Posted by Ian
Mrs T was on telly again the other night. BBC4, to be precise, as the star of a 90 (count ’em) minute tribute from Michael Portillo. Titled ‘The Lady’s Not For Spurning’, it was, at heart, a love letter to the former Iron Lady, oozing with unashamed charm and nostalgia. The 1980s, in particular, were painted as a golden age in British history: the country back on its feet, back at its best, and back on top. All thanks to Maggie.
Growing up during that decade, the things I most remember about Mrs Thatcher are a) the way she always seemed to look down into, rather than simply at, the television camera, in a way that was – to someone not yet old enough to vote – very unsettling; and b) her voice. Clive James summed it up best: "She sounds like the book of Revelations read out over a railway station public address system by a headmistress of a certain age wearing calico knickers."
Anyway, the thing that’s always said about Maggie is at least you knew where you stood. You either loved her or hated her. And we don’t have people like that anymore. Depending on your point of view, the absence of deeply divisive figures like Mrs T is a blessed relief or a sad loss.
I don’t remember the 1980s the way Michael Portillo remembered it either. It wasn’t a decade full of yuppies and giant mobile phones and stockbrokers shouting and police fighting with pickets and big hair and big shoulder pads and strikes (actually, that sounds like your average episode of Ashes To Ashes). It was both a lot more ordinary, and a lot more complicated, than that.
I only wish I’d been old enough to appreciate that at the time.