Margaret Thatcher, her policies and legacy, are highly divisive. Let me be clear: I believe people absolutely have the right to criticise her, to point out where she went wrong, to discuss and debate the way she changed the country for better or for worse. As she was such a major public figure, I do not even think the normal rule of not speaking ill of the recently deceased need apply. However, the idea of celebrating or holding parties following the announcement of someone’s death is nothing short of disgusting, and completely childish and immature. I am glad to see politicians as diverse as Tony Blair, Alex Salmond and Martin McGuiness telling people it is not a time for celebration. Those involved should be truly ashamed of themselves, and should think how they would feel if others were to celebrate the death of one of their relatives.
Aside from the lack of respect, the idea that there is anything to celebrate is quite ludicrous. It’s clear why people may celebrate the death in office of a dictator, or may celebrate the defeat in an election of a despised leader. However, Lady Thatcher hasn’t been in power for 23 years, and has rarely appeared in public for the last 10 years. So how have the lives of the unemployed or the economy improved this week? Lady Thatcher was an elderly lady and her death changes nothing.
Equally disgraceful is the social media campaign to propel a certain song from The Wizard of Oz to the top of the music chart. The vast majority of people who will have downloaded the track will not be old enough to remember the period when Mrs Thatcher was in power. No doubt they will enjoy the trappings of 21st century Britain, probably growing up in a privately owned house, enjoying university education, and a far more prosperous lifestyle than if they had grown up in the ’70s. And of course, they will likely have downloaded the song over an internet connection provided by a private company making use of what was once the public telephone network, privatised under the Thatcher government. If these young people think Mrs Thatcher’s policies were so bad, perhaps they would like to trade in their current lives and be sent to work down the pit. Of course, the truth is that they mostly have no interest in politics, and will not have even given it much thought. Like sheep they follow a campaign on Facebook, making the protest about as real as the outpourings of grief that were displayed following the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
It is often said that Thatcherism lead to a whole generation growing up as being uncaring, selfish and lacking respect for others. It is therefore deeply ironic that the people who are celebrating the death of the lady who invented it are the ones exhibiting behaviour most symptomatic of the very ideology they claim to dislike.