Thatcher discord sets the clock back 30 years

I arrived back from holiday to find the country divided and inflamed once more

Share
Related Topics

Returning to the country at the weekend after a short trip to Bermuda, I had a disorienting feeling that had nothing to do with jet lag. Was it really 2013? Or had I flown into a time zone that meant putting back my watch 30 years?

Police were battling with political protesters in Trafalgar Square. Football hooligans were fighting on the terraces at Wembley and in the streets of Newcastle. And everyone was arguing about Margaret Thatcher. It was a deeply sobering reminder of how things used to be, and wherever one stands on the Thatcher legacy, there was no gainsaying that her tenure as Prime Minister was marked by a discord that was pretty unsettling for most of us.

We have come a long way since those days, and modern Britain is, by and large, the model of a tolerant, inclusive, and peaceful society (yes, there is such a thing).

And on top of everything, I arrived back to discover an ideological debate about whether a tune sung by The Munchins back in 1939 should be banned from the BBC or not. I felt a little like someone who was out of the country when Princess Diana died, and returned during the mourning period to find a very different Britain.

Some people seem to think that this is what Mrs Thatcher would have wanted - deep divisions and a battle of ideologies - and others believe this goes to show what a significant political figure she was. It's all a bit puzzling. On my way to Wembley on Sunday, I got on the Tube wearing my Manchester City colours. A middle-aged Chelsea fan admired my home-made scarf. “What's it made of?” he asked. “The finest cashmere,” I said, with mock pride. “Oh I see,” he replied, “so Mrs Thatcher didn't steal all your money, then.”

It may be that this particular manifestation of the north-south divide, when fans of London clubs would wave £5 notes at supporters from the north, is a thing of the past, but it was interesting, and a little alarming, to learn that some established enmities lurk not very far below the surface.

And on Wednesday, when Mrs Thatcher is buried, they will be clearly apparent. I haven't thus far been able to understand the thought process which determined she should get a full ceremonial funeral. It seems to me that either all former Prime Ministers get the full treatment, or none does. Otherwise, a subjective judgement is being made by someone (Parliament? The Queen? Black Rod?) on the public contribution made by the deceased. The argument goes that Margaret Thatcher was a transformative PM. She changed Britain (it matters not, apparently, whether it was for good or bad). She won three general elections. She took us to war. But all of the above is true of Tony Blair. And if he died tomorrow, I very much doubt that he would be given full military honours. And would the Queen attend? Possibly not.

So I can understand those who feel that a rather big statement, political or otherwise, is being made with Mrs Thatcher's funeral. And I can't be alone in experiencing uncomfortable flashbacks of a Britain we thought we'd left behind many years ago

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

I saw the immigration lies a mile off - and now nobody can deny it

Nigel Farage
The Uber app allows passengers to hail a taxi with a smartphone  

Who wouldn’t like a sharing economy? Well, me, for one

Mary Dejevsky
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game