Grace Dent: Thatcher's children we may be, but these death parties are just childish

Would I be here without her as an example? There’s no place for cogent pondering right now. You’re either a “Tory twat” or you have a death party to organise

Grace Dent
Wednesday 10 April 2013 19:17
A scene from Monday's celebrations in Brixton, south London
A scene from Monday's celebrations in Brixton, south London

One might have noticed a news story this week about a 1980s Prime Minister passing away. Sadly, having only reasonable and not swivel-eyed or ghoulish views on the demise of Thatcher, I did not rush to a “Thatcher death party” or spend Monday screaming on the internet, which within three hours of her death was curiously 92 per cent populated by children of coalminers. My calmness has rendered me, sadly, somewhat redundant as a member of the chattering classes.

Obviously I have memories of Thatcher: I spent my entire youth in the far North under her decree during the three times in which she was voted into power. (Just to remind readers, there was no military coup to move Thatcher’s Carmen rollers into Downing Street. She won three general elections.) I am a child of the Thatcher era, my gob full of NHS silver fillings, my school milk snatched, my teen years passed in a tremendous strop about Clause 28 and cruise missiles. Yet still I cannot muster the righteousness and moral certitude of, say, those noble types climbing the front of the Brixton Ritzy cinema to unveil their “THE BITCH IS DEAD” banner. Well done everyone there. And you, Snapdragon, the one with Costcutter sparkling Lambrusco, the one who rearranged the letters to say RIOT. Great work.

I can muster up ire about anyone affiliated with the left – of which I still count myself a member – using, in 2013, the words “Bitch”, “whore”, “witch”, “bint” and, of course, “c***” to describe Margaret Thatcher. It rankles me that one must spell out to these supposedly fervent socialists the weirdness in calling women with whom one doesn’t agree – regardless of the view, regardless if she shut coal pits – a “bitch” or a “witch”.

I also question how, in 2013, one female with power during the 1980s appears to now be carrying the can for thousands of decisions made by thousands of men. Or how in today’s enlightened age the attributes of powerful men – an eye for detail, doggedness, abundant energy, an ease with making unpopular choices – are still seen in women as evidence of a malevolent robot or a witch.

Oh but then Thatcher wasn’t a proper woman, it seems; neither was she a feminist, or a believer in women, in fact she hated women, we’re told. She kept women down. Again, I didn’t agree with Thatcher on a legion of ideas, but thank God as a little girl I knew the story – told to me on Saturday Superstore and numerous other channels – of her becoming a research chemist, retraining as barrister, and determinedly elbowing her way into places men had never permitted us before. “I always felt sorry for her children,” mumbled Russell Brand, which is coincidentally what dusty old Conservative farts in the 1950s said when she pitched up in a frock and tried to prise away a little power. “Oh the children, the poor children”. I disliked Thatcher, but would I be here – still very often the only woman at the table, the only woman on the panel show, the only woman on the judging body, the token woman on the shortlist – without her as an example? Obviously, there’s no place for cogent pondering like this right now. You’re either a “Tory twat” or you have a death party to organise.

Are these death parties? Well, who knew they were a feasible adult manner of protest? I have watched curiously the fireworks and ghoulish laughter of my ardent lefty chums, the ones who now run entire businesses propped up by people writing for free which due to the dismantling of the unions no strike can touch, the ones who have bought up ex-council houses to add to their property empires.

Obviously, if you are genuinely an ex-miner or the family of one, the thought of you raising a glass to the end of a very painful era is wholly understandable. I wish you well. The truth is, of course, there is no end to this era. We’re almost precisely in the same state, government-wise, as we were. So, on the other hand, if you’re 25 and have the time and the gumption to stand about in Brixton waving a bottle of prosecco, your time could be used more profitably by doing actual work in politics. The left needs passionate young blood right now. And if you’re still so very angry about milk being snatched in the 1970s – well, believe me, schoolchildren are starving right now and this ire could be used to get milk reinstated.

In fact if you’re truly so angry about Thatcher’s legacy you might have noticed there isn’t time for any parties. Celebrating death seems to me rather childish, when there’s adult work to be done.

Thank goodness I grew up before the internet

I ’ve watched the dismantling of 17-year-old former Youth Crime Commissioner Paris Brown’s burgeoning career with some fascination.

Paris, previously overjoyed to have taken on the pioneering role, has now been left tearful, tarnished and jobless due to a series of daft twitter outbursts, some of which were sent back when she was 14.

When I was 14, I remember winding up in the headmaster’s office for defiling a work folder with a number of graphic swearwords. I was a constant truant, smoked five Regal King Size a day, walked around in laddered tights, boxer boots and a luminous pink old woman’s pac-a-mac and would spend Saturday’s with my equally idiotic friends removing Twilight Teaser Number 7 lipsticks from Boots without paying. I was a complete tit.

The difference between me and Paris Brown is that I did my growing up pre-internet, so when the time came to blossom into a young woman ready for responsibility, one could neatly segue into adult life with nary a backwards glance. If we’re determined to encourage and permit young people to have every single second of their formative years photographed, recorded and electronically dispersed, we’re going to have to get a lot better at letting them, when the time comes, forget it.

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