more to follow). Hints that she was anti-socialist (yet introduced the hyper-egalitarian Poll Tax). And all the London party leaders lining up to say how wonderful she was.

You can already visualise the flowers piling up like it was Princess Diana all over again. And there’s more to come as taxpayers’ money (£3 million has been mentioned) is splashed out on a funeral for the old girl at St Paul’s. (St Paul’s is a big church in London that thinks itself important, the work of the well-known Wiltshireman remembered in the Latin line above.) Such a shame that firm friends of hers like General Pinochet can’t be there. An even bigger shame that the rites aren’t to be funded entirely by private sponsorship as she’d surely have wanted.

Channel 4 did a much more balanced job. They actually went to the areas that Thatcher devastated and got reactions from those on the street. A big thumbs-down from Wales and Northumbria. And in Scotland, Alex Salmond cannily pointed out how much she’d done to make the case for a Scottish Parliament. Thatcher is gone but her legacy lives on. Part of that legacy has been to weaken and perhaps destroy the myth that the London regime works for the good of the whole UK. Thatcher worked for the spivs who still infect her party, and now the other big London parties too.

Sickest of all the comments made today was Cameron’s eulogy praising Thatcher as ‘the Patriot Prime Minister’ (‘the People’s Princess’ being, of course, already taken). She rolled back the frontiers of the British State, thereby enabling its assets (privatised at fraudulent prices) to be bought-up by foreign ones. She will be remembered for helping to bring democracy to eastern Europe. While destroying it in Greater London and the metropolitan counties like a nanny confiscating toys. She lectured others on freedom while curbing human rights and entrenching prejudice. Her most infamous, most unguarded remark was that there is no such thing as society. Society can at least now say that there is no such thing as Margaret Thatcher. Patriot Prime Minister? Loyal to something, yes, but never to her country.

The way is clear for the rebirth of that politics of community that so nearly made it through in the 70s before it was so horribly handbagged. Thatcher advocated what she claimed was true devolution, a return of power to the atomised individual. Post-crash, we now know what that world looks like in all its glory. A world where not only the individual but communities, and whole countries, are alone and defenceless against the will of ‘the markets’ and ‘the investors’ who must be placated. Not to mention the failed firms that, far from going to the wall as Thatcher told us they must, are kept alive by endless transfusions of public wealth. Worse, if everyone’s looking out for themselves, day by day, who’s looking out for our shared long-term future?

The damage that woman did is vast, so vast that the generations who have grown up since sometimes struggle even to imagine that a better world is possible. The repairs must start in earnest tomorrow.

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