The Blog

A State Funeral for Thatcher Is an Insult to Justice

Awarding what amounts to a state funeral to Margaret Thatcher is an obscenity and an insult to the millions who suffered as a direct result of her time in office and afterwards under the ideology, Thatcherism, which bears her name.

Awarding what amounts to a state funeral to Margaret Thatcher is an obscenity and an insult to the millions who suffered as a direct result of her time in office and afterwards under the ideology, Thatcherism, which bears her name. The figure quoted of £10 million in public money to pay for what will be a grotesque circus, redolent of ancient Rome, is tantamount to theft in the same week that the current government's benefits cap is rolled out in parts of London. And, finally, as if this farrago could not get any worse, adding a Falklands War theme to proceedings is a cynical attempt to exploit the current diplomatic spat with Argentina over the Malvinas to foment a false consensus over Thatcher's legacy.

In the week of Margaret Thatcher's death we have seen the forces of the right in this country rolled out in an attempt to rewrite, airbrush, and revise the historical record of the former prime minister's years in Downing Street, with the wider objective of burnishing everything she represents as reflective of the nation's cultural values and national identity. The politicisation of her death by the right wing pro market, pro enterprise, and pro business establishment, and the campaign of dissent that has been waged in response, has revealed the extent to which class remains the key dividing line in British society. In this struggle, at the level of consciousness, it is clear that the ideas and philosophy which Margaret Thatcher espoused throughout her life have achieved hegemonic status.

This has been made stark by the weak, bordering on impotent, response of Ed Miliband and the rest of the Labour Party's front bench over this past week. In acquiescing to both the emergency and unprecedented recall of Parliament by the current Tory-led coalition government to facilitate a sickening display of political eulogy on the part of members of both benches, Glenda Jackson excepted, and to a state funeral, the Labour leadership confirmed that Thatcher's claim of the emergence of New Labour and Tony Blair as her greatest political achievement was no idle boast. If Labour is to return to anything resembling a party guided by social and economic justice, it must expunge from its history the idea that Thatcherism was and is anything other than an offence to the very concept of both.

Thatcher was the most effective class warrior of modern times. She completely and utterly transformed the nation's cultural, social, and political fabric during her 11 years in office. In the process, she waged war on the collectivist ideas that underpinned the welfare state and the trade union movement. In 2013 her success in winning this war is evident in the current government's attacks on the poor under the pretext of an economic crisis caused by the greed of the rich. Giving those same rich a tax cut while lumping the poor with a bedroom tax are twin policies straight from the Thatcher playbook. Moreover, David Cameron has extended himself in trying to claim Thatcher's legacy, with the objective of leveraging public support for his government's package of welfare reforms and tax cuts that, taken together, make a mockery of the fatuous claim that 'We are all in this together'.

The decision by the BBC to censor 'Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead', after it was sent to the top of the download charts on the back of an anti-Thatcher social media campaign, has been revelatory. What the BBC hierarchy and rest of the political establishment have failed to grasp is the level of public anger over the attempt to canonize her as some great leader loved by the people. Here the historical record doesn't lie. It records that Margaret Thatcher was the most divisive and loathed prime minister this country has ever had, her record a litany of destruction and despair wrought in the name of progress, as she set about the structural adjustment of the nation's economy.

People instinctively know what justice looks like, and a state funeral for a woman who hated the poor and working class people with every bone in her body is not it. Respect for the dead is not applicable when it comes to a public figure whose death has been politicised and her life and legacy so utterly distorted as to plumb the depths of immorality. Either we live in a democracy or we do not. The BBC is either an impartial state owned broadcaster or it is not. Events this past week have given us reason to question both.

The disconnect that exists between leaders and led in this country has never been more apparent. For all we are burying Thatcher, we remain prisoners of Thatcher's Britain. It is a cruel and callous place - exemplified by food banks, benefit cuts, and government led campaign of demonisation of the poor on the one hand, and tax cuts for the rich on the other.

Yes, indeed, Thatcher did her job well.