21 Comments

This Ironic Lady is Not for Turning

iron lady

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.

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21 comments on “This Ironic Lady is Not for Turning

  1. While I do stand to the other side of the centre, I do love this article and agree totally that personal delight at the death of an elderly lady from a horrific disease is tantamount to little more than shadenfreud. Democratic victory came when she was voted out and she was out of he game.
    I had high hopes for the coalition when it started: two smart men working in tandem. Moderate politicians just to the left/right of centre and I am disappointed at the results thus far but I still have hope that they open their ears and truly listen to one another the way you have employed us to do today. This notion seems fairly whimsical and romantic when we’re talking about something as stuffy as politics but… Hey, I’m a writer-
    This is my view on listening in parliament:
    If you are of only modest intelligence- surround yourself with smart people.
    If you are smart- surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.
    It’s a marvellous notion- sadly, whenever I see footage of the fruits of our democracy I baulk: Supposedly smart people NOT LISTENING and LAUGHING AT IDEAS instead of actually debating their value and credibility. Sad.
    With regards to politicised newspapers: fine- but read more than one paper a day and get more than one account of the facts, another side to the story.

    • Hi Rob,

      Thanks, I’m glad you liked this. I agree with you. I thought the Coalition was going to do great stuff, find that centre ground we so desperately need, put party politics to one side and work together for the country. I read that back and just want to punch myself in the head for being so naive. Tribalism won’t go away, with its passion for perpetuating time-old prejudices. As you say, “supposedly smart people NOT LISTENING”.

      And definitely, read everything you can lay your hands on, not just material that supports your own viewpoint. The electorate is woefully politically uneducated, and it has never been truer to say that we get the government we deserve.

      Great comments, as always. Thank you.

      Chastity x

  2. I agree with you about the misogyny which underlies the peculiar viciousness of the response to Thatcher’s death. I think this is because she is associated with the demise of traditional heavy industry, which had a macho culture, and some of the men made redundant from it felt that a woman being, as they saw it, responsible for their redundancy made it worse. I think that the progress of women in public office is if anything going backwards now. A lot of the politics of the left is still very male dominated – so of course is the politics of the right, only it doesn’t seem so hypocritical there.

    • Hi Elaine

      Thanks for stopping by.

      You’re spot on. Thatcher emasculated thousands of men by stripping them of their jobs and they will never forgive her for the humiliation. The hatred is almost primal, in that it is unthinking or unreasoning — it just feels. And yes, I think it will be a long time before we have another female prime minister for no other reason than a “What that last woman did,” mentality. It is utterly depressing and utterly lacking in intelligence. Is there any way forward, do you think?

      Chastity

  3. Have to agree, well written piece. My youth sound similar to your own, perhaps one slight divergance was that when my Mum and Dad finally stopped paying rent, it was, thanks to MrsT, their council house which they bought. A huge thank you for that. As far as “two smart men” I presume Bob is referring to the expensive suits which those two clowns can so easily afford, his second talent after writing being in the sartorial elegance industry!
    I think history will debate for years over who was entirely responsible for the loss of heavy industry and jobs. The Union leaders who crapped all over Ford, Vauxhall, Austin, Rover et al must bear a huge chunk of the blame. Union leaders of the 70s had a similar position on negotiation which the Taliban employ today. If we want to kill people for educating women, or for being gay, we will, so xxck off an mind your own xxcking business infidel. Only they don’t do it in no ten Downing Street over beer and sandwiches! (YET!)
    The finger of suspiscion must also be pointed long and hard at the shit management which ran like a fungus through British industry in those days too. Smug arrogant arses laughing at Japanese motorcycles and cars and ship yards as they stuck their heads in the sands and skimmed off profits without investing in new products or equipment. At one time, the vast majority of Jaguar breakdowns and faults, were due to component failures by Lucas electrical parts. It took a new CEO to come into Jaguar before Lucas were told to sort it out or get the bullet!
    The ting about the left, is they have read and understood Mein Kampf. If you repeat lies often enough and loud enough, they become the truth. Also, the bigger the lies, the more likely the population will believe them. Mein Kampf is the blue print for the money earner that is Global warming or climate change or whatever it is called this week!

    • Hi Mike

      Thanks for comments. You make some sound points over the contribution the unions made towards the meltdown of the country’s industries. Closed shops, strikes, complacency, a lust for power and, as you say, a refusal to negotiate — all turned the electorate against them. Even some union members voted for the Conservatives because they just wanted to get on with their jobs and look after their families.

      However, being a conservative (small ‘c’) and inured to being called a Nazi, I would draw the line at calling those on the Left the same! The trouble with politics is that we’re all spun lies all the time. This is why we have to read more than what we want to hear.

      Chastity

      • Hi, totally agree with you. I have a phrase, Red, Green, Orange or Blue, if their lips are moving, they’re lying to you!

        At my age I have no illusions about Laft and Right. I believe politics is a circle, where extreme left and right meet up around the back, they are not polarised at other ends of a line.

        Cheers

        Mike

  4. Thanks for your injection of sanity and pragmatism – whilst I can never imagine being able to support Thatcherite policies (only possible because of majority support in Parliament), I live by the creed of ‘do unto others as you would be done to’ and will not lower myself to display hatred towards any other simply because that is how their behaviour of others might be perceived. I will not celebrate the death of any human being, certainly not an old lady who retired from active public live a long time ago – at the same time I do believe that it is essential that ‘society’ is reminded of just how divisive Thatcherite policies were.

    • Hello, and thanks for taking time to leave your thoughts. Well said!

      As for reminding society of how divisive Thatcherite polices were … yes, provided it can be done dispassionately, showing both the positive and negative impacts, the winners and the losers. Somehow I think we may have to wait for history to lend us the luxury of objectivity.

      Chastity

  5. I’d like to respond to Mike in regards to his comments about climate change. Industries responsible for co2, deforestation and pollution are changing our environment and the nature of the atmosphere and climate. Right now this isn’t causing a problem but now is still the time to act before it becomes a problem. When it is a problem it’s too late.
    Climate change isn’t a money spinner – it’s a respectful catalyst for human ingenuity – we can produce what we need now cleaner and safer but it’s difficult and so people don’t like it. We have become complacent and lost our spirit of adventure and discovery.
    If companies embraced the idea (even just in case the amazingly smart scienctists are right) instead of spending their money to cover their own butts they could employ some more people to sort it out. Make it better because you can and its smart and it’s a nice thing to do. Put it another way, if you did stuff in your own house and found out that what you were doing might be dangerous, would you look for an alternative safer way to achieve the same result or keep doing it until the house was on fire and try to sort it then?
    If Baroness Thatcher had replaced the industries with something else – a safety net – before she and the unions gutted the heavy industries her legacy would have been unimpeachable.
    Imagine the same northern labourers producing things to make industries safe the world over. Imagine them building parts for space craft! Satellites, passenger craft, roving modules – something inspiring instead of something purely profitable. Smart people can figure out how to make an enterprise like that be both… and we have hard-working people who can build it.
    Would it have really killed anyone in that government to have borrowed a little more to help the “men she emasculated” and make them part of a new community?
    Everything has a pound sign on it now, that’s how we measure value. There’s so much that and subsequent governments have done that have instilled this notion and now this is our new British Disease. Being a centrist I feel politically homeless these days and get it in the lug-holes from hard left and right – it’s like really angry but boring tinnitus. I need a new revolution. The guys in power are too safe – bring back the girls!!! If only Mo Mowlam had lived – she was my dream prime minister. (Not too left or right, not a nutter, whip smart, kind, and swore like a sailor!)
    I seem to have wondered away from my original point but I am typing this one handed and plushing my pets with the other.

    • Mo Mowlam would have been AWESOME! I loved her. Sadly I fear we’ll have a long wait for another female prime minister — Thatcherite policies have become inextricably confused with her gender, and I can see a disturbing political sexism has taken hold. Plus ca change, non? While the idea of putting something else in place before replacing existing industries would have been ideal, you have to remember that the unions themselves didn’t want to change and, indeed, the unions were determined not to give an inch even if their members would have. Yes, there should have been the offer of retraining in new technologies — great idea — for those who were willing, but one of the main things was there simply wasn’t time. Action had to be taken there and then.

      We can look back on the era and should-a, would-a, could-a til the cows come home; we can judge the decisions made yesterday with today’s thinking. The point is, mistakes were made and so were triumphs. We need to move on, to look forward. It’s naive to suggest that Thatcherite policies turned everyone into evil money-grabbers. Her goal was to help people stand on their own feet, to be independent. Capitalism was originally all about making wealth and then with the profits helping the less fortunate. Capitalism had noble ideals, but it became distorted when filtered through the markets to end up in the hands of individuals. An individual surely has control of their own actions, for how they use their wealth? There are many, many champagne socialists out there. Do they not feel a responsibility to share the wealth? No, because human nature is to acquire. So to blame Thatcherite policies for the ‘loadsamoney’ culture is misguided. She came after decades of austerity, of make-do-and-mend, and her policies enabled people to taste a little of what “them at the top” had. I personally can’t condemn people for wanting to aspire.

      I’d vote for you, by the way. You make anything sound possible. 😉

      Chastity

    • Hi

      Lots of points there many of which I can agree with. Trouble with the new green is, it just so happens, that wind turbines, which do not in any way address the need for base electricity generation, simply transfer money from the poor to the rich. A failed White House hopeful has made billions pedaling the myths! Also, the greenies have been telling us for years that concrete production is the biggest single producer of greenhouse gasses. Then they pour thousands of tons of the stuff into the foundations of these things.
      Don’t even start on electric cars…………..Who but megga wealthy commuters and townies can afford to pay 25 to 30 grand for an electric car with a winter range of about ten miles. The greenies constantly talk about the “waste” from internal combustion engines. It is NOT waste heat when it is keeping your lights on, windscreen clear and stopping you freezing to the steering wheel and your breath frosting up the inside of the glass!
      We should be looking at ways to conserve our fossil fuels, certainly, but forcing people to buy five quid lamps full of mercury to replace hallogen bulbs at ten times the price, and then tell us the 8000 hours life span is only if you switch it on and leave it on. Switch it on and off and they don’t last!
      We are being fleeced. Deforestation, is a huge problem. We need to try and get the Brazilian and Indonisian Govts and many others to put resource into stopping the illegal logging. Also be nice if we could stop the Chinese buying millions of tons of timber, ‘no questions asked! But charging a UK family a fifty quid green tax to fly on holiday, isn’t going to stop the climate changing………Which of course it has done since time began.
      Why do you think Greenland is called ‘Greenland’ not ‘Whiteburiedundermilesoficeland?” We know the Vikings grew grapes and made wine in Greenland and they were not doing it with Four by Fours and tractors.
      They are all lying to us, they are all getting rich off of us.
      Don’t trust any of em.

      • Ah, politics. Once we start, it’s hard to stop!

      • Hi Iain

        Yes, it was also of note that piece by our beloved knight of the Realm, also ommitted to mention his voting for allowing the Govt to have any case they wish, for any reason they wish, and wish not to disclose (its a secret) will do. ( Remember those days in the playground at primary school) heard in complete secret in Courts. No reporting, no press no public gallery. He even voted against an ammendment which would have said they should only do so as a last resort!
        Power corupts, absalute power corupts absalutely. Given the way all the xxstards tried to hide the expenses scandal, Orwell’s predictions are just about all in place. From next month United Kingdom will be known as Animal Farm and the fat pigs rule!

  6. Great post, and a joy to discover there’s folks in Berwick who can think beyond where their next scone is coming from. Your balanced handling of that Thatcher thing was well considered. Being brought up by a single parent during the 70’s and 80’s has left me with a slightly less favourable opinion of Thatcher, but her final years were not something I would – on reflection – have wished on anyone.

    Now then…

    Though the B’Advertiser does indeed shy away from politics, it is nice that they do show such concern for the older population of the area. For example, it’s kind that they are giving Tory Lite (formerly the… ummm… oh, it’s on the tip of my tongue) MP Sir Alan Beith a chance to try out new hobbies ahead of his imminent retirement in a year or two.
    I was particularly fond of his column about a month ago where he revealed that he’s looking to get back into stage hypnotism. He achieved some success when he convinced large crowds that, despite having voted with some enthusiasm for the privitisation of the NHS, he was most terribly concerned about local NHS maternity provision at a most trying time for his electoral prospe… I mean, a most trying time for mothers-to-be.
    The Advertiser allowed Sir Alan (or Sir Mephisto the Great, as he’ll be known at kids parties as from the Autumn of 2015) to try a remarkable Jedi mind trick; “Look into my eyes! There is nooooo bedroom tax! WhooooOOOoooo!” was the quote, I believe. Somehow, I don’t think Derren Brown has anything to worry about.

    Mind you, Chris Wish must be bricking it…

    • Hi Iain

      Yes, chocolate teapot springs to mind, doesn’t it? Still waiting for decent internet provision as well … and a dual carriageway … *sighs*

      Oh, how we’re all so cynical when it comes to politicians these days. But thinking about it, does the problem lie with us, the electorate, rather than the politicians? The public is not good at facing reality. We pout and stamp our feet when we’re told that the country can’t afford this or Europe tells us we must do that. We mutter darkly about not voting or, if we do vote, it’ll be for the other lot. We act like spoilt children if we think we may not get our way, if we feel something may be taken from us. Can we be surprised that our politicians rarely stick to their guns, that they bow to public pressure or make promises they subsequently break? They run in fear of us. We may think that we know what we want, but do we always know what’s good for us?

      I’m still trying to work this one out.

      Great comments, thank you.

      Chastity

  7. I think you are right Chastity.

    What we need is leadership. Almost back to Thatcher again. Even if the direction isn’t perfect, if a majority are heading in caravan on the same route, it can work. What we have however in all three leaders is weak kneed reactionary arse wipes who jump in any direction regardless of anything as bald as principle.
    No surprise that within days of UKIP taking second in a by election, all three of em made speeches trying to sound tough on immigration. Mind with Millibunds nasal issues, you’ve got to feel sorry for the pillock, he couldn’t sound hard shouting at a dog which had just pissed on his trouser leg! (Which I would pay to see btw)
    They couldn’t lead priests out of a lingerie dept. (Forgive me Father Ted)

    • While passion is a great thing to have( as you’ve so beautifully demonstrated!), it can alienate and scare people. If we could all adopt a moderate tone and be prepared to listen properly and be open-minded enough to consider our own stance may be wrong, perhaps we’ll have more success in working towards a common goal.

      There is shared ground, of that I’m convinced, but we need to express it in a shared language. At the moment we’re failing miserably.

      Chastity

  8. I take your point about your family working very hard and not relying on state support, but what I don’t understand is why you link this in with Conservative values. My father’s family came from a small mining town in County Durham. They worked hard, very very hard and got little thanks for it from the then ruling class or welfare assistance in times of need because it was before the days of the Welfare State. Unlike you family, they voted Labour because they cared not just about themselves but about the rest of the community too. They saw Conservative voters as caring just about themselves.

    • Hi Mike

      Thanks for commenting, and you raise a great point that needs addressing, namely one of perception. It’s difficult for me to comment on your father’s family situation as that was pre-Welfare State and, I suppose, another time, another country.

      But to me and my family, and many other working-class Conservatives, Conservative values are about caring for those who really need it. Conservatives feel that hard work generates wealth that, while improving their own circumstances, can then go towards helping those less fortunate. It’s about learning that hard work comes with reward and generates freedom. But remember, this is grass-level Conservatism. As with the Labour party, the minute the ideals are placed in the hands of the politicians further up the food chain, basic principles become warped and self-serving.

      Conservatives and Labour both believe in fairness, but the nature of fairness is an entirely subjective concept. What I would consider fair you may not, and vice versa. This does’t mean to say that one side is ‘good’ and the other ‘evil’, one side right, the other wrong. As I say, there is common ground, but at the moment neither side is able to speak in a language that the other will understand. Our preconceptions and prejudices have made us deaf to everything we share.

      I despair, to be honest. Party politics rule, okay?

      Thanks again for stopping by.

      Chastity

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