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

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Personal Finance Editor: Cutting out the middle man could spell disaster for employees and consumers alike

Simon Read
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch  

Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes tell you what to think. Don't let them

Memphis Barker
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week