Thatcher & After

Thatcher & After –
Margaret Thatcher and Her Afterlife
In Contemporary Culture
Edited by Louisa Hadley and Elizabeth Ho
Palgrave Macmillan – £55.00

There are parts of Thatcher & After that are absolutely brilliant. There are also a couple of parts that are densely dull, and it’s a shame such a disparate twain had to unfortunately meet in the same book – but that’s politics and (occasionally gripping) realistic reportage for you.

Divided into two parts: ‘Thatcher’ and ‘After’ (hence the title), these ten essays thoroughly investigate the persistent yet spuriously unfortunate reappearance of former British Prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, along with everything she vindictively stood for – primarily the indoctrination of the self. And lest it be known I’m not talking Will Self, but rather the ‘self’ that has lured Britain into becoming one of the most woeful and shameful societies on earth.

That Thatcher bequeathed the nation with the immortal dogma of there being ‘’no such thing as society’’ has had a pronounced and profound trajectory of such epic and socially cancerous proportion, it’s almost impossible to ever envision a way back: a way back from the delusion of association, as well as the association of delusion. A way back to some form of civility – let alone understanding. A way back to some form of composure – let alone giving. A way back to when once upon a time, Britain actually deserved to be called great. Regardless of the filthy fucking pointless Falklands War, which, other than winning Thatcher her second term in office, really, really didn’t put the great back into Britain.

Other than amassing millions and millions of pounds worth of debt, the contagion of said war and Thatcher’s vile policies only promoted the me, me, me media, which eventually gave rise, not only to the white-van-man mentality that still persists to this very day, but an entire generation of scum-bag, cut-throat disciples, who’d just as soon kick someone to death whilst discarding a pizza box amid the petals of lost innocence.

But hey, who amid the current hordes of consumerist cunnilingus, truly cares? Cameron and his cronies? Katie ‘’I’d commit incest with an Alsatian if it guaranteed yet another centre spread’’ Price? It’s not as if there’s such thing as society after all, as Heather Nunn and Anita Biressi make resoundingly clear in their astonishingly thought provoking essay ‘‘Shameless?: Picturing the ‘’underclass’’ after Thatcherism’’ at the outset of Part II: ‘’This newly inflected version of the ‘’underclass’’ is both confused and confusing; described as a depoliticized spiteful class whose ‘’free-floating anger masquerading as moral outrage’’ informs the mobs gathered outside courthouses or whose emotional incontinence led to the swelling of the Princess Diana funeral crowds. In this mutable spectre of a superficial, anti-intellectual, apolitical, greedy, amoral and essentially ‘’sociopathic’’ tribe the ‘’underclass’’ becomes again the scapegoat for both established and more recent social ills; mindless consumerism and pointless aspiration based on an infantile identification with celebrity culture.’’

Indeed, current Brit-Grit syndication with the so-called ‘celebrity culture,’ is of far more intrinsic value than the true meaning of any grief. Let alone grief at Princess Diana’s funeral.

What’s of more high-octane value is the mere association of being seen to grieve – especially at such a nationalistic and sexy out-pouring of contextualised grief as that of the over-sensationalised funeral of the ‘’people’s princess.’’ Hence, the upsurge of vacuous consumerism – despite both financial and social (Katie) price; not to mention the absolutist, utter sacrosanct need to be seen in designer labels that is surely, befitting of both grief and a feeling of ‘belonging.’ As Nunn and Biressi go on to make clear: ‘’It seems that these subjects are greedy, acquisitive and troublingly conservative: ‘’the people who craved not values but designer labels and satellite dishes… hopped up vengeance, tabloids, alcopops and sentiment.’’

As already mentioned, not all of the essays herein are as well conceived and on the money (for want of a perhaps more appropriate term) as that quoted above. Ryan Trimm’s ‘Carving Up Value: The Tragicomic Thatcher Years in Jonathan Coe’ for instance, is far too cryptic, angular and insular for its own good. So too, to a degree, is ‘Let’s Dance: The Line of Beauty and the Revenant Figure of Thatcher’ by Kim Duff. But for a mere couple of weaknesses, Thatcher & After really is a very substantial, well-written, worthwhile, colourful, caustic and contagious read – even if only to partially come to terms with the kernel of Britain’s current, elongated dilemma.

David Marx

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