Thatcherism is alive and well

I was two years old when Margaret Thatcher came to power, and thirteen when she resigned.

Thatcher’s policies led to mass unemployment, leaving my father on the dole for much of my childhood. I started secondary school the year that Section 28 was brought in, banning schools from presenting same-sex relationships as legitimate. When my father became disabled, I watched him having to go through absurd levels of testing and bureaucracy to receive benefits. People living nearby bought their council houses as Thatcher sold them off, setting working class people against each other and replacing collective aspiration for a better community with personal aspirations to own more stuff. I watched my parents worrying about paying the poll tax, trying to work out their finances at the kitchen table as I walked up to bed.

The rule of Thatcher: I saw it all and I hated it all.

Then that was that wonderful day in 1990 when my classmate ran into the classroom and shouted “Thatcher’s resigned!”. At the end of the day, the teacher was in such a celebratory mood that he let us go home early.

But I’m not celebrating today. It would be vile to celebrate anybody’s death and those who do so are lowering themselves to the same level as the supporters of the death and destruction which Thatcher so enthusiastically handed out.

Thatcher was a human being, made, like you and me, in the image of God – however much the image was distorted. She, like you and me, was capable of repentance and redemption. She will be held to account by a higher and better authority than the Today programme or even the general electorate. So will the rest of us.

There is another reason not to celebrate Thatcher’s death. She did not carry out those foul policies on her own. She was able to do what she did because others went along with her. I’m talking not only about her cabinet and party, or even those who voted for her. We all bear some responsibility for the state of society. We are all responsible for making it better.

Today, Thatcher is dead but Thatcherism is alive and well and living in Downing Street. Cameron and Osborne are pursuing policies of which Thatcher could only dream. She died just as disability benefits were being slashed and taxes were cut for the super-rich. She would have been delighted.

I’m more concerned with the death of Thatcherism than the death of Thatcher. At the moment, that seems a long way off. So today, with all the reminiscing and obituary programmes, I’m remembering the campaign against the poll tax. It was the first political campaign that I closely followed and supported. It taught me that people can change things from below, and that change can – sometimes – come suddenly.

So today, let’s be all the more determined to resist this government and the vicious Thatcherite class war that ministers are waging in the interests of the rich. I hope and pray that the day will come when the only way in which children experience Thatcherism is when they study it in history lessons. 

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My new book, Digital Revolutions: Activism in the internet age, can be ordered from the publisher by clicking here, priced £9.99.

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