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How should we feel about Margaret Thatcher?

November 1, 2010

How should we feel about seeing Lady Thatcher returning home after an extended stay in hospital following a bout of flu? It’s a difficult one.

There’s an undeniable sense of gawping felt looking at her gingerly reach for the railings to steady herself despite the support of two otherwise able-bodied people by her side. The impact is lessened somewhat by a clip right at the top of this ITN report (see above if you’re viewing in a browser) showing her waving heartily, in comparison to the live footage the BBC News Channel broadcast today showing her struggling to move.

But does it go further than us merely staring at her? What’s the narrative going on here? Simplistic populist histories have reduced her to the architect of an unloving and unforgiving society. And, as the years pass that picture will only become more condensed. It will take a brave historian to posit an entirely different view in the mainstream media.

At least, that’s what we’re all thinking as we watch her now. She was the Iron Lady. Now she can’t stand unaided. For some people – those of us with aging parents – that is incredibly difficult to watch. For others – I’ve no doubt – there will a view that this is her comeuppance.

I subscribe to neither view. The latter is without doubt disgusting, a view made worse because I know there’ll be some who not only consider it but probably share it vocally.

But I’m still left wondering why on earth we’re even seeing the footage at all. Do we really need to? And if we have to, what proportion of the population are only forgetting the past? Who, where and how many are there seeing an old woman who can’t stand?

From → Life & Society

  1. On the face of it, it shouldn’t be newsworthy material; but the problem is, people have long memories. The calls for “Party When Thatcher Dies” did not start in the past few years when her health started to crumble, but much earlier – around the time of the miners’ strike I think.

    It may well be callous and despicable to rejoice in the physical decline of another human being, unless it’s something you’d always promised yourself you would do about thirty years ago. Yes it’s purely an act of revenge, granted; but that’s a very human sentiment. And those people whose lives were irrevocably destroyed by her policies (and those who sympathised with those victims) needed to pick on her personally (just as they felt she had on them), to bide their time and get their own back as and when, by revelling in her misery.

    My prediction is that, in thirty years time, when Cherie Blair is unable to move without the aid of a Zimmer, the cameras will be there to capture every second of it. And she was never even Prime Minister.

  2. It is the exploiting of those long memories which bothers me. Yeah it’s human nature, but I’m all for setting an example.

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