What Thatcher taught me


M.T

This is not a eulogy of sorts – it’s more a musing of the continuing fascination with a female juggernaut of power, and what she has imparted on me. It was indeed deflating not to be in the country when the Athena of British politics finally ebbed away. The final press statement was typical of a curtain behind the window of truth: apparently she passed away peacefully from a massive stroke, but to anyone paying a semblance of attention, the odyssey towards death was visibly painful and degrading (the very words one critic sincerely yearned for). The opposition to her death wasn’t particularly surprisingly, especially as it stemmed from the basic desire for people to assertively mark their personal political preferences right through to the chipping of her future legacy. That concept of the legacy is the crucial test of human fallacy for the people who have had the power to change theirs, as well as more importantly representing the final footnote in the annuals of history. Many, many words have been strategically dropped about this woman already, one critic interestingly argued she was inherently ‘unbritish,’ but to others Thatcher represents an unfailingly obstinate harridan who demonstrated a mandate of dangerous power, which she fully utilised.

So what do I think? Well, I found most interestingly that the way that she is so despised consolidates for me what I view as her personal legacy. Sitting in a bar chatting idly with a stranger one of the first things to roll off his tongue was the street party he attended for Thatcher’s death. Democracy is one thing but diplomacy and social etiquette is quite another. Briefly confused as to a suitable response for this, he then swiftly moved towards ‘educating’ me on his knowledge of the woman herself. It’s understandable of course; everyone else has had a shot at interpreting her rhyme and reasoning. Regarding the death of the activist Bobby Sands, it was – according to him – entirely her fault. I expressed concern with the logic and decided to state that I wasn’t prepared to agree with his point of view. I then watched – bemused – as his anger accelerated and his body language became bated in fury. Perhaps under normal circumstances I might have conceded, but then I realised that a woman like Thatcher would never have accepted defeated simply because it was simply easier. This became a battle of wits without room for U-turns, more importantly though it was an arena to remain fixed on the importance of having confidence in your beliefs. Confidence I have always viewed as brashness, but when looking to Thatcher’s resolve, I now saw the concept as an unwavering right. Simply put, that was when I realised I had discovered what her personal legacy was to me.

Politics is an ugly business and one in which I bowed out of long ago. It is one of the few arenas where we, as a nation lose our sense of British repose, instead we forcefully try and demonstrate our knowledge and intellect to the point where we forget what we were originally fighting for. The ugliness to my vision is perhaps best demonstrated this week by the ruthlessness of a crowd braying for further scraps of an exhumed carcass.

But let’s get to my interpretation of the cult of personality. From first discovering Thatchers’ mantra for Britain, I have looked at her as a battling blonde who stoically channelled her vision of a Britain steeped in power and awe. She was a Boudicca who fluidly fused rhetoric, self-belief and unashamed patriotism that will prove unforgettable. I liked her.

So I’ll end on my favourite Thatcher story. The scene was 1984 and the venue was Brighton. The time was 2am when a bomb went off. What would you have done if you had survived a clear assassination attempt whilst others hadn’t? With your able mind, would you not fear for the safety and security that every person in a civilised democracy would expect and would you not concede that an attempt on your life in cold blood is severe enough for you to put on the brakes? Not her. Instead she dusted herself off and arrived, on time, at half nine to continue the conference. The blonde mane was coiffed to perfection, with the eyes still enveloping the entire audience and the stance firmly controlled. With only a mild waver to her eponymous vocals she uttered these immoral words:

And the fact that we are gathered here now, shocked, but composed – and determined, is a sign not only that this attack has failed, but that all attacks to defeat democracy by terrorism will fail.

I struggle to correctly address how incredible I find such a powerful sense of resolve in such a period of unprecedented uncertainty. For those reasons, no matter what people say of her or her policies (for which I’ve carefully excluded from her ‘personality’), she can only command my respect. And for coming so close to her immortality, there is arguably a great sense of irony that people would think these protests would have upset the lady herself; to my mind her self-belief was tantamount to her internal insultation, and her enemies celebrating her demise will never know this wouldn’t have left a hair out of place.

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