On Monday lunchtime there was an audible intake of breath following the news that Britain's most infamous Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, had died peacefully... whilst living at the Ritz. Depending on where you were at this moment this intake was swiftly followed by a cheer or a respectful head bow.
Following the news, the Twittersphere went wild with a torrent of hateful celebrations and equally hateful rebukes. Everyone seems to want to voice a very vocal opinion on how they feel about the death of the Iron Lady. What I find most interesting, and amazing, is that most of these public declarations come from my generation, the youth of today. I was born in 1988 and certainly can't remember Thatcher's reign of terror (or so my parents would call it).
Love or hate Thatcher, you cannot argue that the woman had some strong policies and an even stronger voice that bears no resemblance to the pallid, washed out rhetoric of the current coalition. She created a myth, a legend, from her time in office and even sprung her own 'ism'. I can't imagine that being something Cameron would ever achieve. To be sure, her privatisation policies, general treatment of the working class and foreign policies are certainly dead against what I believe in, but so are the policies of every other Tory PM I can think of.
So why is it that so much anger, hatred and despair arises when Thatcher is mentioned, especially amongst the youth of today? I would suggest it is because she was and still is an almighty symbol that represents an establishment that so many Britons fight against. Ever inscribed in cultural and social history, from rumours of her four hour sleep pattern (which I might add is continually referenced in articles concerning the world's most successful leaders and businessmen) to the lyrics of The Jam and The Smiths, her imposing figure has become something of a mythical beast.
I am sure there are many places in the country today where Thatcher's death is treated as a tragedy. This is not the case in Brixton, home of the riots and celebrations following todays news. In my opinion, it takes a lot to truly celebrate the death of another human being, and I hesitate to do as such.
One thing that can be said is this death has shown just how strongly people still feel about Thatcher's leadership decades after she stepped down. The ramifications of her policies still radiate through the country and truly polarise people's political opinion. In a time where the apparent 'apathy' and 'mindless' violence of events such as the summer riots and students protests publicly damn our youth, the actions of the 80s have already reached a canonical status. Could this be because Cameron is not deemed a worthy figure for such violence and hatred? That the coalition have led us into such a grey area that the thought of any real form of protest seems pointless and defunct?
Whatever your opinion, it is clear that the image of this ferocious and powerful woman will remain, for years to come, the unifying symbol we all love to hate.