I don't know about anyone else but I'm finding this week's experience of being forcibly transported back to the 1980s at the mercy of the BBC's rolling coverage of Thatcherdeathmania more than a trifle disconcerting. If I am subjected one more time to that clip of the Iron Lady, poised perilously atop some kind of windy balcony, nostrils flaring and handbag aquiver with pure, uncontainable, self-righteous fury, railing at full decibel power against the miners, or the Junta, or the IRA, or the BBC, or the ANC, or the RAC, or whichever poor band of misfortunates had raised her ire beyond human endurance that particular afternoon, then I swear I am going to suffer some kind of 1980s-induced seizure and have to be revived by the swift administration of a restorative cocktail comprising equal parts strawberry slush puppy, Angel Delight, and essence of preserved Selina Scott.
It's not the recollection of the woman herself who has got me in such a lather though, not really. God knows we'd never really forgotten (how could we?) that air of quasi-regal certainty; that bouffant poodle of a hairdo; those strident, beligerent, whining tones; those twinsets (God those twinsets). What has me reeling here is the return- back from the dead, or just from political obscurity- of the full supporting cast. Skullheaded Norman Tebbit, the gin and tonic set's bovver boy of choice with his rubber face and wicked, lidded stormtrooper's eyes. Poor forlorn Geoffrey Howe, resembling more than ever an elderly tortoise patiently nursing a 1000-year-old grievance. Affable old Ken Clarke, the Thinking Jazz Fan's 'Is He Really A Tory?' Tory, all twinkling eyes, expensive pipe smoke and soft suede sideways shuffling shoes, even as he explains in that avuncularly persuasive way of his how closing down the industrial north and replacing it with a giant Starbucks was not only ideologically correct but really the only course of action consistent with dignity.
I hated them all at the time, of course- equally and indiscriminately. I went to all the marches, wore all the badges, and, on the eve of the 1987 General Election, let out a lusty roar at a Red Wedge concert headlined by The Beat, as the Labour candidate for Wolverhampton South- possibly rendered off-message by over-indulgence in the green room- took to the stage to encourage us to 'Kick Those Fucking Tories Up the Arse!'. Oh, and there may in downtown Valencia still be a wall with the words 'Thatcher Is Dead' scrawled across it in giant letters with indelible shoe polish (well, it was all we had to hand, and we were very, very drunk).
Here's the thing though. As these Men of Yesterday paraded past my eyes this week, the thing I was most struck by- quite apart from the still-insistent justifications for fundamentalist monetarism and its excesses- was a certain... well- humanity. 'Now X might indeed be an incorrigible old Tory' I found myself thinking more than once over the course of the week, 'but would he have stooped to using a tragic topical murdercase to score a cheap political point and in the process label 5 million benefit claimants as latent multiple childslayers? I don't think so.' I don't know- maybe it is just nostalgia, but it does seem to me that the arguments back then were at least about, you know, something.
Whatever. I suppose we can brace ourselves for a good week more of Thatchermania, with the peak being reached sometime Wednesday afternoon. As it happens, the day of the funeral finds me in London for a conference, and I am half-expecting the second class carriages on the 6:07 Euston-bound express out of Stockport to be packed with the sons and daughters of long-redundant textile workers, off down South armed with sharpened shovels and intent on avenging the ravage of their hometowns with the blue blood of the first lily-livered lapdogs of the establishment that they can lay their hands on.
I've booked in the quiet carriage, just in case, and am under strict instructions from my mother not to get involved in any actual riots. But I am intending, should I come across anyone who looks like they might be a Tory, to unfurl the Guardian Society Section in a most pointed manner, and will absolutely be thinking liberal thoughts throughout the journey south to the rhythym of the train tracks, as dewdrop-covered cowfields, slumbering dormitory towns and the dreaming spires of Wolverhampton Polytechnic swish past the drizzle-covered Pendolino windowpanes at a thrusting, Thatcherite, 145mph. My coalmining ancestors would expect nothing less.
A despatch from the frontline of the Class War (or possibly from just slightly behind it) will follow on these pages, I shouldn't wonder. In the meantime- Power to the People, my comrades, and remember: 'El Pueblo, Unido, Jamas Sera Vencido'*. Onward!
* 'The People, United, Will Never Be Defeated'