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Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Burying her legacy

Now that former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is dead and buried, Independent columnist Mark Steel asks: Can we go back to the normal madness levels?
Protesters turned their backs on Margaret Thatcher's funeral processionProtesters turned their backs on Margaret Thatcher's funeral procession
I'M STILL not entirely sure it's over, if it's safe to turn on a television without seeing Phillip Schofield saying: "Now we're going to discuss Baroness Thatcher's favorite biscuits. With me in the studio to share their Custard Cream memories of the ex-Prime Minister are her friends Henry Kissinger and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia."
For some time, there will be items on the news such as: "A growing number of Conservative Associations have formally requested that, to mark her passing, the South African government reintroduces apartheid for one day."
The day of the funeral must have seemed terrifying to some people, as it felt that the police would announce they've arrested 46 people in Central London for not looking solemn enough, and were treating with suspicion anyone whose eyes weren't moist.
Even the chimes of Big Ben were stopped, but that won't be enough. The Daily Mail will complain: "Why did no one in the Government stop the tides during the funeral of Britain's greatest ever leader? After all she did for us, bringing the movement of the sea to a halt for a few minutes was the least we could do, but as usual, it was too much trouble for the bloated mandarins of Whitehall. Who wouldn't sympathize with Timothy Poodleton, Conservative councillor for Weston-super-Mare, who said: 'It made me physically sick to watch the waves just coming in and out as normal, even at the moment of the cremation, as if it was any other day. You'd think the English Channel might be arrested for showing such disrespect, but I suppose it would start bleating on about its tidal rights and get away with it anyway.'"
It's essential for the nation's mental health that we quickly revert to our normal madness levels, instead of the psychosis of the past week.
Somehow, we became so doolally that we banned a song from The Wizard of Oz. Normally, at this point, every phone-in presenter would scream, "Have you heard about THIS??? They've BANNED a song by JUDY GARLAND. It's political correctness gone MENTAL." Then they'd spit out so many exclamation marks that everyone's radios would catch fire.
At one point, the police asked anyone planning to turn their back on the funeral to "let them know in advance." Was there a special form? And what if you were planning to turn sideways slightly? Did you have to let them know about that? What if you turned round to tell the person behind, "Bloody hell, I've just seen Shirley Bassey"? Did it apply to everyone, even if you were driving through Swindon and could no longer face the same way because of a no entry sign? The police needed to be much clearer about this.
Plus, this thoroughly political event was shown all day live the past week by the broadcaster that's perpetually moaned about by supporters of the deceased for being biased against them. Next time the BBC gets a complaint that it hasn't been impartial, the director-general should reply: "Now you come to mention it, you're right. So all day tomorrow, we're going to show a recording of the funeral of Hugo Chavez."
Presumably, the other channels were respectful in their own way, with the Shopping Channel presenter saying: "Next up, something we'll all be needing today, a battery-operated tear-drier. This is ideal for when we recall those touching moments, such as her country walks with General Pinochet, and we can't help a little sob. It comes with two handy settings, wistful weep and open floodgates, and in no time at all, you're nice and dry."
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BUT DESPITE all the coverage, and the Daily Mail website claiming that a "vast crowd lined the streets," the area of the procession seemed no busier than normal, and one BBC report claimed there were around 4,000 people. I suppose the term "vast crowd" is vague, but to be consistent, the Daily Mail will now have to refer to any crowd of 4,000 as vast, such as "Vast crowd watches Exeter versus Wycombe Wanderers."
In a way, this is fitting because she was only ever adored by a few, and many of those changed their minds toward the end of her reign. She resigned because her party knew it couldn't win another election with her, possibly because many of those who'd bought her promises now disliked her most of all.
This has been mostly forgotten lately, as all have agreed she transformed the country with her iron will and always got her way. But while she won many battles, she didn't win all of them. There's still a welfare state; instead of Clause 28, there's gay marriage; there's a minimum wage and no poll tax. The procession of Tebbits, Hurds, generals and ex-criminals most prominent at the funeral seems meaningless and distant to most people under 40. Her attitude toward apartheid is utterly discredited, as is her attitude toward Rupert Murdoch and toward Jimmy Savile.
Even her funeral was a display of state intervention she'd have thoroughly disapproved of. It would have been far more appropriate if the whole affair had been sponsored by the privatized companies. The pallbearers could have been arranged courtesy of Virgin trains, maybe canceling the first journey so they had to carry two coffins crammed on top of each other for the second, and announcing every few seconds that, for the benefit of customers in the cathedral, they could offer a wide selection of snacks.
And the bishop could have informed everyone present that the cremation was made possible by npower, though they had put the price up since the service began, so everyone would have to chip in, then they could go round afterwards saying: "Excuse me, Mr. Kissinger, are you aware that we could supply your electricity as well?"
First published at the Independent.


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