I promised myself I wouldn’t get caught up in the national hoo-ha, and forego writing a piece on Monday’s passing of Britain’s most famous milk snatcher – from any angle…just to pretend to be boringly bored of it all.
. . .And then I saw the noughts on the potential funeral bill.
I say potential not in regard to the fact we might see 20% knocked off the flower inventory in the run up, or free rubber bullets commissioned for the gun salute at the Tower of London. Between breakfast and lunch today the chit for Operation True Blue had gone from £8m to £10m. Boke? We all did a little.
So here’s a thing… Would Scottish taxpayers have to chip in for Margaret Thatcher’s funeral tab if the country were independent? It’s a serious one for Alex Salmond to consider product placing in his pre-referendum spin and decree, if we are to believe that the 200-300 revellers in George Square on Monday evening are a true reflection of Scottish opinion. Though be you nationalist, leftist, fascist or monster raving loony you might not want to chip in one penny of your hard earned cash for the funeral costs of any ex-politician from any period, period.
William Hague was doing the breakfast run and ruining our cornflake bites this morning by championing Thatcher and claiming that, ‘When it comes to money, the rebate she negotiated for this country from the EU has brought us so far £75 billion – which is twice the size of our annual defence budget. I think that puts money in perspective… So I think we can afford to contribute to a funeral.’ I’m not sure if that says more about the defence bill, or about the going rate of a state funeral that ‘isn’t’ a state funeral, in all but name. It’s also worth pondering how much of that initial rebate sum was pumped into ex-mining and manufacturing towns and communities up and down Britain in 1985, the year it was brokered. Ironically that being the year of the most pit closures.
Among it all, without doubt the memory that’s stuck with me in the last couple of days is the smirk on the face of the infamously cantankerous Evening Times vendor outside Queen Street Station. At tea time on Monday he almost cracked a smile. There’s an exclusive right there. I was expecting him to shout GOTCHA! with every sale he made to a news thirsty punter. A little later on, the paper’s editors must have been rubbing their hands, even if the front page was being trampled upon in George Square’s bag-piped, post-death merrydance before sundown. Still warm in her bed, the face of the one daubed Iron Lady was sprawled across the tea time edition in chilly black and white print accompanied by the austere ‘THATCHER DEAD.’ The kids who stomped on her image looked naively joyous as the owners of Doc Martin tread seemed barely of an age which would’ve seen them born in the year of her departure as Prime Minister.
It’s the equivalent of my peers and I having rejoiced in the streets the death of Harold Wilson at the age we were at the time of his passing in the mid-1990’s. I knew then, as I know now, very little of Wilson’s politics. A staunch Labour Party man who served two different terms in a good spell and a bad is about the breadth of it. It all seems a bit strange, but then again Wilson wasn’t Thatcher, in much the same way Conan the Barbarian wasn’t Attila the Hun.
Yesterday while the revellers were all washing champagne out of their hair, I was mulling over the reasons why Margaret Thatcher was never destined to be Oor Maggie. For us in Scotland, she had a problem. And it wasn’t just in the dead balloon float of her unpopular Tory polices. To us, she was as English as a cup of Earl Grey in a red phone box, with bulldog propensities. The sensibilities of a Grantham or a Finchley were as far beyond our recognition as a Timbuktu or a back end of the moon. Nothing clicked with us. When she visited Wales she was hit by a real egg in 1984. When she came to Scotland she left each time with a proverbial one on her face. Neither her cause, nor ours, was aided by lackey number one and lackey number two, the most inept, out of touch duo she could’ve chosen to lead us. Scottish Secretary of State, Malcolm Rifkind and deputy Michael Forsyth. . .now there’s a couple of names to give shudder to many a Poll Tax convict north of the border. Two more affected Scottish accents you’ll never hear. Two more anglicised Scots you’ll never wish to meet. They were Maggie’s Caledonian eunuchs in the latter part of the 1980’s. Around the time of her departure, you were more likely to see a black jockey at the Grand National than a Scot in support of either of them.
There’s this made for TV movie called Fatherland with Rutger Hauer which gives a striking account of what might’ve happened had Hitler won the Second World War. Perhaps some political journalist with a penchant for a hand held camera could produce a similar treatment to what might’ve happened had Michael Foot or Neil Kinnock won theirs. Perhaps full employment, though with the footnote of the unions taking workers out on strike when the mince and tatties in the canteen was too cold? Social housing for all, yet those with an eye for the property market plunging their money in strictly overseas developments? I can almost envision Michael Foot dancing with Nancy Reagan, but not sure about her hubby taking Glennys Kinnock aside to feed her man tips on the virtues of capitalism. Hitler’s Britain seems a lot more believable than Hattersley’s.
In among all the rowdy socialist ding dong chants, the rich have the privilege of a loud voice and have spared no time in collectively using it to praise their late capitalist ringleader. Am sure a few old Hooray Henry‘s and aging Sloane types will remain staunchly resonant in championing Thatcher’s much consequential legacy. But when the gun salutes fire next Wednesday morning as the streets of London are lined with officers from three police constituencies, love her or hate her, we’ll never see such high security for a funeral procession in Britain again in our lifetimes.
As a taxpayer, I pays my money, I’ll takes my choice. That choice will be to rejoice next midweek, as she did after the sinking of the Belgrano. I’ll take full responsibility for my actions, just as Thatcher did hers. That’s where the comparison stops though. . .as neither am I rich enough to shout it outside Number 10…nor cheap enough to ding dong about it in George Square.