So, what are your memories of Margaret Thatcher? Not that she’s dead or anything (she isn’t, is she?). I mean your memories of the bad old days when she was actually in power.
I was four when she became prime minister, 17 when she was ousted. In the intervening years I managed to have the most politically ignorant childhood known to humankind. Take the Falklands War, for instance. While my partner (admittedly an extreme case) was filled with a 7-year-old’s rage at the sinking of the Belgrano, I was lost in romantic fantasies about how being in conflict with Argentina made me a “war child”. I spent that whole sodding war eagerly awaiting the day when I was to become an evacuee (ideally one of those ones that gets split up from their sibling). Indeed, a bit of me still believes there’s an old couple in a farmhouse in Cumbria awaiting my arrival (the fact I was already living in Cumbria during the 80s may be another reason why I was missed off the list).
Then there was of course the Miners’ Strike. Having grown up in a somewhat Tory-leaning household, I basically decided the Miners’ Strike was all about some evil miners who dropped a breeze block from a bridge onto some poor, innocent taxi driver. This terrible event did in fact happen. However, it was only in 2000, when I saw the film Billy Elliot, that it crossed my mind that the whole strike thing may have been a bit more complicated than that (I still hold by my belief that Neil Kinnock and Arthur Scargill are the same person, as, I am sure, do many).
Given this catalogue of idiocy and ignorance, you may have already guessed that my position on Thatcher was less than sophisticated. In the mid-eighties, this is essentially what I thought:
- Mrs Thatcher was a woman AND head of our country (way-hey!)
- She was also a chemist who’d invented Mr Whippy ice-cream (double way-hey!)
- She was married to Labour leader Michael Foot, who was always being made fun of in the press because she hen-pecked him in the House of Commons (um… way-hey?)
And that, fellow political afficionados, was basically it. Oh, and I also knew that the press were really mean to her because she was a woman. And that bit REALLY PISSED ME OFF.
The press were exceptionally cruel to the Iron Lady. Not, I hasten to add, anything like as cruel as she was to entire communities, whom she was happy to see destroyed, collateral damage in her own ideological war. But hey, I didn’t know about any of this. My mum, like Thatcher, a working-class girl made good (there the similarity ends), was always telling me I must never vote Labour “who preach the politics of envy”. Childish and protective of my own advantages, I was not critical of Thatcher. I was critical only of the vicious sexism directed at her.
The day after Thatcher left Number 10, my partner’s form tutor brought champagne into school for his 6th form pupils. When my partner later recounted this to me, it was as if to show what an ace, cool teacher he’d had. I did not agree. We even argued about it. Whatever Thatcher had said or done, I found the teacher’s actions inappropriately personal. I couldn’t believe the departure of a male political leader, at least one of Thatcher’s level of “badness”, would have been greeted with the same level of ostentatious, showy glee. Such a man would never have quite been the orge Thatcher was. And besides, the Conservatives were STILL IN POWER. They were STILL IN POWER till 1997. So what the fuck was there to celebrate? And, moreover, since when were we meant to take champagne socialism so downright literally?
I’m thinking of all this because yesterday I wrote about the misogyny directed at Louise Mensch and how I had mixed feelings about her use of the hashtag #feminism in response. I then received an interesting comment which mentioned Margaret Thatcher and whether feminists should object to her being called a “bitch”. I found it interesting because basically, in terms of an instant reaction, I am more protective of Margaret Thatcher than I am of Louise Mensch. And let’s face it, who’s done the most damage? (I’m talking politics here, not chick-lit). I’m completely wrong on this, aren’t I? Because both are women and neither of them deserve misogynist bullying, regardless of what they’ve said or done.
Anyhow, I have now had a bit of a re-think on how to resolve all this. Yesterday I suggested calling on the feminist A-Team or, failing that, Harry Hill. Well, today I call on the services of director Ridley Scott. The solution to all of this is a remake of Thelma and Louise, only this time it’s Maggie and Louise. And should you be reading this, Ridley, I now present to you the entire plot synopsis:
Maggie and Louise are close friends, ever since Louise wrote a glowing review of Maggie’s achievements for Glamour magazine to coincide with the release of The Iron Lady. Maggie, older, wiser and more red-headed than Louise, has seen the world (English-speaking only) and wants to protect her younger chum while out on their jaunts to the House of Commons. And thus when one day David Cameron pushes it too far, and says “calm down, dear” one too many times, Maggie totally loses it and bludgeons him with the famous handbag. Thereafter Maggie and Louise are on the run, pursued by a hoard of Conservative party whips. They have adventures along the way, including Louise having a one-night stand with Ed Miliband (she wakes to find he’s scarpered with her policy proposals). But finally they reach the end of the road – the Severn Bridge. The party whips are closing in, but there’s no turning back. Maggie grips Louise’s hand and utters that immortal line (also the film’s tagline) – “These ladies aren’t for turning” – and away they go, plunging mindlessly into Wales. The whips don’t dare follow as they disappear into a land of sheep, closed-down collieries and Nerys Hughes.
We shall watch this in the cinemas with tears in our eyes. Yes, Maggie and Louise, we shall understand your pain! Unless of course we are good, upstanding, male left-wingers. Then we shall say “what a pair of stupid bitches”, before marveling at how righteous we are.