A nation mourns … and breathes a sigh of relief

Talk of “tramping the dirt down”, in the context of Margaret Thatcher’s death, is considered bad taste, but that hasn’t stopped joyful celebration up and down the land. There are reports of riotous street parties last night in Brixton, Bristol and Glasgow, with a number of police officers attacked and injured. I am not sure if anything kicked off in Liverpool, the benighted northern English city most associated with resistance to Thatcherism, but even if the Scousers were not out on the streets yesterday, I imagine that a few tins were cracked open at home and raised in contemptuous salute in front of the telly. “Tara, Maggie, and good riddance!”

Celebrating the demise of a human being is never nice, but worse is the sanctimony of those for whom such behaviour is taboo. The strength of popular feeling against Thatcher and the disordered values for which she stood is such that visceral displays of loathing are entirely understandable, and to some degree justified. There are occasions when one can and should speak ill of the dead. The lives of millions were forever changed by Thatcherism, and certainly not for the better.

I left school the year following Thatcher’s 1979 election victory, and the general feeling in my economically blighted district of southeast London was that we were screwed. The previous Labour government had twiddled its thumbs through years of economic decay and industrial strife, and the Conservative Party, guided now by followers of the amoral, anti-altruistic and fundamentally anti-libertarian philosophies known as objectivism and monetarism, were set to unleash an economic and social programme that would be the ruination of Britain’s working class communities.

“Tramp the dirt down” is a song by Elvis Costello, taken from his 1989 album Spike

“Well I hope you live long now, I pray the Lord your soul to keep
I think I’ll be going before we fold our arms
and start to weep
I never thought for a moment that human life
could be so cheap
‘Cos when they finally put you in the ground
They’ll stand there laughing and tramp the
dirt down.”

Not a great song, but an entirely fair comment.

Many of us who came of age during the Thatcher years will carry a bitterness in our hearts until the moment they beat their last. I shall not weep for Margaret Thatcher, and would happily tramp the dirt down on her grave.