Iron Lady Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher receives a beautiful salute today at St Paul’s Cathederal, London.
La dame de fer (the iron lady) has left the building; departing with her coat buttoned and her dignity intact, as my mother would say.
A few days ago, on the streets around Trafalgar Square, it was an entirely other matter.
The ferocity that the Iron Lady Prime Minister stirred up in the public mind, was unprecedented.
Glenda Jackson’s vitriolic performance in the house of commons, mob demonstrations on London streets, showing a level of anger (in this case celebratory) not displayed since the poll tax days.
Unbridled hatred from men and women of all rungs along the rickety social ladder, united by intense, and longstanding grudges against MT.
It was a cocktail of wrath, there was some thoughtful venom from the well-educated middle classes, and bile from the gentlemen with the scary teeth, a scene Dickens might have enjoyed, then captured exquisitely.
With 4000 police in force and cameras watching each minor episode of the parade, it would have been difficult for the protesters to emit more than a weak boo here and there. This was evident as the coffin was making its way along the route, demonstrators were muffled with applause.
The Iron Lady Prime Minister was a remarkably stubborn, misguided, obstinate, prejudiced and calculating human being. However, it is questionable whether or not she was the one-dimensional witch that lives on in popular legend.
Her limitations and prejudices were on show, yes, indeed they were; never hidden, and to her credit, she never flinched from criticism. Her ambition was obvious; Margaret Thatcher owned up to and expressed her ideas to the hilt; she was often unbearable.
Yet she was a lioness, and a rare, decisive leader. My ancestors in Ireland would surely spin in their graves upon hearing me utter such plaudits to one they may well have regarded as the devil. Margaret didn’t spare much of a thought for those who stumbled outside of her ideology; people such as the Irish, or those whom she regarded as ‘terrorists’ , people like Nelson Mandela. Probably, she hadn’t much time for the Scots. (Was the Baroness of Kilmarnock present today I wonder?)
Or so we are led to believe.
But how much of this anti-Thatcherism is rhetoric, stemming from an equally vicious left wing, a branch of seething ‘socialism’, stripped of its innate power and dignity, reduced to mere rabble rousing hatred of individuality, untenable as that individuality may appear in their eyes. Did Margaret Thatcher do this?
Or was socialism already in decline by the time she put the final nail in the lid of its coffin.
In Brighton, was her stance against the bombers brave, foolhardy, or a stunt? I believe she was right in facing down the IRA, in her show of strength against the extortionists of fear.
Her political reign oversaw an era of enormous conflict and social change. When the dust of history settles we may consider her with fresh eyes, or we may not.
If nothing else, great leaders, powerful leaders ought to be examined. We should probe their hearts, and their minds, try to understand their characters, observe their greatnesses and their flaws; learn from them in a balanced, detached, and yes, scientific way, as cold as that seems.
Adopting comfort zone slogans is a useless strategy; a strategy of the weak. It won’t teach anyone much. We ought to acknowledge the artfulness of a distinctive mind. Whatever else she was, Margaret Thatcher was possibly the most skilful player of the world political game, at least during the latter half of the 20th Century.
That may well be her legacy.