Belfast Telegraph

What Maggie Thatcher haters really say ... about themselves

Gail Walker

The emotional nationwide outburst occasioned by the sad death of former PM Margaret Thatcher – how odd that sentiment seems – is a mirror-image of the outpouring on Princess Diana's demise.

Both responses inappropriate, misguided and embarrassing, but both also character-changing, if a nation truly does have character. After Diana, gone was the stiff-upper-lipped, moderate, private, stoic image of the British people.

After Margaret, gone decency, respect, balance, restraint.

That's been coming for a while, though, post-Iraq, post-Leveson, post-Savile. But the free-for-all intoxication of pure hatred was unexpected. Even those who profited from the Thatcher years through free university education and having a house passed on to them, by daddy and mummy when they died, joined the frenzy without irony or reflection.

Of course, the Left will have their field day. They always do. They were quick to point out at the time the number of Jews in Thatcher's governments, so joining up the twin Stalinist hates of the British Left. Though some have resurrected Clement Attlee as a compare-and-contrast with Thatcher, the Left managed to engineer his downfall, much as they did to Wilson, Callaghan, Blair and Brown. The violent disappointment of lefties is always with us.

Everyone has their opinions on the late Margaret Thatcher and seem compelled to express them at every opportunity.

But the chattering classes in Northern Ireland avoid referencing her hunger strike record like the plague.

Oh yes, there is much teeth-grinding about the Miners' Strike, the destruction of communities, the murder of the NHS, unemployment figures, the rape and pillage of the honest, decent trades unions that left the dead unburied and the lights out through the 1970s, much nostalgic yearning for rented housing, year-long waiting lists for telephones and 25% inflation ...

... but an impressively stealthy side-stepping of the big issue which rends the liberal elite in Ulster into two very familiar and equally distasteful blocks of mutual loathing.

Republican and nationalist Thatcher-haters focus almost entirely on her mythical act of 'letting the hunger strikers die'. Even when they offer class solidarity with the Honest Decent Miners of Yorkshire, it doesn't include the Honest Decent Miners' Sons who happened to have served in the Army and were being killed here willy-nilly, with no thought for the integrity of the plucky communities they sprang from. Imagine the Hovis ad with a bomb going off under the young lad with the tank top and bicycle.

But those soldiers too were, in a strange mythical way, 'victims' of 'Thatcher' and her Cromwellian genocide in Ireland.

Meanwhile, the middle-class arts 'n' crafty set here generate some of the most childish diatribes against 'Thatcher', all charming gendered insults – the 'bitch', the 'witch', the 'cow', the 'grocer's daughter' – while lauding some Cooksonesque rustic past. But the same people who get moist-eyed over the loss of heavy industry and the closure of uneconomic pits then, shower abuse now on nuclear power, employment-generating conglomerates, on people who leave the lights on (nothing changed there then), fill their kettles over the element and insist on owning cars. Most recently, they oppose fracking because it will ruin their view of the countryside where their holiday cottages are and bring the world to an end by earthquake.

But the chitter-chatter over the blue cheese in subsidised Ulster has no view at all of the bitch's handling of the hunger strikes.

Unlike her image in GB, we now know for a fact that Thatcher was not quite the loathsome murderess of republican lore. We know for a fact the extent to which she was personally prepared to concede terms to the hunger strikers.

Just as we know for a fact the vast extent of the treatying that was going on between Sinn Fein and her governments throughout the vicious 1980s. We also know how she was viewed by Ulster Unionism in that period.

What her haters don't do, of course, is join a trade union, join the Labour Party or vote for it, give up their cosy owner-occupier homes, or seek to place their dreadful priggish overweight kids in under-achieving far-off schools.

The point about 'respecting the dead' is not because of the impact such practice would have on the deceased's memory.

Whether it is a paramilitary killer's funeral, a paedophile's or a drunk driver's, the reason one avoids disrespecting the dead is because of the impact such behaviour would have upon one's own self-respect and how one's character might be regarded by others, privately, quietly.

Just one more subtlety that has bitten the dust over the last week.

May it rest in peace with all the others in this purblind country.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph