Home > Music, People, Politics, Things I Like... > Margaret Thatcher: A Different Sort of Legacy…

Margaret Thatcher: A Different Sort of Legacy…

7D721F7C-6A75-4252-BA53-37FFF9E648E9_mw1024_n_sCelebrating the death of another human being will never be the right thing to do. Regardless of your own personal politics, most people are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives and husbands and presumably were loved by at least some of these people at some time in their life…

I will start by stating for the record that I am no fan of Mrs. Thatcher. I’ve always seen her as a destroyer of things, much more than she was ever a creator, and someone who placed too much importance on the individual over the community.

Anyway, coming into work this morning I read an excellent piece by John Harris in the Guardian. Entitled Singing Songs of Rage, Harris eloquently examines one aspect of Thatcher that has always fascinated me. You can (and should) read the full piece here, but to summarise, it’s the conundrum that a woman who famously didn’t have a cultural or artistic bone in her body, and in many cases actively moved to weaken and diminish our cultural heritage and creativity, was responsible nevertheless for a huge “cultural earthquake” in the fields of arts and music, one that still reverberates to this day.

The atmosphere that Thatcherism generated, feelings of mistrust, betrayal and fear, galvanised a generation of musicians and artists alike to focus their anger on something tangible, a proper enemy. In so doing they created a culture that was alive with energy, intelligence and power. Sharp tunes, clever words, and above all a conviction in the things they were singing about.

Today we’re living through the toughest times I’ve experience in my adult life, and where is the protest music? Where is this generation’s Billy Bragg, Paul Weller or Pauline Black? Where can we experience feelings of alienation and struggle and hear tales of strength through adversity…

Not on BBC 2 for a start, where a recent Radio 2 Top 100 albums poll (find it here) asked listeners to vote for their favourites. I’m still finding it hard to come to terms with the Top 5 to be honest, which included 2 of the most contemptible bands of all time Coldplay and Keane along with that insightful commentator on contemporary life and love, Dido. Anodyne, derivative, lowest common denominator schlop for people with obviously no interest in music.

Similarly (if not more so) with comedy. I mean John Bishop, Michael MacIntyre and Alan Carr? Give me strength, sub standard comedy for apathetic punters. It’s no wonder there’s such a huge resurgence of interest in Eighties bands and culture at the moment, when today’s offerings are so weak and pathetic in comparison…

And whilst I’m not saying that Thatcher is directly responsible for all the great bands of the late 70’s and the 80’s, and all the alternative comedians, I do think that in her divisive policies and her apparent revelling in the role of figurehead, she was someone onto who feelings of hatred and anger could be focused. Unlike the wishy-washy and grey, middle of the road politicians that seem to be in charge at the moment (and I include my lot in that as well sadly. I quite like Ed Balls, but he’s no leader in waiting…)

So after all that, maybe I should also be more appreciative of her, as most of this mornings obituaries seem to be. It would appear that her formidable strength, singular vision and iron grip on politics during her reign, not only destroyed our industries and communities, but also gave birth to some of the best and most enduring aspects of contemporary music and culture…

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  1. April 9, 2013 at 19:08

    Typo alert “… and above all a conviction in the things they were signing about.”

    I’m not celebrating, but I am interested in how cold I feel about her passing.

    • April 10, 2013 at 09:54

      Thanks David
      Typo corrected.. I have strangely remote feelings about the whole thing also.

  2. April 9, 2013 at 19:36

    I think your fundamental mistake here – if I might be so bold Mr Blogs – is to expect the BBC of all institutions to be the arbiters of cool and what is inspiring the “kids”, A similar poll in 1980 would have had the BBC extolling the virtues of Fleetwood Mac, Phil Collins and Billy Joel.

    There is surely some alternative and meaningful music to be found at the moment – but I at least am a bit too old to know what it is (I’ll find it from Later with Jools Holland, a year or two too late).

    Sidenote: Never heard anyone extoll anything other than virtues.

    • April 10, 2013 at 09:56

      Hi Mick.
      Fair enough the BBC is not the arbiter of the cutting edge. And yes there are some good new bands around, but admitting that wouldn’t help my argument would it? (ha ha)
      Sorry, but I don’t understand your extoll comment..
      Joe

  3. April 9, 2013 at 20:27

    “Celebrating the death of another human being will never be the right thing to do.” hmmm. What about Hitler, Franco, Stalin?

    • April 10, 2013 at 09:53

      Yep, fair enough, there will obviously be exceptions, and I can’t disagree with the ones you’ve noted. I did think that statement was a bit weak/ open when I wrote it, but decided to leave it in anyway, as I think it’s still basically the right moral approach. I fundamentally do not believe in an eye for an eye…
      Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment.
      Joe

    • Tim
      April 10, 2013 at 09:57

      Add Chairman Mao & Pol Pot to the mix too!

      • April 10, 2013 at 17:11

        Absolutely. So sometimes it is OK to celebrate the death of somebody. As for Thatcher, well I can understand why some people want to celebrate the passing of someone whose legacy is devastated communities changes in society that benefited the rich and made life harder for the poor. What I can’t understand is the excessive column inches and broadcasting time devoted to her death and the cowardice of “Labour” leaders in trying to stifle any criticism of her.

  4. Tim
    April 9, 2013 at 21:23

    “Sidenote: Never heard anyone extoll anything other than virtues.”
    Maybe we can start a new trend?

  5. Tim
    April 9, 2013 at 21:25

    They say “nature abhors a vacuum”, so maybe in some ways that was what she was, so something had to fill the space?

  6. Tim
    April 9, 2013 at 21:28

    “I mean John Bishop, Michael MacIntyre and Alan Carr?”
    It’s something about their voices that puts me off, I can’t get past that.
    Smugness maybe?

    • April 10, 2013 at 12:00

      Hi Tim
      Smugness and a criminal lack of anything to say except to talk about their old Auntie Vi who wees herself and babies. It’s pitiful..

      • Tim
        April 10, 2013 at 20:21

        Perhaps they’re too scared to joke about anything else?
        Look at what happens to those who go off message.

  7. Tim
    April 9, 2013 at 21:32

    There’s a theory that the reason our so called leaders are so grey & wishy washy is that they are not actually those with power but the real people in power are so transparent you can’t actually see them.
    Just look at who Cameron or Obama bend their knee to, to see where the power really is.

  8. April 10, 2013 at 10:03

    Billy Bragg has said it best so far (imho):

    “This is not a time for celebration. The death of Margaret Thatcher is nothing more than a salient reminder of how Britain got into the mess that we are in today. Of why ordinary working people are no longer able to earn enough from one job to support a family; of why there is a shortage of decent affordable housing; of why domestic growth is driven by credit, not by real incomes; of why tax-payers are forced to top up wages; of why a spiteful government seeks to penalise the poor for having an extra bedroom; of why Rupert Murdoch became so powerful; of why cynicism and greed became the hallmarks of our society.

    Raising a glass to the death of an infirm old lady changes none of this. The only real antidote to cynicism is activism. Don’t celebrate – organise!”

    • Tim
      April 10, 2013 at 11:12

      I think MT was merely a symptom not the cause of the mess & that the rot started long before her & continued long after.
      Blair can take a lot of the blame for Murdoch but he was known about before Thatcher came to power.
      I remember the constant jibes from Private Eye about the “Dirty Digger” & let’s not forget about Maxwell as well & the warning that should have been heeded from that.
      I would agree with BB on the idea of activism but would probably disagree on the content.

    • April 10, 2013 at 11:58

      Fine words indeed. Let’s start #BillyBraggforPM on the Twittersphere. If he was up for it, I reckon he’d easily galvanise the left & centre left vote…

      • Tim
        April 10, 2013 at 20:22

        I thought they were Mili’s?

  9. Tim
    April 10, 2013 at 20:26

    @ ms6282 “What I can’t understand is the excessive column inches and broadcasting time devoted to her death and the cowardice of “Labour” leaders in trying to stifle any criticism of her.”
    It’s had the same effect here!
    Despite the fact nobody here’s a great fan of her!

  10. Richard
    April 14, 2013 at 12:34

    Interested in your blog, Joe, as a first-time visitor (drawn by the Underground Guerrilla signs which are being widely circulated). Here, I don’t think you should give ground so easily on your opening statement. I remain firmly of the view that it’s wrong to celebrate the death of another human being. We certainly wouldn’t mourn the deaths of the monsters that several people have mentioned, nor even regret their passing; and we might breathe a sigh of relief for those who’ve suffered under them, and remember those who’ve died at their hands. But that’s not the same as celebrating a death. The latter is an insult experienced not by the deceased (unless we believe that they exist in some shadowy afterlife, watching our reaction) but by those who survive them. It always seems better – as the opponents of capital punishment would argue – that perpetrators of horrible crimes should be confronted by their monstrosity, rather than dispatched to oblivion, so it doesn’t seem right to “celebrate” their escape, even though we may be thankful that they can do no more harm. MT, of course, didn’t commit horrible crimes (though I hated her with a passion as a youth/young man in the 1980s, and deplore most of her legacy) and was democratically elected three times by the British public.

    • April 15, 2013 at 12:37

      Hi Richard
      Many thanks for taking an interest, much appreciated. As you can see from this blog (and have no doubt experienced yourself in the media) the Thatcher issue is a real generator and divider of opinion.. Her State/ not State Funeral is this week and I am wholly and totally opposed to this. By all means give her a good send off with her family and people in uniforms etc.. but don’t march her on a gun carriage through my city. I saw an interesting/ telling poster on Facebook comparing her to the (Truly Great) Clement Attlee (also online here.. ) which despite being trite, reinforces all the reasons why I don’t believe that someone with such a record of creating pain and destruction should be receiving so much ceremony…
      Joe

      • Richard
        April 15, 2013 at 17:27

        I think we probably inhabit the same territory, Joe. Was your political awakening forged in the fires of the 80s, by any chance?

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