The British have always been advised to not speak ill of the dead; it is deemed unappealing as if a corpse has special privileges which the living person would not enjoy. Since Margaret Thatcher’s death was announced on Monday afternoon, many have not only broken the golden rule of not speaking ill of the dead, they have positively celebrated the news, staging impromptu parties. These outbursts of pleasure have been condemned as callous and in poor taste but a little thought would see that they are perfectly understandable. The British press didn’t condemn the Iraquis who celebrated the demise of Saddam Hussein by toppling his statue and destroying it with their shoes, or the gruesome death celebrations that followed the parading of Muammar Ghaddafi’s body around Sirte, but for some reason they find offensive the parties held this week in communities nationwide damaged by Thatcherism. I see no reason why one should be condoned and one opposed, thus continuing the British tradition of double standards.
This stance of respecting the dead is being taken a little too far by the BBC. Encouraged by various social networking campaigns, it is likely that Ding Dong The Witch is Dead will be number one in the UK charts this Sunday. The Daily Mail reported the Corporation’s “difficult decision” about whether or not it should play the track. But there should be no dilemma. It looks like being a legitimate number one unless the figures are massaged. Many think that in 1977 this happened to stop the Sex Pistols topping the charts with God Save the Queen. It is disgraceful deceit of course but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Hundreds of Britons have paid good money for the song as a way of expressing how they feel amidst the sycophancy that has been heard all this week. To not play the song would be the worst kind of censorship, hiding behind the moral view that it would be on the grounds of decency.
And then there is the question of next Wednesday’s funeral; a state occasion in all but name. Jacqueline Rose writing in The Guardian points out, ” she should not be mourned publicly, as if the British people were united in respect for one of the most divisive political figures in modern history.” That there is huge concern about possible violence and rioting disrupting the event highlights the nonsensical idea to make this funeral a huge occasion. Comparisons to Princess Diana’s funeral are inappropriate as Diana held no power to wield. And as Hugo Young reflects, not even those that praise Thatcher suggest she was loved.
Goodness knows what it is costing the taxpayer to mount this incredibly divisive funeral,including the cost of recalling parliament to debate her legacy and the delaying of next Wednesday’s House of Commons business. Ironic isn’t it that at the beginning of a month that sees the biggest cuts in Welfare benefits and detrimental changes to the NHS for 60 years, we the British taxpayer can afford the extravagance of her funeral. Considering this Grantham grocer’s daughter from humble beginnings died in the Ritz Hotel, clearly she had completely lost touch with her origins and the British public. If one can afford to die in the Ritz, surely one can afford one’s own funeral.