Well I hope I don’t die too soon
I pray the Lord my soul to save
Oh I’ll be a good boy, I’m trying so hard to behave
Because there’s one thing I know, I’d like to live
long enough to savour
That’s when they finally put you in the ground
I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down
Thatcher is an old woman now and lost to dementia. There are those who say that an elderly person should be entitled to live out their days in some degree of dignity and peace, which is a view I have some sympathy for. As a human being with family young and old, I find it distasteful that people might direct such invective against a defenseless old lady.
And yet, my sense of distaste is bullshit.
Why? Because our respect for old age has never prevented society from tracking down and arresting elderly people of every stripe and hue, right across the globe. We’re still searching for Nazi murderers. In twenty years’ time we’ll still be seeking out Serb and Croat killers. We arrested and tried ancient Khmer Rouge leaders.
Age is not a defence against justice, and Margaret Thatcher has been responsible for inflicting more than her share of misery on people both at home and abroad. The sinking of the Belgrano is often quoted as an example of a war crime, though I have reservations about that. However, there’s a difference between a crime and a transgression against ethics and morals. 323 people, men and boys, lost their lives when the nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror sank the Belgrano outside the British-declared exclusion zone around the Falklands / Malvinas on the 2nd May 1982.
It’s true that Argentina’s Galtieri was a posturing buffoon, but it’s also true that the Falkland Islands were no more British than Tierra del Fuego. Apart from the garrison of long-forgotten sheep-herders under the leadership of the ludicrous Rex Hunt, nobody cared about the Falkland Islands and nobody in the UK had ever heard of them. I doubt very much if Thatcher had ever heard of them, though they do have strategic importance in the sense that they provide a base for the immensely-wealthy New Zealand Company, and a jumping-off point in the event that Britain should ever need to compete for Antarctic mineral resources.
That was one reason for the expedition to the South Atlantic. Money. Or more specifically, Denis Thatcher’s money. The other reason was the impending election, and the fact that the Tories were not looking good in the polls despite the best efforts of Saatchi and Saatchi. Having defeated Labour in 1979, capturing the popular sentiment of xenophobia and paranoia, Thatcher’s government had inflicted on the British people the heartless economic doctrines of Milton Friedman, leading Denis Healey to accuse them of sado-monetarism.
The British public was hurting and a new election loomed in 2003. The Tories were in trouble, until General Galtieri invaded his Malvinas and Thatcher must have fallen to her knees in thanks. What better way to unite the nation than a war? And what matter if a dozen or a hundred working-class young British men might die? Not to mention thousands of Argentineans.
The main thing was to get the party of the privileged elite re-elected on a wave of jingoism and that’s exactly what happened.
For this alone, Thatcher should be accused of war crimes. For using the deaths of young men as an election tool, Margaret Thatcher needs to be indicted even if she is a demented old woman. After all, the Iron Lady wasn’t always so defenceless.
Ask the coal miners what they think of Margaret Thatcher when, in ensuing years, they were beaten off the streets by mounted police, when their families had to survive on handouts because Thatcher changed the welfare laws to starve them into submission and when they were forced to submit to the will of those whom the Tory party represented. The super-wealthy. The miners’ strike was rightly seen as a class war, but the ridiculous thing about it was that other working people were successfully turned against the miners by the red-top Tory tabloids, whose readers were more interested in Page Three tits and back-page football results than in asking hard questions.
And those questions might have been along the following lines: after the miners, who will they come for next?
Idiots. Britain is not short of such people, delighted to stand up for those Thatcher represented and too stupid to realise where the real danger lay. Tony Blair was later to capitalise on this stupidity by rebranding his party as New Labour, which of course meant Old Tory.
Thatcher represents privilege of a sort that cares nothing for the common man or woman, and yet her political triumph was in persuading these very same people to vote for her, the fools.
As a human being, I very much hope that Elvis Costello doesn’t follow through on his threat and tramp the dirt down on Thatcher’s grave. That would diminish him, much though I understand his anger and contempt. When Thatcher finally dies, and it can’t be long now, the dignified and appropriate response would be to ignore her passing.