Earlier this week, the BBC frantically scrambled to release news of Margaret Thatcher, former British PM, and her death by “strike” [sic]. This accidental mockery was echoed throughout cyberspace with a bellow of glee that “the witch is dead” and witticisms asking whether hell would now be privatised.
In keeping with the ‘stiff upper lip’, Britain is traditionally a country in which people refrain from criticising the recently departed, but Thatcher seems to be the exception to the rule. Thatcher’s departure to the underworld has brought people’s grievances – with her conservatism – to the fore.
While in power, Thatcher pushed for mass privatisation, a poll tax, the censorship of homosexuality in education, supported the invasion of foreign lands, stole milk from children, and publicly condemned feminism. These conservative measures polarised Britain, with some claiming that she saved the economy and others pointing to how she savaged the working class, particularly working class women.
It’s hardly a surprise that leftists would critique and oppose these measures, but what is surprising is how much of the glee, vitriol and condemnation comes from those who never personally experienced Thatcher’s leadership. The hatred comes from far outside Britain with celebration parties happening across western Europe, the United States and Australia, including one in Hyde Park.
This hatred isn’t universal and Thatcher remains divisive, even in her casket, with a strong push by her supporters to silence this glee both online and off. In the United Kingdom, amidst street parties, a number of unionised teachers have been asked to resign by bosses for supporting messages like “Rejoice. Thatcher is dead.”
Support of Thatcher has even come from segments of the left, though perhaps in a more nuanced fashion than the conservative canonisation of Thatcher. The debate lay less around whether Thatcher was harmful to Britain but rather whether the reaction to her death is appropriate and seemly.
Tony Blair, former Labour Prime Minister of the UK, has stated that reactions by the left have been in “pretty poor taste” and that they “should show some respect”. Criticisms of this nature have been ongoing, with pieces on the ABC website and notes all over Facebook and Tumblr complaining that all of this is, well, mean.
After armed representatives of the United States put bullets into Osama Bin Laden, there was an upsurge of celebration amongst many, including leaders of the centre-left like Barack Obama, Tony Blair and Julia Gillard. The justification of this celebration, with all of its colonial undertones, was that it brought closure to the victims of 9/11 and presented a blow to the ideology which underpins the Taliban.
The justification for the celebration of Thatcher’s death is no different, though it is more valid. This is a blow to Thatcher’s ideologies, which survived long past her term in office and were re-affirmed when she was awarded the title of Baroness. Her victims and their families, who number in the millions, have also gone without closure for many years. Now they have it.