About half my earliest memories consist of being buggied about London by my mum on anti-Thatcher demos. The witch stuff, to me, ain’t even a metaphor. When I was a kid, the boundary between fairytale and contemporary history simply didn’t exist—it was as if an evil witch was in charge of our United Kingdom, and the only way happiness could be restored was if she could be killed… or voted out.
This was the weird thing. Every election, she’d win, and my mother would literally weep with hatred and disappointment. People obviously voted Wicked Witch Party. I didn’t get it.
It was partly this childhood mystification that saw me attend Margaret Thatcher’s funeral procession in London yesterday…
I arrived at St Clement Danes Church about the same time as Thatcher’s coffin, which was shortly to make its way to St Paul’s along disappointingly busy streets. Heavily decorated paratroopers stood trembling with psychopathic rigidity outside the entrance to the church, and an additional police presence to those lining the road patrolled the pavement—portly, distinguished old coppers in white-gloves.
Besides these various showings of Establishment muscle, the streets were filling up with the Establishment’s biggest admirers—flag-waving patriots thronging the pavements, plus significant amounts of tourists, and the odd gutsy protester, planted right in the midst of a hostile crowd.
I stopped to listen to one of these, a Welsh ex-miner with a conspicuous banner, as he conducted an interview with the BBC. He was asked if he thought a funeral an “appropriate” place to protest. “When is the time to protest?” he responded, “Where is the place in this country where they say, come along, protest, and we’ll listen to what you’ve got to say.” It was a good point, and passionately made, but as I stood scribbling his answer into my notebook I felt something push against an elbow.
Looking up, I saw a giant copper peering skeptically down at me. The thing touching me was his rigid, vast belly. I stared back, rather surprised. His message was clear. The television crew was welcome to interview this political subhuman—they could be relied upon to edit his measured responses into banality (or worse)—but a writer, unaffiliated with any obvious outfit, was suspect.
I took the policeman’s tacit advice and moved on, leaving the ex-miner to the milling wolves. I heard someone say that most of the protesters were gathered at Ludgate Circus further up, and decided to check it out. En route, the military procession began, countless gleaming platoons blasting out great slabs of murder muzak—rolling drums and hyperactive brass augmented with the heavy tread of boots.
They all seemed to express the same message: the Establishment possessed the power, and the firepower; it always did exactly what it wanted and it honored whoever it wished to.
Up ahead I could begin to make out the protesters, a dense scrum of them on one side of the junction, the rest of which thronged with Witch fans. Even in these more significant numbers (there must have been a few hundred crammed together) these protesters’ gumption was noteworthy. A snarling line of police stood right in front of them; veterans on the other side of the junction jeered at them, and occasionally a fresh platoon arrived via Blackfriars, so that a hundred gun barrels and twice as many gimlet eyes swept across them.
Meanwhile, the mass media swarmed around, the journalists wearing the gleeful expressions of vultures come upon carrion, all busily ripping off the crowd’s rottener strips to present to their audiences.
I went around the back of the protesters, up a little further and came to a halt. From the last quarter mile or so to St Paul’s the pavement looked too busy to bother trying to squeeze through.
Around me, there were local bankers and lawyers, retired servicemen, frail and wholly likable old ladies, sporty closet fascists, and entire suburban family units.
Most intriguing, however, was a large but seemingly disparate contingent of middle-aged Essex women, all of them with long blond hair, massive moles, and tight smiles. Many of these were very bellicose concerning the protesters. One of them kept telling her friend that it was only the possibility of arrest that stopped her going over and attacking one dawdling nearby. I thought she was full of shit, but perhaps not, because when Thatcher’s coffin finally approached, and the only thing that could be heard was booing and chanting, she raised herself on a bollard and screamed, “YOU BUNCH OF FACKIN SCUMBAGS,” sparking a storm of applause and cheering.
As the coffin passed through all this noise, draped in the Union Jack and surrounded by soldiers and police on horseback and on foot, my thoughts turned to Thatcher’s close friendship with Jimmy Savile.
What does being fantastic pals with a man who was perhaps history’s most prolific child rapist say about someone?
As I noted in a DM article last year, Savile claimed to have spent “eleven consecutive Christmases at Chequers” with the Thatcher family: “Denis, me and her, shoes off in front of the fire.” Cute.
Sir Jimmy, of course, was buried with similar military pomp.
The average right-winger, you’ve got to say, couldn’t spot a psychopath if one was stabbing them repeatedly in the face.