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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Some respect...for Thatcher and society

On the day of Margaret Thatcher's funeral, I'm going to show a little respect.

I hope others do too.

Not just respect for a former Prime Minister. Nor just respect for an elderly woman who suffered from various debilitating illnesses. Neither am I merely showing respect for her family, friends and supporters although I do respect them, even if our political views are vastly different.

I respect our democracy. I respect society. I respect the values of tolerance and acceptance.

I also disrespect hate, and I have no time for those who wish ill on others or celebrate at others' deaths. I certainly have little respect for those who are, apparently, hoping to use Mrs Thatcher's funeral as a "protest". Protesting what? Let's call it what it is; it's not so much a protest that these people are planning, but an expression of disrespect and even hate. I fail to see what it will achieve, other than to send out messages about how divided a nation we are.

I'm going to show Mrs Thatcher some respect. That means, today, I'll take some time to peacefully and soberly reflect on her time on power and her political legacy.

But I'm also respecting her in how I respond to the challenge of that legacy.  I hope others do too.

So, rather than indulge in a show of hate I'm going to prove Thatcher, and Thatcherism, wrong.

There are those who don't believe in society. I want to show them how powerful and vital society is.

There are those who don't view unemployment as a human problem. I want to work to create a society that not only recognises the effects of unemployment on individuals and communities, but actively fights to tackle them.

There are those who are anti-trade union.  I am a proud trade union member, committed to both modernising the unions and ensuring that their voices are heard in the current political conversation.

There are those who still believe in the failed rhetoric of Thatcher's right-wing economics. This is why, more than ever, we must be seeking to create a new economic system that is fair and more capable of delivering stability.

There are others who, like the Tories who voted for Section 28 in 1988, are opposed to LGBT rights.  I will tell them they are wrong, and campaign for a society in which no-one is treated differently on account of their sexual orientation, gender, religion or race.

There are many of Thatcher's followers who share her views on Europe.  I believe in European co-operation and the importance of Britain's place in a reformed EU.  I will challenge the Euro-skeptic views of those whose romantic visions of British identity mean they want us to withdraw from the European Union.

It's not simply particular policies of Thatcher's that I was, and am, opposed to, but the unfeeling, uncaring nature of her Conservatism.  I'm going to challenge that, not by demonstrating how unfeeling, uncaring and disrespectful I can be - but through bringing some caring humanity into my politics.

To those who want to "protest" - may I suggest some alternatives?

If you dislike what Thatcher stood for, and I understand that fully, why not find some more useful outlet for your political expression? Why not join a political party?  Why not get involved in a democratic movement? Why not work for one of the many voluntary organisations promoting social inclusion?  Essentially, there are very many ways you could serve society more effectively than via a short-sighted demonstration of hate. Hate is, after all, very easy; working to create a better society is a long, hard challenge.

But it's the latter option I've chosen and it's how I've always responded to the challenge laid down by Mrs Thatcher.  Yesterday, I joined the Social Liberal Forum.  Mrs Thatcher is partly responsible because, without having lived through the 1980s and witnessed the effects of her policies, I doubt if I'd be politically interested, never mind so determined to create a fairer society.

And so today, as always, I'll privately and personally remember Mrs Thatcher. The respect I have motivates me to do something positive in response, which is probably the more natural and common human reaction than resorting to the gesture politics of intolerance.

As I wrote last night, there should be no place in modern society for hate. However, there is definitely a place for those who are opposed to the heartlessness and inhumanity of a broken political philosophy to join the struggle against it.  Respect demands it. Please join us.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The respect I have motivates me to higher and better things than the displays of intolerance being promised by some."

Well, good for you! (You may still need to do a little work on the sanctimony, though.)

Andrew said...

Yes, that's dreadful! I know what I meant, but didn't want it to come out like that.

I've taken the unusual step of editing the post to make it read like...well, what I was hoping to say in the first place.

Bill said...

Andrew, I like what you have written here. I must confess that I was offended by the funeral because there was no hint that she had been PM of the U.K.. She was commemorated only as P.M. of England. The liturgy even included T.S. Eliot's poem "Little Gidding" with its line, "History is now and England" As a Scot that kind of thing makes me more convinced that only by independence will we be treated as equal with England.