For once I envy the position of the Tweeddale Press. They know not to get embroiled in politics. They know their readership well enough to avoid talking about wider issues, keeping to micro matters instead: the cake sales, amateur dramatics and petty thefts. They are, inasmuch as a newspaper can (yet never should) be, apolitical.
The results of this post are a foregone conclusion. I am prepared. I have assumed the foetal position and have strapped thick books over my kidneys to prevent disruption to my urinary function from the inevitable kicking that will follow. I should probably stay silent. I know from Facebook and Twitter and any other place where armchair politicians gather in numbers that I should keep my trap shut, that what I say will not be welcome, that my words will remain unheard underneath the avalanche of indignant rage and claim to moral superiority. Democracy is not alive and well in the land of social media; freedom of expression exists only if you express the right (Left) thing.
I’m not particularly political. I find statistics and shouting both exercises in futility, yet they seem indispensable to any political debate today. Why, I don’t know. Statistics offered up by one party are neutralised by statistics offered up by the other, and shouting achieves nothing but an all-pervasive tinnitus. And yet … I do have an opinion, so I guess that makes me political after all.
I will try — without shouting, without basing anything on the fickle favour of statistics — to express my sadness over the reaction to Margaret Thatcher’s death. And I would like it if you could let me finish, if you could try to listen without sputtering over your screen gory clots of pre-emptive “buts”.
An aircraft mechanic descended from grocers, my father instilled in my brothers and me the importance of work, not just for the obvious financial rewards but to develop self-respect. My mother, brought up on the charity of the Soroptimists in an orphanage in Greenock, worked variously as a shelf stacker, hairdresser’s assistant, telephonist and receptionist. They had four of us — two went to grammar school, two didn’t. None went to university. They taught us to work hard, not to get above our station, to be grateful for what we had, to be independent and honest. They voted Conservative because they saw the power the unions wielded in the seventies as damaging to the country, disruptive and self-serving. They believed in fairness, the NHS and an individual’s right to get on in life if they were willing to work.
(How are you doing so far? Be honest, you’re choking on the fairness bit, aren’t you? I’ll press on. You’re doing very well.)
My mother and father were neither heartless or cruel while my granny could have been conceived as both, but then she had religion so we must forgive her. My father enjoyed the News of the World and ITV, my mother crosswords and the BBC. Money was tight, we went without and cut our cloth. We didn’t blame anyone else. We didn’t envy those who could afford an annual holiday and Christmas salmon that didn’t come out of a tin. We simply accepted and worked on.
In their forties, my parents holidayed abroad for the first time. In their early fifties they could finally afford to buy their first home. Retirement came, and they looked forward to an old age funded by the pensions they had managed to save.
Does this make them evil? Does this make them worthy targets of vitriol and spite? Should this make them, my brothers and I, and thousands of people who think this is a right way — a good way — to live, open to hate-filled accusations of moral bankruptcy and having a reptilian sensibility?
I don’t think so. And neither do you, if you breathe into that bag long enough to think about it. History teaches us that there are losers in every political story. I lost my home as Tony Blair spun his. Do I blame him and his policies? Only partly, my parents having also taught me to take personal responsibility.
How much energy has been expended to keep such hatred alive? How much time has been lavished over nursing this infection so its transmission to the next generation is assured? Can those of you on the Left still fly your flag over the moral high ground as you sing songs and organise parties to celebrate the death of an 87-year-old ex-politician; as your gleeful shouts of “The witch/bitch/that f***ing woman is dead” reveal at last the underlying misogyny responsible for keeping the fire burning white for the last thirty-odd years? And, as the self-appointed upholders of truth and equality, will you promise to do the same for Blair when his time comes?
Margaret Thatcher is dead. She died some time ago. Move on. Rise above this disheartening mob mentality. I like to think there is common ground to be found between us. If we all stopped howling at the moon for a minute we might look down and find it’s nearer than we thought.
Thank you for listening.