Margaret Thatcher — The Iron Lady

I don’t know if Elvis Costello’s views about Margaret Thatcher have mellowed at all since he wrote Tramp The Dirt Down, but I doubt it.

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.


51 thoughts on “Margaret Thatcher — The Iron Lady

  1. The Falkland War wasn’t only about the money, it was initiated because that Thatcher woman was for the wrong reasons unpopular, the wrong reasons being that she was a woman and not supposed to be in power in middle-class middle-english tory-world.

    An ambitious woman hungry for power especially in her time has to be more martial than the rest of them (males). It’s no excuse, I despise her for her arrogance and ignorance no end.

    But she started the war mainly “to show them all”. Selfish and powerhungry as she was. And she succeded, didnt she?

    Sure, to be in power you need a killer instinct, you need to be a sociopath.
    For her there was no old fellow fraternity to rely on, so she fecked the people to prove herself. That’s partly the effect of the glass ceiling at these times.

    I agree that old age is no excuse for former crimes. It still angers me that the justice system is lenient towards criminals, be it Nazi, be it Stasi, be it rapists or whoever who did any damage to another human being, as long as they are old.
    They deserve to live their old age in total misery.
    I’d love to see Thatcher being in court with all her dementia and being ridiculed for it. No mercy here.

    Not going to happen though in middle-class tory Britain.

    P.S. Your new layout is awful. The worst is the tiny box where readers are allowed to comment. It’s visually downsizing your readers/commentators/followers (as Thatcher did). Looks like the comment boxes in useless “If you have a complaint, post here” – thingies. Which are usually ignored.
    Can’t even look at the whole of my comment and fine-tune it.

    Even your posts are diminished to slim columns, which makes the content seemingly slim as well.

    Maybe that’s your intention?

    Well, that’`s your decision, but it’s me being out as a poster.
    I don’t do tiny spaces for my opinion.

  2. That’s right. I’m trying to oppress the readers.

    Or else, I’ve only started restructuring the site to make it better for everyone, and the posts I put up warning people that it was going to look silly for a while were just a joke to fool you.

    Not sure which it is.

  3. Your are easily tickled out of your slim columns, it seems.

    I’ve read your warning of of a building site, but who are the readers to know when it’s finished and done? You announced changes for ages.
    Ah shure, I forgot, it’s Ireland….

    Back to topic: I’m with Elvis Costello: Stamp on every grave of people who stamped on the lives of countless other people.
    At least it’s some satisfaction that this woman who thought who knows it all, now doesn’t know anything anymore.

  4. It’s Ireland? Excuse me? I work hard providing the best free website I can manage and that’s all you can say.

    I think I should give up this shit.

  5. Good summary,but a little gentle on Mrs Thatcher.
    If anything, history–and historians such as yourself–need to teach those that need to know just how her actions and influence impacted our world, to this day. In many ways, she adversely potentially affected the path to political power for many wise and good women. Likely, I’ll bet, we are the worse off for having lost the benefit of many great, powerful, and possibly world-changing female minds, put off by the disgraceful and shameful performance of Maggie. Singlehandedly, she must have undermined the respect of women, amongst and for women, for generations, in the world of politics. Or maybe this is giving her more “credit”
    than she deserves?! Time will tell.
    Dementia is an illness, just like Diabetes. Or Heart Disease. We all die from something. Some acutely from bombs and bullets. Inevitable and irrelevant. How we live, and what we do when inhabiting this earth is what we are responsible and accountable
    The Thatcher legacy will be taught to our great grandchildren, unfortunately.
    I’d stamp on this rather than her grave.

  6. Bock–your attempts at changing the set-up are commendable, in my opinion. For one, change is good. And if you piss off people of a certain frame of mind as a result, you’re probably doing the right thing.
    And it keeps us on our toes.

  7. Bock,

    This woman declared in 1989 that ‘there was ‘no such thing as society.’ It was an ideological mindset that undergirded an abandonment of any attempt to build a consensus society and allowed the downward slide of poor parts of Britain – the sink estates are a manifestation of a state that simply abandoned responsibility for its people.

    PS. The election was due in 1984 – with the surge in the opinion polls she went to the country a year early, in June 1983 – it was not due in 2003, much as she would have valued the opportunity of 24 years in power!

  8. I had the privilege of living in Thatchers Britain, indeed she was my MP. She was admired and despised in equal measure. She was responsible for the rise of Essex Man and Loadsa Money. Building workers wearing Lacoste clothing as diposable work wear to show off their wealth. She advocated “Care in the Community” ie putting mentally unstable patients in to general society with no support network. These and her treatment of the miners should be her lasting legacy. But history is written by the victor and her name with be burnished in lights and her failings swept under the carpet. She has many parallels with Charlie and Bertie.

  9. How exactly does one punish someone afflicted with dementia?

    She is already a prisoner.

    On to other things. I haven’t made my mind up about the new layout yet. I’m giving it some thought you see. My thoughts and opinions don’t need much in the way of space though. I lay no claim to intellect and even less to erudition. I’m thrilled that the platform exists at all to be honest.There are a few fevered egos that need vast Steppe-like expanses it seems but that’s fine too. They wouldn’t know how big they were if they didn’t have the small people to compare themselves to.

    I would ask those ,no doubt, fine and important people to please consider the substance as well as the form.

    There are ways to contribute to both if neither are to your taste.

  10. On Thatcher, I’ve always had mixed views. The negatives are well known and laid out above, but we should remember that she came to power because the country was sliding into the abyss financially and in terms of industry and innovation.
    Many of the economic reforms that she introduced were badly needed – shutting off subsidies to dead-wood industries that were bleeding the country white, introducing secret ballots for unions, to a degree fostering a period of entrepreneurial behaviour.
    The Belgrano incident was shocking but Galtieri must take some responsibility for it, and as for the coal miners, I blame Scargill in equal measure for how harsh that strike was. He threw his own people under the bus for his own ideals, rather than prioritising their interests. Was the good worth the bad? That’s for each to determine. But I’d have Bush, Cheney, Haughey and a few others up on trial long before Thatcher.

    As for the site, as far as I’m concerned as long as the content continues to stimulate and entertain the way it has these last several years, I’ll no more worry about the format than I do the the wrapping on a present. Liked the last format, like this one too (though miss having Klaus on the header). Keep up the good work – and belated Happy New Year!

  11. Somehow I dont think her passing will be ignored. We can expect many of Those Who Matter queueing up to eulogise her and tell us how great she was. Matter of fact,Michael Portillo was on tv yesterday,indignant as to how the movie The Iron Lady.portrays Thatcher as suffering from dementia. But of course the truth never mattered to politicians.

  12. Age does not weary them… Hah!
    Fuck her. If Elvis doesn’t do it I’ll get there somehow and do it in his stead.

    You’re right Bock, it’s your site and you can do what you want. Fuck them too. We’ll have to adapt or die so happy new year to you and yours and here’s to another cracker of a time.

  13. All this dancing on graves business accomplishes nothing. Reminds me of that other fool dancing on Haughey’s grave.
    The electorate have some responsibility for who they elect surely?

    Anyways, informative as ever Bock.
    The place is looking good.
    Glad to be able to contribute too! :)

  14. I am not a thatcherite in any sense of what that might mean BUT……….

    As a family we lived on a council estate in south east london, it wasn’t the worst but it certainly wasn’t somewhere my father, the only bread winner with five kids, wanted to raise his family.
    He tried time and again to save enough cash for a house deposit and anyway no bank would talk to him, he was a bus driver with very little savings.

    Thatcher came to power and her policy of allowing people to buy their own council property changed everything for us as a family. He bought the flat paid off the debt and within 5 years was able to sell the property and move us to a house in kent, he did have to work on for several years to pay for the new place but it got us into better schools with much less negative and dangerous influences, it was all round a safer, cleaner environment for his family.

    In the eyes of my father, a working class irish immigrant, the policy was designed to help people who were willing to help themselves and it was a thatcher policy.

  15. Jay,

    That encapsulates the paradox of Thatcher (and explains why she won three elections). She was a genuine populist and commanded huge support amongst working class people while turning her back on the poorest. Political skill in her time was in identifying that society was not a pyramid, with the mass of people at the bottom, but was more a diamond shape, with the bulk of people in the middle – Thatcherite policies appealed to those in the middle, including many of my own family and friends (my parents bought their council house). The outcome was a stretching of that diamond, with the gap between the richest and poorest growing considerably.

    Elvis Costello, having a long track record of expressing opinions on political issues, will wish to speak for those at the bottom. Many working class people will identify with those in the middle.

  16. It would be good for the box office receipts if she were to shuffle off in the next few weeks.

    As one of Thatchers children, I should have been pleased with her reign, but from a non selfish point of view the peoe she left behind were badly dumped on. I could never get fully behind the inequality of most of her policies.

    The biggest problem was the rest of the Tories were so corrupt and out of touch, they believed themselves to be above the law

  17. The sinking of the Belgrano was not a war crime. It was a military vessel of the Argentine Navy and they were at war with britain. It was also a survivor of the Pearl Harbour attack of 1941 and so woefully obsolete by 1982. Galtieri knowingly pitted a ww2 relic against an enemy with a fleet of nuclear submarines. Btw, I am no fan of Thatcher. Her current state of dementia will be the only punishment she will ever know.

  18. JMC » Opinions are divided on this. Some people say that the Belgrano, as an enemy vessel, was fair game. I can understand that point of view.

    However, if all Argentinean warships were targets, then what exactly was the exclusion zone?

  19. Good point. It always struck me as odd as to why the British would impose such a pointless limit on their own Navy. Nothing more than a line in the sand which they were happy to cross when it suited them. Galtieri started the Falklands War to distract his people from the fact that Argentina’s economy was going to hell under his administration. He squandered the lives of hundreds of young men to maintain his grip on power. If anything positive came from that war it was that defeat drove an enraged people to rid themselves of that tin pot dictator.

  20. You might equally say that Thatcher squandered the lives of British soldiers and sailors to maintain a grip on power.

    I never understood what the term “tin pot” meant.

  21. Isn’t ‘tin pot’ a British public school term, pots being the trophies on was awarded for sporting prowess? Having only tin pots meant having worthless trophies.

    The Belgrano was a tin pot, its sinking being part of the political momentum of the war.

    It was a war that was hugely popular in Britain, whatever its cost in lives, and to speak against it was to be labelled a traitor (I lodged in a house in London where it was made very clear that no-one would speak against our country in time of war).

  22. This is the same Baroness who visited Pinochet while he was under house arrest in England fighting extradition to Spain. She thanked him for his help during the Falklands / Malvinas war. She also stated that he had brought democracy to Chile.

    I wonder would Salvador Allende and Victor Jara agree?

  23. Will I mention the Hunger strikers? (Whisper) Ah maybe not.
    Shure they were only terrorists and after all its much more acceptable in a civil society to sip tea with Pinochet, then to give Political status to common criminals. Isn’t it?

  24. I think you should definitely mention the hunger strikers. However, the situation seems more nuanced than we realised, with hardline Tories like Secretary of State Humphrey Atkins advising one course of action and non-ideological pragmatists like Peter Carrington in Foreign Affairs advising something else. Thatcher seems to have been a bit like Lyndon Johnson who once demanded in relation to Vietnam, “get those goddamned burnt babies off my TV screen”. The international opprobrium drove her crazy and she was probably desperate (for political, as opposed to humanitarian reasons) to get a resolution. But as later events would show when Geoffrey Howe stuck the knife in, her cabinet wasn’t nearly as monolithic as it appeared.

    My own opinion is that almost nobody emerged with clean hands from that awful business. Not the Tories, not the Irish government, not the RUC, not the prison service and not the Provo leadership. The problem now is that, as Eamon Malley pointed out on radio this morning, many things about it are unknowable. In other words, you pick whatever version you want to believe, or else you sift through the various strands that you consider least untrue, and formulate your own interpretation. In order to do that, though, it’s necessary to be non-aligned.

  25. Howe a dead sheep could have savaged her and stripped her of her nuts, is a mystery we shall dwell upon as Thatcher bites the dust. There is no need for exacting revenge from Thatcher because the worst thing that can happen to a PM is for the men in grey suits to come calling and that is what happened to the fucking bitch.

  26. One thing I remember about Thatcher was her battles with Tam Dalyell, he called her a liar in the House of Commons over the sinking of the Belgrano. Jim Prior and other tory grandees called him a disgrace and said he was abusing parlimentry privilege and would not repeat what he said outside the House.He did repeat it outside the House and the silence was deafening.

  27. I think the sinking of the Belgrano was a war crime, after all it was very old and used as a training vessel for cadets. It is also interesting to note that the sub that sank her hoisted the Jolly Roger afterwards

  28. Of course the sinking of the Belgrano wasn’t a war crime. Statements like that piss me off because they dilute genuine war crimes.

    You can argue that the war was engaged by Thatcher for utterly self serving purposes but once war has begun, you can hardly moralise when people start to die.

    The Argentine Government and Argentine Navy even accept that Belgrano presented a threat and the sinking was justified.

    I’m split on Thatcher. She was a nasty bastard but on the other hand she took on the unions and that nasty bugger Scargill. As Ireland has proved over the last decade, given a choice between economic prosperity and society, we tend to take the money and let someone else worry about the fluffy stuff.

  29. For someone who loves logic you ask some very closed questions. “Are unions a bad thing?” A yes or no answer would suffice.

    As a survivor of union membership I would say that they are a necessary evil. For every Vita Cotex there is a Croke Park Agreement, where the collective interests of the few superceded those of the many.

    For every Jim Larkin you have a Jack O’Connor on 6 figure salaries and expense accounts.

    Are unions a bad thing? Make up your own mind.

  30. Yes, unions are a bad thing.

    In the past however they have been a very necessary force for good. In my mind the only debate is whether “the past” is twenty years ago or much longer.

  31. If it’s a bad thing for workers to organise, what’s the alternative? Should it be left to the good will of the employer?

  32. No, employment law, employment tribunals and such.
    That’s the way it works for non unionised workers.

    Of course those laws didn’t always exist and unions filled the gap, quite rightly.

  33. IBEC don’t hold a gun to heads like unions do.

    Like the SFA they tend to advise companies on employment law. Unions see themselves as supplementary to the law.

    I’ve no issue with groups of employees having an organisation to turn to for advice, the fact is those exist with unions, like the excellent Citizens Information Board.

    Imagine IBEC or SFA members issuing a demand on pay, they’d be laughed at.

  34. I meant to say “the fact is those exist withOUT unions”.

    Edit button doesn’t seem to work for me.

  35. Stick with the question of organisations per se for a minute. If it’s legitimate for employers to organise, is it not equally valid for employees?

    Incidentally, here’s IBEC in Dec2010 making a pay demand:

    And here’s a previous report of another pay demand.

  36. Whilst of course there’s nothing wrong with employees or employers “organising”, the problem for me comes when those organisations have undue influence over political decisions.
    Croke Park for example, a political decision affecting the entire country where the government negotiated with unions, who threatened strike action. Hardly representative of the entire country ?

    Both the unions and IBEC lobby government. The bottom line is that any government would fear the union over an employer organisation.
    The worst IBEC can do is issue a snotty press release (the examples you gave were hardly demands), the union can ballot for strike action.

    Membership of IBEC is, as far as I’m aware, always optional, yet it’s perfectly legal for employment to require compulsory union membership. (I know very little about this so can’t give actual examples of such companies).

  37. And yet, when it comes to demands, the union of bankers who met Cowen and Lenihan in September 2008 put the unions in the ha’penny place. Would you agree?

  38. Hardly the same thing, the bankers (AIB/BoI) didn’t threaten Cowen/Lenihan. They told him they were already screwed. They didn’t have anything to threaten him with, they’d already gambled it all away. They apparently suggested that to let Anglo collapse could mean a run on their banks.

    One thing that puzzles me, why those Vita Cortex workers need to stage a sit in for this long, why the union doesn’t close down the other plants. That’s not a loaded question, I’m genuinely curious.

  39. HeebyGeeby » You don’t think they threatened them? I think whatever the bankers said scared the shit out of Lenihan and Cowen. That, combined with the lies they told constitutes a threat in any man’s language, and the consequences were several orders of magnitude worse than anything a union has ever done. Let’s get a bit of perspective here. It seems to me that the campaign to turn employees against each other has worked, and the big crooks are walking away quietly.

  40. Thatcher didn’t start the war. The military dictatorship of Argentina started it by sending an illegal invasion force onto the islands. The British have expressed a desire to get rid of these Islands on several occasions long before Thatcher came on the stage but the islanders were having none of it. Can’t really blame them. Who would you prefer to live under? The Brits or a South American fascist dictatorship? Like Northern Ireland, the Falklands are a thorn in the side of the Brits for years that they just cant dislodge. You cant argue with the will of the locals though – they are entitled to self-determination.
    The Falklands are none of Argentina’s business until the people who inhabit them decide differently.
    As for Thatcher, I’d gladly join Elvis C for a jig on her grave.

  41. I can vividly remember, seeing on the BBC news, in 1984, The Mounties, from London.One of them caved the head, of a miner, trying to escape the mounted copper.The cop caved the guys head in, with one of those huge batons.One of his pals, gave the horse, a kick in the arse, which drew blood.For the next 8 to 10 days, that horses arse, was on the evening news, as it was being stitched.I often wonder, what happened the poor miner, whos skull was caved in.Thatcher can rot in hell, if she is not already there.

  42. Thatcher is a war criminal not so much for sinking the Belgrano as for engineering the Falklands “Conflict” in order to win popularity for herself in the UK and alos, possibly, for Galtieri in Argentina.

    She can’t be punished or questioned now that she has effectively gone, due to dementia. Still there should be a trial releasing relevant, but currently secret, documents. This, I expect, would prove her culpability, set the record straight and prevent more money being wasted on glorifying her again when she dies. And Mark Thatcher should be stripped of his hereditary baronetcy.

    “Those who ignore history are destined to repeat it”. We don’t want other PMs thinking they can get away with such crimes.

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