We’ll celebrate no-one’s death. Margaret Thatcher was a mother and grand-mother and we offer condolences to her family. But we’ll not suffer the hagiographies in silence, and the final end of Thatcherism, when it eventually comes, will indeed be a cause for celebration. For now, however, Thatcherism lives on still, under various names – the latest, sado-monetarism, coined only today by Paul Krugman.
It was responsible for the destruction of much of British industry, for the Big Bang that laid the foundations of our recent financial crisis, for the emasculation of the trade unions that had improved working people’s living standards, and for the undermining of the solidarity and community that were the foundations of the society whose existence she denied. There was nothing remotely “patriotic” about doing those things.
In treading the difficult path between social acceptablility and political realism in remembering someone who had such a big impact but was so widely despised, Ed Miliband has struck a reasonable balance:
She will be remembered as a unique figure. She reshaped the politics of a whole generation. She was Britain’s first woman Prime Minister. She moved the centre ground of British politics and was a huge figure on the world stage.
The Labour Party disagreed with much of what she did and she will always remain a controversial figure. But we can disagree and also greatly respect her political achievements and her personal strength.”
It is important to remember that she “moved the centre ground of British politics” because what has been done can be done again. Stewart Wood, one of Miliband’s closest confidante and advisers, tweeted along similar lines:
RIP Margaret Thatcher. She showed us that real change inspired by values was possible, & whatever our values, we should always remember that
Labour must work to shift the political centre ground well to the left in just the way Thatcher moved it to the right, as New Labour not only conspiculously failed to do, but, being similarly “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”, failed even to attempt. Blairism was of course the child of Thatcherism, Blair has talked this afternoon about building on what Thatcher did rather than reversing it, and we will not be able to celebrate the death of Thatcherism without seeing the death of Blairism.
But tonight, in the quiet of my home, I shall be listening to Elvis Costello Tramp(ing) the Dirt Down over dinner before re-watching my DVD of the Boys from the Blackstuff. And it will feel like a wake not a celebration.