Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Why I'd like to see her divisive legacy buried alongside Mrs T

Last Thursday a friend said he'd reached Thatcheration point.

I apologise if you've reached that point too and I'm almost loathe to devote more column inches here to debating the T-word directly. Enough's been said already by the pros and cons. (Ironically, it's the Cons who are pro in this case.) But the last week's dominating story can't be totally ignored either. It's pervaded every medium. Every conversation.

And it's been like a time warp. I was in a shop last Tuesday lunchtime, buying paint, when 'that voice' came over the airwaves.

Suddenly, I wasn't a 48-year-old homeowner about to redecorate the living room. I was right back in 1980-something, in my twenties, a flat-renter, wearing baggy trousers with short hair and one dangly earring 'cos I thought matching earrings were just too mainstream.

Never mind the T-word herself, the ability of that voice to conjure up an entire decade's memories is creepy.

Time collapsed as I smelt the Troubles in the air and felt that old knot of tension in my gut and wondered, just for a moment, what my Daddy would think of the colour I was choosing for the walls. Then I remembered he was dead nearly 30 years. But so strong was the evocation of a time and place, by that voice, that it was as if he was still alive and sitting in his chair at home.

Radio played songs from that era. God, it's an 'era' now. Two minutes ago it was just a few years ago and now it's an era. Now there are TV reporters who weren't even alive then. Time warp.

Were we really all so grey back then? I thought I was colourful but the footage makes us all look as if we lived behind a patina of coal dust. Maybe it was just the political mood. Maybe the footage was concentrating on riots and strikes – not known for colourful clothing. It's hard to look chic in a duffle coat.

Old biles, stored up for 30 years, poured out of the radio as fresh as the day they were minted, revealing a country riven, polarised, pushed to extremes. Points of view preserved in amber, solid, unchanged and unchanging. It was even more depressing second time round than the first.

Never mind smashing the unions, it seems as if she smashed the very notion of community. The sort of communal solidarity that took over a century to build up, the confidence people had in their power as a group, demolished in under two years.

And all the titled cronies telling us that "if you want an omlette you have to crack a few eggs", by way of justifying the communicide she wreaked. It's easy to kill off thousands of lives if you simply see them as eggs, not people.

I don't remember JC saying: "Blessed are the council house owners for they shall make a couple of hundred quid on privatisation shares", but you'd think he had, to hear the Loadsamoney types talk about her brilliant legacy.

I just wish I'd fought harder then. I'd like to fight hard now. Her political offspring are worse than she was, with their insidious, slimy, divide-and-conquer tactics. Different decade, same old heartlessness. They really deserve to be buried with her.

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