I've been meaning to write about this for a while, and was reminded to do so this morning when the BBC reported on Margaret Thatcher's funeral plans. Is she dead? No. Has her health worsened? No. Have any decisions been made as to whether or not she will get a state funeral? Again, no. So, perhaps, this is not technically news. But the BBC has learnt that people love to read about Thatcher's impending death. At the time of writing it's the most-read story on the website. And for a long time, probably since her stroke or maybe before, there has been an unmistakeable whiff of "Why isn't she dead yet?"
I was born during Thatcher's government, and I quite like that I got to come into the world during the reign of the first female Prime Minister (when I was seven or so, I did a quiz which asked "Who was the first female Prime Minister?". Thatcher was the only one I'd heard of, but I was convinced that couldn't be right as there must have been female PMs back in the 18th century, mustn't there?). I was still very young when she was kicked out, so I don't remember much about the way the country was under her, but I was always keenly conscious of the fact that everybody hated her. It was so acceptable to hate her that newspapers could call her a damnable bitch with no fear of complaint - except from a few reactionary Conservatives, but who cares about them, right? - and praying for her death on stage would earn you a huge round of applause. But this was the way the world was, so I didn't think about it much.
This all came back into my head during one of my frequent bouts of insomnia, when I decided to hell with the sleeping and I would watch comedy videos on Youtube. My first port of call was Room 101, with guest Mark Steel. I am quite the Mark Steel fan; he's the sort of comedian who will be invited onto Question Time to make serious points. He makes politics funny, he makes history funny, and he never has to resort to slurs based on gender, race, sexuality or physical appearance, unlike the legions of comedians who think they're being terribly clever and edgy in doing so. Anyway, Steel talked about Bono and Ben Elton and bad teachers, and I nodded and laughed merrily. He then said he would have chosen Thatcher, but that it was "too obvious". He told a story about how he was sitting at home watching the news on the day Thatcher had her stroke - the Very Serious Music played, the newsreader had his Very Serious Face on, and a picture of Mrs Thatcher flashed up: "I must have been one of about a million people who leapt out of their seats and shouted 'Dead?!'" He went on to talk about the disappointment of it being "only a stroke".
In a similar vein, Jeremy Hardy on QI (whom I am not a fan of the way I am of Steel, but he's usually funny and I consider both of them part of Linda Smith's lot, which gets them quite a lot of points automatically) remarked, "Thatcher's grave is going to be a permanent urinal to all decent people, isn't it?" Let's look at that. First of all, Thatcher wasn't the topic of conversation - this was the first thing that came into his head when someone mentioned graves. Her grave is going to be a permanent urinal - she will never, ever, ever be forgiven. And to all decent people - she is so horrible that pissing on a grave becomes not a sign of horrendous, deliberate and malicious disrespect, but a badge of honour, and if you don't fancy pissing on the woman's grave, you're not a decent person. Neither Steel nor Hardy are proponents of the "haha, I can swear and toss out tired old stereotypes" style of what is apparently terribly sophisticated comedy, so I can only conclude that yes, they do bear that kind of ill-will towards Thatcher, and they do genuinely believe that she was such a force of evil that she ruined the country. They genuinely see her death as being 'justice'.
Why? She's an old lady. She has had no power of any kind for more than fifteen years. She is ill and frail, and looks it. Will it be 'justice' to see an old lady die nearly two decades after she last did anything? Tony Blair took us into war under false pretences, but nobody was praying for his death - they just wanted him to leave power. Now that he has, we don't care what happens to him. When he does die, there will undoubtedly be people who say "I'm not sorry he died, he caused thousands of others to die" but nobody will be hanging around his deathbed screaming for him to piss off and die already, we're tired of waiting, you soldier-killing bastard, you Iraqi-massacring bastard, why won't you die? Even from parents of the dead, this would be unacceptable and, well, pretty damn weird. Politicians make bad decisions and we hate them for it, but they're rarely criminals (well, of the non-profiteering type, anyway). Mrs Thatcher was not a serial killer, she was not a rapist, she was not an abductor of children. And I have no truck whatsoever with people who say things like "well, she raped the miners" or "she abducted our children's future" (both of which I have heard recently), because using language intended for violent crimes to describe a political decision you disagreed with is frankly vile.
Is death 'justice'? I don't think so. I can see, however, how some might think that Ian Huntley's death would be justice, or Josef Fritzl's (when they're not pissing themselves laughing about it, of course), or any other real criminals who directly inflict real abuse on others, but this does not describe Margaret Thatcher. It just doesn't. Her policies may have caused great difficulties for great numbers of people, sure, but to compare her to a violent criminal is grossly offensive. "Thatcher did worse things to the miners" is a LIE. And to anticipate her death with the eagerness of Christmas Day, to look upon it as a gift, the shiny toy in the shop that will finally, finally make you happy, finally make you truly believe that Father Christmas exists, is just ghoulish. And yes, whether you like it or not, misogynistic. The same show that laughs at Josef Fritzl's actions talks with unconcealed disgust about Thatcher and the desperate wait for her death. There are few figures in the world, criminals or not, who inspire such gleeful reflections about their eventual death, and it is hard not to conclude that Mrs Thatcher, an uppity woman who dared to believe in power for herself, is in her old age a victim of men who wish they could have cut her down to size when she was powerful and are now taking the opportunity to do so in her weakness.
I believe that there are a lot of lovely men in the world. I also believe there are a lot of down-and-dirty misogynist assholes, who know they are misogynist assholes and enjoy it. The majority of men, I think, believe that they are good guys who love women, but have never dealt with their internal misogyny because they simply don't see it. Most Thatcher-hating men believe themselves to be totally open to a woman running the country, and they hate her that much because she is Just That Awful (Hillary Clinton has seen a similar thing in the last few months: "I've got no problem with a female President, but why does it have to be that bitch? I'm not sexist, I just hate her. Jesus, you fucking hysterical feminists, what's wrong with you?"). But she's not Just That Awful. A man in her position would not be subjected to this. He might have been disliked at the time, sure, but once he got out of power nobody would care. There would be no close watch on his health, looking for signs of the Reaper. There would be no comedy routines predicated on the blissful day when he finally passed on. There would be no large-scale defacings of his image. In fact, his death would be treated the same way as that of any other Prime Minister - we would look in the papers and say: "Oh, is he dead? He was the guy with the miners, wasn't he? That was a bit crap. Oh well." Then we would look at some cartoons.
All this fuss about a state funeral, too - who cares, really? I'm not sure anybody does. People are just frightened that she'll have a funeral in public and nice things will be said. People don't want good things said about her, and crucially, they don't want her to be remembered as anything other than a useless evil bitch. A state funeral is an endorsement. An endorsement of the first female Prime Minister who managed to get elected three times, despite her apparent useless evil bitchery. The Auditor, currently, is a fair picture of "useless" - wasn't elected in, and will probably be elected straight back out again. And if she was an evil bitch, so fucking what? What choice did she have? You can't be a woman in charge and be a moderate, or be "nice", especially if you're in the Tory party, where women are there to make the tea, thank you, sweetheart. You have to fight them all the damn way. You have to take them to war, you have to tell them to toe the fucking line or you'll fire them, no excuses, no nothing. And to the watching public, that's not what women do. The papers tell us that women are embracing their destiny as nurturers, and want to stay at home with the babies. If this is what you're being told constantly, and then along comes a Mrs Thatcher who is going to do what she's decided to do, you can't use human interest stories to appeal to her feminine side, because she doesn't care. She will not have it. She is busy. People perhaps start to think, maybe she doesn't have a feminine side. Maybe she's some sort of mutant. She's weird.
And now the evil bitch is old and sick, withering away. Just getting out of power wasn't enough to satisfy the misogyny that dare not speak. She ran the country, and she ran it like a man. She must be destroyed, utterly and completely. After all this time, the scars run deep. How dare she? I hope I live to see her die, and all decent people will piss on her grave. Well, fuck that. No decent person pisses on anyone's grave. I don't care whose grave it is. And no decent, self-aware person waits with delight for the death of someone they never met. Hate her policies, hate her actions, whatever. But if you're desperate to see her die, you're just a creep.