I blame Maggie Thatcher for the loss of my cherished milk monitor position when I was five. However, I’ll concede that it’s unlikely to go down as one of the great industrial struggles of the last century.
Perhaps it should have sounded a note of warning, but it didn’t. I was born the year before Maggie Thatcher succeeded Ted Heath as Tory leader, I was eight during the Falklands and a year and four months off voting age when she quit. To be honest, I don’t really have any personal reason to hate Thatcher and yet the irritation of not having turned eighteen in time to vote against her still ranckles. Despite this there is no shortage of journalists and pundits ready to put the hag into hagiography for her who are no older than I am. There’s something faintly absurd in hearing or reading yet another tribute to ‘the woman who saved Britain’ from mouths and hands that would have been busy with teething rings while she was doing the saving.
Conversely hearing venomous castigations of her destruction of the miners in the clipped tones of someone who was nearer to a prep school than a pithead at the time seems more than a little absurd.
Of course, these same people may have strong views on Attlee or Lloyd-George – or Caesar for that matter – but they lack any visceral quality for the generation that grew up under her. I was politically precocious but not obscenely so and I have plenty of friends who would struggle to identify all but a couple of the current cabinet but can tell you at vast length what divisive character that she undoubtedly was. Certainly liking her demeanour takes a significant effort of will, which could demand vociferous self-justification in later life.
Equally, she had a voice and character that would grab the attention of even the most whimsical truant. However, without wishing to get too Freudian, there may well be something more basic going on. The idea that she appeals to a certain class of public school boy, for reasons of unspeakable fantasy, is scarcely new and anyone witnessing Cecil Parkinson’s oleaginous descriptions of Maggie would certainly give it some credence at least.
However, for those of us who were children at the time, the presence of so strong a female personality in our young lives must have had some impact. I shall leave the vicarious Oedipal fantasies of those who, to take an example entirely at random, like Cameron would have been 12 years and six months old and at a lonely boarding school far from other comforts on the day she became PM to better minds than mine. If I am secretly in love with Maggie, the Gorgon of Grantham, it’s buried very deep indeed.
For me, and I suspect others who grew up on the Left, it is simply that we all needed to learn to hate somewhere and the full-throated endorsement of our parents made this an easy lesson in loathing.
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Our first hates, like our first loves, are too pure of course; they set a standard based on the novelty of the experience itself rather than the target of the emotion. The intensity of the feeling is quite out of proportion to the reality of the situation. Unfortunately, all subsequent expressions are doomed to fall short by comparison, like the addict chasing the first hit.
As a result for lefties hovering around the forty mark, we’ll never be able to genuinely hate another politician again. We’ll try of course, and they’ll appreciate the fact that we’re trying but inside a voice will be telling them, ‘it’s her, he’s thinking about her’. The sad truth is that once you’ve drunk pure venom, mere bile will always be a disappointment.