I didn’t attend National Tory Day – I mean the funeral – yesterday, and did my best to ignore the fact that it was taking place. This was a good thing, because what I did see and hear was dispiriting at best and seriously bad for my blood pressure at worst.
It wasn’t until late afternoon that I turned on the radio to hear a drippy BBC correspondent serving up large dollops of syrupy prose, in that special solemn and stately voice they use when they think they’re present in some moving world-historical event – like rehearsing for the job of Poet Laureate or Voice of the National Soul.
I caught lots of gerunds and guff about cathedrals soaring and crowds melting away, before I turned off the machine, reeling from the eulogistic tone. After that I watched Channel 4 news and caught Kenneth Clarke and Shirley Williams looking misty-eyed and nostalgic. Well Shirley was at least, as you might expect from one baroness to another.
But then so was pretty much everyone else, except for the few protesters interviewed by Alex Thomson. The general tone of the coverage of Thatcher’s death over the last week has been painfully self-congratulatory (only in Britain and blah, blah, blah), and serenely indifferent to the brutality and callousness that Thatcher embodied and put into practice in so many ways – and which is now being inflicted on the nation by her successors with even greater vindictiveness than she was able to manage.
There were some exceptions of course, such as Galloway (inevitably), Glenda Jackson and Dennis Skinner. But the generally respectful and admiring tributes from so many politicians of different persuasions was a reminder that there really is such a thing as ‘political class’, whose members, despite their apparent differences, have more in common with each other than they do with the world outside Westminster.
They were saying goodbye to one of their own, even if it meant participating in an extended party political broadcast for the Tory party having to listen to Lord Snooty smugly declaring that ‘We’re all Thatcherites now.’
As for the soldiers, the clock-stopping, the costumes and the carriages, well one day I would like to think that this country may find some other way of defining itself than by presenting queer vestigial relics of aristocratic privilege as the essence of who we are.
But then one day I would like to live in a society that used its wealth and resources for the benefit of all its members, that said goodbye once and for all to dreams of imperial greatness and the Thatcherite utopia of the ‘invisible hand of the market’. We are nowhere nearer to that than we were when Thatcher left office.
And all the sycophancy, power worship and misty-eyed reinvention of history that was on display yesterday reminded me of the following lines from Tom Pickard’s incendiary poem ‘The Devil’s Destroying Angel Exploded or Coal Hewers in an Uproar’:
look dozy fathers look
your masters have changed
drawn by the river mist
you drift in a dream
ah father your flesh is overrun with lice
and all your life you nurtured many parasites
That’s how it was when the Iron Lady ruled, and the events of the past week have just made it a little more obvious that, sadly, it still is.