As of today’s Official Chart Update, Judy Garland’s version of ‘Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead’ from The Wizard Of Oz, is heading for number five in the singles chart, having sold 20,000 copies, 14,000 from the top position. When history writes the records of how the left reacted to the death of the UK’s most prominent postwar leader, how will we be remembered? As the people who marked the passing of an infirm old lady by throwing street parties and hyping the singles chart with a munchkin anthem.
“VOTE NOW” shrieks the campaign’s Twitter account, “Send a message that we don’t agree with the media portrayal of this ‘great woman’.” My friend Adam, a veteran of the Occupy movement, wrote in support of the campaign for the Huffington Post. He sees it “as a creative way for Brits to correct the national narrative being constructed by BBC and Cameron’s Tory government”.
Based in the United States, he can’t see what’s really going on here: a feeding frenzy of opinion and counter-intuition, people rushing to social networks and street parties to come up with ‘hilarious’ bon mots to prove just how liberal they are. He’s correct, though, that people on the right are using the death to lionise her memory and impose some kind of moral justification for the cuts that came into force last week. Cuts which, incidentally, are deeper than any she actually inflicted. But it isn’t working; there is no grand reappraisal of Thatcher in death. A country that couldn’t even bring itself to fully elect a Conservative government when the party had an open goal knows perfectly well how it feels about Thatcher. When the major TV channels stripped their schedules for wall-to-wall Thatcher coverage, less than 3million people watched.
Campaigns such as this undercut genuine political point-making and play into the wrong people’s hands. But reason hasn’t held much currency this week; as Grace Dent wrote in The Independent, “you’re either a ‘Tory twat’ or you have a death party to organize.”
Sorry guys, but I want out. And I’m no Thatcherite. Credentials? I was born three days before she came to power and grew up in a Merseyside community that she decimated. It was impossible not to be politicised; I remember singing ‘Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead’ to myself on the day she was deposed. Nobody had died, and I was 11.
On the most fundamental level, Thatcher’s ideologies are repulsive, because their basis is mean-spirited and nasty. And it’s according to those very basic principles that I would identify myself as a member of the left. Cut through the rhetoric and the politics of the right are those of selfishness. Selfishness in turn is inherently mean. I’ll tell you what else is mean: celebrating somebody’s death with a tedious chart-hyping Facebook campaign. We’re sinking to her level, and we’re supposed to be better than that. As John Lydon, a man with some experience of politically motivated chart-hyping himself, put it, “I was her enemy in life but I won’t be her enemy in death… What kind of politics are they offering me? You dance on another person’s grave? That’s loathsome.”
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If you want to stand against the legacy of Thatcherism, maybe go and support your local library or something. If you really do need another Oz-based song on your iTunes, get ‘Defying Gravity’ from Wicked. Or just get the QOTSA song because it’s amazing. But don’t involve yourself in this tacky and ghoulish display. You’ll feel so much better about yourself.