Maggie Thatcher died this morning. The news is everywhere, facebook and mainstream news channels, websites galore. It is over twenty years since she ceased to be Prime Minister, leaving Downing Street in tears. Why does anyone care?
The place she occupied in the national psyche has been extraordinary. The list of changes she set in motion, from removal of union power and providing help to those in need, to enforced private funding of what many had fought for decades to put under the control of the Government, has altered our society of today beyond description.
Whether it would have been any better without these changes, is something we will never know. However her legacy of sticking to stern unswerving principles did no favours to those who would have preferred discussion, compromise, a wider consideration of the effects of policy based purely on short term evaluation of economic cost to the state, or other values driving policies (with due consideration of their monetary feasibility).
So her existence as the figurehead of the end of Society (whose existence she famously denied) places her as the face of uncaring politics.
I find this particularly important, as politics since Thatcher has centred on the image she (and her publicity team) created. Blair and Cameron alike came to rule by moulding themselves in her image.
As a teenager I was appalled at the way the Falklands War was used as a media frenzy to allow the tories to win the election when they had failed the country so badly. I was only young, and felt strongly that all that flag waving did not seem informed (tho tbh I didn’t know much myself). The result of that war for me was a deep loathing of the Union Jack, and those who used it. Hating one’s own country of origin is not good for the soul…
Now, older and a tad wiser, I suspect that the most critical influence she and her regime had, was in the way the financial industry was deregulated back then. By encouraging the criminally callous mindset of money before all else, the newcomers to the City back then set up a system where wheeling and dealing was the new standard, rather than one where at least the façade of investment in deals likely to pay off in real terms was the norm. Capitalism has many faults but the regulation changes increased the pressure to trade swiftly and without compunction, as did the example Thatcher set to the business world of heartless iron will, of explicitly encouraging the viewpoint that money should rule people, not serve.
Her name evokes so much response, that to know the person who embodied this thinking has drawn their last breath, releases some deeply held tensions. Whether celebration or respect for the dead prevails in your household this week, things feel different without her.
So, does her death free us at last from this spell of admiration for collecting profits regardless of long term consequences?
The emotional release at knowing she has gone cannot be underestimated. As a nation readjusts to life after Thatcher, we reflect upon what differences she made to our lives today. That is why this is a matter of interest to those who think magickally; whatever one’s views, this readjustment in the cast of the nation provides an opportunity to see that people, as role models, can and do affect how we collectively think, feel, and how we behave.
By telling us that the only alternative to the (admittedly fairly rubbish) practices of the Labour government of the 70s was the extremism of privatisation and harsh cuts, the rhetoric she began echoes loudly to this day in our media and the corridors of the Houses of Parliament.
With the wicked witch firmly out of the picture, does our democracy have an opening for a different type of leadership, a different system of governance even, that relies upon intelligence and compassion instead of a ‘strong image’?
As we set out upon the road to the future, paved with the primroses of good intentions, I have no faith in those wizards behind the curtains on the other side of the throne room either.
Stepping away from a narrative so embedded in the national consciousness, takes a different kind of strength. Putting down the resentment of all these decades, or the worship of the Baroness’ preaching, both require a look at the world with fresh eyes, lest we blindly follow/reject whatever path (left or right?) we are offered. Always remember that a landscape can in fact be travelled in infinite ways.