Sunday, 14 April 2013

Wanting it every witch way - in death as in life

What better reminder of the Thatcher legacy this morning than the news that the Metropolitan Police want anyone who is intending to turn the back on the cortege to tell them first?  Invoking the 1986 Public Order Act, this appears to be a thinly-veiled threat than even peaceful, non-violent protest will not be tolerated.  "Upsetting and distressing mourners" is being used as a catch-all justification for an onslaught on civil liberties.

Had Thatcher's funeral not been appropriated by Cameron and the Tory Party, spending taxpayers' money like confetti, then protest might have been in such poor taste that its possibility would have been seen as genuinely repulsive.  Now that it has been appropriated as a propaganda event, without consent and without shame at a time of austerity, the Tories have surrendered any moral high ground they might have been able to claim.  A family funeral would have been appropriate, followed by a memorial service attended by politicians rather than royalty, and would have hardly caused the same disdain that the bread-and-circuses approach has generated.

However, this is a disruptive, economically-damaging event.  Thatcher's authoritarianism and monomania is being channelled through closing down much of central London for the day, and the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich through taxpayer-funded largesse is a 1980s tribute act that will hopefully render most others obsolete.  Cameron appears to think that the funeral will reflect well on him, and that it will be a flag-wrapping ceremonial that will attract the mythic significance that Tories attached to the recapture of the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas.

Unfortunately for the Tories, the more they paint out the divisive Thatcher legacy, the more it becomes legitimate to protest.  There are a number of neo-con apologists, many of whom were not even born when the grandees practised regicide upon the queen for whom the crocodile tears now flow in 1990, who make out that there is only one version of events that matters.  They pop up to chastise any counter-narrative, or anyone who dares to dissent from their idolatry.

Apparently, anyone who questions either the scale or the appropriateness of the Thatcher beatification is some form of ultra-left, Communist, Trotskyist, anarchist fellow-traveller, with not merely a chip but a sack of King Edwards on their shoulder, with no sense of respect and with no recognition that instead of the irreversible force of nature in putting a demented, lonely old person out of her misery we have lost a Titan.  When this is disproved by rational argument, these half-witted and semi-educated fools then have to resort to accusing the sceptics of having abetted Blair in carrying on her amoral legacy.

That this is specious should not come as a surprise to anyone schooled in dealing with the new right.  Opposition to Thatcherism was not confined to the extreme left - nor was it confined to parties other than the Conservatives.  Cameron himself tried to distance himself from her legacy in the run-up to the 2010 election as part of detoxifying the Tory brand - conveniently forgotten now but this will undoubtedly be raked up when Boris makes his leadership bid.

So, the next response of the apologists is the old canard of Thatcher having won three elections - despite the evidence of declining popular support and the fluke of British non-democracy having disguised the national repulsion that grew through the 1980s.  Being told that being elected on a declining minority share of the vote indicated mass adulation by someone who in the next breath is scandalised that Thatcher's offspring Blair achieved something similar is rank hypocrisy - and this will doubtless continue ad nauseam.

It is perfectly possible to be a supporter of free-market economics and an appropriate role for the state while being anti-Thatcherite.  Indeed Thatcher was herself the paradox in terms of the social control she wanted to adopt, while deregulating finance and services - the spiritual forebear of the crass ineptitude, amorality and atavistic mess that Blair and Cameron have come to celebrate.  For those of us schooled in the politics of the 1980s, there remains nothing clearer than the inconsistency between telling the plebs what to do while simultaneously turning a blind eye to corporate criminality.

Where Cameron and his media chums have miscalculated is in assuming that they can bluster their way to satisfy the right - while keeping a lid on and a focus for popular discontent.  The diversionary tactics appear to be working.  Thatcher's death conveniently coincided with the introduction of the most divisive social security changes for many decades, and was followed by the surrendering of another banking knighthood, while there was the possibility of a nuclear war in South-East Asia.  What great timing!

In conflating Thatcher's hypocritical obsequies with the wider political narrative, this provides a space for radicals to assess both the continuity of the Tory delusion and the deficiencies of contemporary politics.  Unfortunately for Cameron, this results in unflattering comparisons from the right and what could turn into a refocusing of anger from the left.

The police will go along with the misrepresentations for now - as their interests are to be cheered on by the morons for keeping the trouble to a minimum.  The medium-term may result in much more challenge to them, which will be best directed through Habeas Corpus rather than human rights legislation to avoid hypertension from the hydrophobic Europhobes.  However, the choreographing of the funeral is worthy of Kim Jong-un or Leni Riefenstahl, and this may well come back to bite all those who have been complicit in the propaganda.

The vast majority will not be in London, or if they are, they will be working, when the cortege is dragged through the streets - it is not appropriate to waste time on such events.  Indifference is a more likely action to positive or negative engagement, as it should be - but the anger around the state funding will not go away.  This will be a fitting legacy; a challenge on the basis of misusing state funds and maladministration would be both enjoyable and enlightening.

PS: where has the Taxpayers' Alliance been?  This is exactly the sort of waste they would normally drool about...

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