She destroyed our communities, she destroyed our villages, she has destroyed our pits and she tried to destroy our dignity,” – David Hopper, General Secretary, Durham Miners Association.
Today was Margaret Thatcher’s funeral at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. Code-name Operation True Blue, the event was the biggest Prime Ministerial send-off since Winston Churchill in 1965. Her Majesty the Queen was in attendance, as she was at Churchill’s. You’d think that, with all this gravitas, Lady Thatcher was one of Britain’s best-loved leaders, but you’d be wrong.
Margaret Thatcher was loved only by the heartless rich and the ignorant poor. She’s despised by thinking people from all walks of life and social strata. It is ironic that the Queen attended the funeral service, as she was known to dislike Thatcher for her faux-regal stance. When the Iron Lady announced her grandchild’s arrival to the press in 1989 using the Royal “we” it didn’t exactly help; the Queen was said to be furious. Nor did refusing to invite the Royal Family to the homecoming parade of the British armed forces following the Falklands War and taking the salute from the troops.
This week in the UK singles chart, the Wizard of Oz song immortalized by Judy Garland, “Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead”, hit the Number Two spot. Its popularity was fueled by a wave of grass roots (her supporters would say “pissant”) euphoria at the announcement of Maggie’s demise. In a mass celebration in Trafalgar Square, hundreds of revelers drank champagne and set off flares, many of whom weren’t even born when Thatcher was in power. So why do normal British people hate Margaret Thatcher. Here’s a few reasons why:
1) Thatcher the Milk Snatcher
In 1971, long before Maggie was Prime Minister, as Education Secretary she made the admirable decision to take away free school milk from children over seven, thereby depriving them of essential calcium for their bones. Some people claim that Sir Edward Heath, then Prime Minister, actually made the decision, though, and other people say the role of milk in bone development is vastly overrated. Either way, Maggie was receiving a thorough tutelage on how to be an absolute bastard by her be-knighted friend (who David Icke describes as “a Reptilian shape-shifter and a pedophile”).
Thatcher sought to reverse the trend that, through the 1960s and ’70s, had seen living standards for the working-class slowly improve. Trade unions had been largely responsible for this, and she detested them; in Maggie’s mind, the great unwashed were happy to settle for a meal and a roof over their head and nothing more – and of course be sneered at and hated for that, too. She implemented a slew of anti-union laws once she attained office, designed to destroy the solidarity of hard-working people. She then enacted a ban on mass meetings in workplaces, which were rare at this time, but Maggie knew what was coming. After all, it was her plan. She rolled her sleeves up and set about removing free health care, council housing, availability of university grants for normal people and Britain’s once proud manufacturing base.
2) The Miners’ Strike
The Iron Lady hated common people, especially if, like the National Union of Miners (NUM), they represented a powerful opposing force on the political landscape. Together with Canadian “Economic Adviser” Ian MacGregor (an unelected foreign citizen with no accountability to the British people), she dreamed up a national-scale pit-closure programme that would decimate the NUM and leave entire communities unemployed. NUM leader Arthur Scargill called for a national miners’ strike. Thatcher called the strike “illegal”. Her police forces began monitoring and intimidating normal people inside their communities as a deterrent to taking industrial action. Picket lines became war zones. Much of this violence occurred in the north of England, including Durham, where Billy Elliot was set.
Thatcher’s attempt to send working-class people back to the middle ages culminated fittingly in The Battle of Orgreave. There were 6,000 pickets and 8,000 policemen outside the British Steel coking plant in Orgreave, so the word “battle” really isn’t an understatement. Britain’s domestic intelligence service, MI5, had infiltrated the picketing miners and knew the miners’ aim was to force a temporary closure of the plant. Many people were arrested and/or injured on both sides. Thatcher’s callousness in all this is remembered by millions of people. It is one of the main reasons her death was cause for celebration for many.
3) The Poll Tax
“Why should a Duke pay more than a dustman?” – Thatcher henchman, Nicholas Ridley, on the poll tax
The Community Charge, or “poll tax” as it was known, was introduced in place of council rates. Showing how out of touch with normal people Maggie’s Conservatives were, they decided that individual families’ finances were not a factor, and that everyone would pay the same share for services in their area. This would have been a huge tax for those living in cities, and Thatcher knew it. What she didn’t know was that her unfair tax had galvanized people into forming the Anti-Poll Tax Federation. Organized groups began to support an anti-payment campaign as Maggie threatened those who refused to pay with bailiffs and prison time, knowing many simply couldn’t afford it.
On March 31, 1990, a quarter of a million people protested the tax in central London. Britain was abuzz ahead of the demonstration; there was talk of a riot, organized by various groups, but in particular the Class War movement. The crowd planned to march from Kennington Park to Trafalgar Square. Organizers knew this was the big one, but their attempts to have the demo moved to Hyde Park were refused. Jugglers, illegal aliens, children and people who’d never dreamed of participating in such an event were all present, along with the hardcore anarchists, hooligans and others looking to make a dent in Thatcher’s ugly patina. Someone even reported a Sasquatch sighting on Regent Street, but it’s probably best to ignore that. The police began disruption tactics, switching scheduled drop-off points for coaches to other locations and trying to seal off Trafalgar Square. Splinter groups organized their own demos in other London streets, including one in Whitehall. The first real skirmishes began. Police were up against a rain of missiles as word spread through the ranks that things were kicking off. Many will point to the police horse that trampled over a woman, or the police van driving at full speed into a demonstrator. Other will remember children, defenseless mothers and disabled protesters being charged by police lines. But the Battle of Trafalgar Square wasn’t a victory for Thatcher’s jack-booted bullies. The people won. They fought fire with fire. Rioters chased frightened gaggles of riot police, burnt police vehicles, and looted shops. Then they did it again. And a-f*ckin’-gain. A big cheer went up when a huge “CLASS WAR” banner arrived on the scene. Prolonged hand to hand fighting between rioters and police ensued, as more buildings were set alight. A proper riot, one that achieved its purpose. No more poll tax. Screw you, Maggie.
4) The “Special Relationship”
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Vice President Dick Cheney may have been present at today’s proceedings, but it was Maggie’s special relationship with Ronald Reagan that was to be her enduring trans-Atlantic love affair. It was an affair of the brain as much as the heart, with the happy couple both firm believers in the old adage, “Sh*t rolls downhill” or, as Ronnie would have it, trickle-down economics. These “ideological soul-mates” stood side by side, but the irony is that while America was booming as ever, the UK was sinking into a puddle of its own excrement. Reagan’s belated support of Thatcher’s mini attempt at emulating Churchill – the 1982 Falklands War – was soon overlooked, and she agreed to replace Britain’s Polaris missile fleet with the US-supplied Trident system. Maggie Thatcher and Ronnie Ray-Gun never quite sailed off into the sunset together, but rumor had it they probably wanted to. If only he’d been her intellectual equal. Alas, the Iron Lady, like the Tin Man in Wizard of Oz, just didn’t have a heart. And he was a bit thick.
5) The Falklands War
In April, 1982, Britain was properly knackered. Unemployment was soaring, Britain had only just set up its fourth TV channel, and Maggie and her dodgy Chancellor, Geoffrey Howe, were poisoning the well-fare state (see what I did there?) and even the Welsh were bombing England. The Welsh! When a few Argentine fisherman and their dogs decided to stage an invasion on the Falkland Islands (which most people thought were off the coast of Scotland at the time and so were quite worried) Maggie saw the chance to show the world that the British Empire had never died.
The so-called “Falklands Task Force” was dispatched to the so-called “Falkland Islands” (some people called it the Malvinas) to launch an amphibious attack of a type not seen in that area since the Incas had a war with the Tiwanaku at Pumapunku. The British Navy and the Argentineans went at it. The General Belgrano was sunk by a nuclear sub, the HMS Conqueror. The HMS Sheffield was hit by an Exocet missile and it, too, sank. People were outraged. It became the “Falklands Crisis”. The SAS were called in. They weren’t messing about now. There were more incidents. Goose Green. Bluff Cove. Tickle Cock Bridge. You name it. Actually, I made that last one up; Tickle Cock Bridge is in Yorkshire, England, not the Falklands.
When the war was over, Mrs. Thatcher, or Lady Thatcher, or Baroness Thatcher, or whatever her title was at this point (Queen Thatcher?), welcomed the troops home, and wallowed in the weirdly refracted glory of a nation in its twilight years. In the aftermath, Maggie spoke of “the aggressor, the invader. A fourth-rate, cruel, unstable, corrupt, brutal regime with no morals or scruples whatever!” when discussing the conflict with Argentina, but it’s not clear which of the two countries she was referring to.
Ding dong, the Wicked Witch is Dead.