Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Welcome to Munchkin Land

The Land that Maggie Built

Ding Dong! The Witch is dead. Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch!
Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead.
Wake up - sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.
Wake up, the Wicked Witch is dead. She's gone where the goblins go,
Below - below - below. Yo-ho, let's open up and sing and ring the bells out.
Ding Dong' the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low.
Let them know
The Wicked Witch is dead!

I was away in Brazil when Margaret Thatcher died and The Wicked Witch is Dead from The Wizard of Oz went viral.

Sounds like I missed a lot of the fun – or funny stuff if you prefer.

Let's be clear at the outset – I strongly and fervently disagreed with the policies that the Thatcher government pursued. However, she was a human being and despite her doing her best to destroy the country (two countries if you include Argentina – not to mention the EEC) she shared a common humanity with us all and, therefore it is puerile in the extreme to rejoice at her death. I believe it may have been a blessed release as she has not been well for some time.

Those who remember her governments are split into two camps. Some think she was a visionary saint, laying the foundations for the prosperity (relative) we enjoy today. Others think she was the Devil Incarnate – taking real pleasure from destroying those whom she thought either inferior or weak and powerless. For my money she was too much of the latter.

What is without dispute is that she changed the face of the country beyond what anyone thought possible. Her Francis of Assisi speech when she took power gave hope of real change, but change tempered with compassion and justice.

Her Majesty The Queen has asked me to form a new administration and I have accepted. It is, of course, the greatest honour that can come to any citizen in a democracy. I know full well the responsibilities that await me as I enter the door of No. 10 and I'll strive unceasingly to try to fulfil the trust and confidence that the British people have placed in me and the things in which I believe. And I would just like to remember some words of St. Francis of Assisi which I think are really just particularly apt at the moment. ‘Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope’

Never did a politician promise so much and deliver so little of what they promised. Those of us who lived through the Thatcher years bear testimony that she had no interest in either harmony, truth, faith (except in her own vision of how to do solve problems) or hope.

In that respect her speech rivalled the “peace in our time” utterances of Chamberlain.

I saw on the news an analysis of her terms of office and, according to the commentator, she was not responsible for closing the pits – it was Harold Wilson. I can assure you that was not the popular conception in the 80's. Wilson may have closed more pits but Maggie seemed to relish it, and that was what the people thought and many objected to. The fact is she set out to decimate the National Union of Miners, and she was extremely successful in that undertaking.

I was astonished to hear another commentator submit that she was a warm and compassionate PM. She spent vast sums in trying to alleviate the worst of the pit closures. She raised spending on welfare throughout her Premiership. Harold Wilson presided over far more pit closures.

Remember, there are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics.

According to the apologists she was just misunderstood.

She was also, they say, a firm defender of personal liberty. Hang on, I distinctly remember when the Kent miners were on their way to the Yorkshire coalfields to support fellow miners she had the police stop them at the Dartford Tunnel and turned them back. Sounds suspiciously like the Gulag mentality to me.

Not many people realise that but for the Falklands war of 1982 and the complete ineptitude of the Labour leader, Michael Foot, Mrs Thatcher would have almost certainly lost the 1983 general election. Unemployment had soared to over 3 million. The economy had been in recession for a long time.

Her determination to send the task force which eventually re-took the Falklands against almost universal advice from civil servants and her military advisers was, and remains, her finest hour. Not many Falkland islanders will have a sour word to say about Maggie. Whether that qualifies her for a state funeral is debatable.

So why, then, does she still conjure up so many feelings of distaste among so many?

I believe it was her shrill style and demeanour. In the neighbour test (would you like this person for a next-door neighbour) she scores so low as to not be measurable. Her public persona was mean-spirited, crass, uncaring and contemptuous. She seemed to relish demeaning her opponents, the general public and civil servants. Like many strong leaders (including Stalin, Hitler and Mao Tse Tung) she seemed unable to admit that there might be another way, another point of view, and some alternative reality.

In private she may have been al those things that the eulogists say she was. To a large proportion of the public she was the unacceptable face of capitalism. She was Loads-a-money personified. She made the Wicked Witch of the East look almost benign.

As Mark Antony said, “The evil that men do is oft interred with their bones. So let it be with Caesar (read Maggie, Maggie – out, out, out.)

We'll probably never see her like again – but I won't miss that!