At around lunchtime today (Monday), Twitter and Facebook feeds across the country erupted into a sudden kaleidoscope of political activity. If yours was anything like mine, then you probably found your social media of choice spewing forth a mixture of staunchly defended Thatcherism versus a kind of pantomime glee that, Ding Dong, the wicked witch herself was finally dead.
I don’t know about you, but despite a large number of opinionated, politically engaged and well educated people on my friends list, this level of political discussion was pretty extreme compared to an average day online involving pictures of cats and babies, interspersed with the odd Doctor Who joke.
The thing is though, the question of whether or not Margaret Thatcher was the greatest British prime minister since Churchill, or an intractable defender of the rights of the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else (as if any human being can fit into these simple polarisations) isn’t actually an important one anymore.
Thatcher’s torch today
It mattered in 1979 and 1983 and 1987. But this is 2013 and it is not Margaret Thatcher whose changes to disability benefit could leave thousands of people isolated and unsupported or whose NHS ‘reforms’ leave the whole notion of a health care system based on need not profit in jeopardy.
The torch of unchecked capitalism and rampant, mindless ‘me first’ culture that her detractors accuse Thatcher of lighting is burning more brightly than ever. And while historians can and should debate Maggie’s legacy and place in history, the rest of us need to look to the current cohort of Tory villains.
An 87 year old lady died yesterday and that is sad for her family. But there are 3.6 million children living in poverty in the UK today and that’s far sadder.
Kate Townshend is a freelance journalist www.katetownshend.co.uk