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Unfinished Business

Thatcher's death leaves Cameron looking second-rate

In their desperation to elevate Margaret Thatcher into a figure who will live on in the hearts of the British people for all time, the Tories are playing with fire. A latent hatred of her policies has re-emerged and the state she regularly deployed is back in action against opponents.

Activists planning demonstrations over the weekend and next Wednesday, the day of Thatcher’s military-style funeral, fear pre-emptive arrests by Scotland Yard. Police have stepped up surveillance and are monitoring social network sites for information.

According to reports, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, part of Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism structure is working overtime. The NPOIU’s network of police spies and informants in a campaign near you is doing its stuff too.

Val Swain, director of police monitoring group Netpol, said:

This form of deterrent policing is insidious and divisive. It undermines the fundamental human rights of freedom of expression and assembly. If fear of the police is stopping people from even discussing political protest and dissent in a free and open manner, that is a matter of serious concern.

Pre-emptive arrests are, of course, not new. In London, activists were picked up in advance of the 2011 royal wedding. During Thatcher’s regime, miners on their way to picket lines during the 1984-5 strike for jobs were routinely arrested on the most spurious grounds to prevent them reaching their destination. Road blocks were also deployed to block their movement.

The Tory press is also in a flap about the surge in popularity of the 1930s’ song Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, which became an anti-Thatcher anthem. So many people have bought it since Thatcher’s death that it has risen close to the top of the charts. For the Daily Telegaph, the most shocking consequence is that the BBC will play it when the Official Chart Show airs on Sunday. The Torygraph quotes “friends of Thatcher” as saying this would amount to a “serious dereliction of duty” by the BBC.

And that’s what it is all about. Duty. Duty to the state. Duty to the government. Duty to the establishment. Kow-tow. Obey the rules as laid down by others. The country is in a crisis. So do your bit for the nation. Join the army and fight without ever knowing exactly what you are fighting for.

That’s what the Thatcher period was like. She prosecuted class war through the state and while she displayed terrier-like leadership, no such quality was displayed in the ranks of most trade union leaders and certainly none at the top of the Labour Party. And that salient fact remains true to this day, except that now it also applies to the Tory Party.

Cameron praises Thatcher largely to try and save his own skin as his shambolic “leadership” is questioned by diehard right-wingers. The recall of Parliament so MPs could praise Thatcher was his plan. But Speaker Bercow was against the unnecessary expense, especially as Parliament was due to return next week anyway. Cameron had to rely on Labour leader Ed Miliband’s support before Bercow acceded. Most Labour MPs stayed away, however, leaving Miliband looking a bit stupid.

It is fitting that Thatcher’s funeral procession will be dominated by the military. She was enthusiastic about state violence, counting Chile dictator Augusto Pinochet among her friends. She famously took the salute after British troops returned from her Malvinas/Falklands adventure, assuming the role of the Queen. Buckingham Palace was not amused then and, apparently, is not wild about the funeral plans either.

The political elites are thrashing around in the wake of Thatcher’s death against a background of deep loathing for traditional politics, a deteriorating economy and the build-up of a range of financial bubbles. They don’t have a Thatcher figure to hand who can create a dictatorial regime around a personality.

With right-wing commentators questioning the usefulness of representative democracy at the present time, one can only surmise what scenario plans are being discussed in top echelons of the state in the event of social upheaval combining with weak government.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor
12 April 2013

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