Tuesday, 9 April 2013

This and Thatcher

Eyewear could hardly be a British blog and not notice that Margaret Thatcher has died, April 8, at the age of 87, of a stroke, in a London hotel.  Since her death, in almost Soviet style, the news has had near constant focus on her life and actions, in and out of government.  The BBC, usually unbiased, has been relatively hagiographic.  She was, it must be remembered, as well as being hugely divisive in life, a cultural force - the first woman PM, etc - and this is now being reflected.

I was in Canada during her big years, and I recall her mostly through the anti-Thatcher songs, like 'Margaret On A Guillotine', that enriched the era.  I also recall being thrilled and appalled by the Falklands War, and songs like 'Ship Building', made famous by Costello, were also part of my youth.  I was not a Tory then, and did not like Reagan either.  However, I am not sure that Steve Bell's acid cartoon of yesterday, showing Thatcher in Hell, is entirely civilised.  There is a presumption that one speaks well of the dead until they are buried.  I also recognise that, for some - and riots are breaking out again - indeed, for many - Thatcher destroyed lives, wreaked social havoc, and ruined the post-war vision of a fairer, kinder Britain.  However, my cab driver yesterday, hardly a toff, spoke lovingly of her, and mourned her death as one might mourn a god.

It is simplistic to dismiss her as a monster; perhaps too easy to suggest she is a complex person deserving of our love.  I am not sure what, precisely, to make of her death.  She remains the benchmark for strong leadership, second only to Churchill in that regard.  Some of what she stood for, including the role of women in politics, is admirable.  As I am British, I must therefore mourn the death of a great states person, a powerful leader.  But I also must keep an open mind, for posthumous jingoism is not admirable, and much that this leader did was not to my liking.
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