Artist News

Morrissey and Bragg on Thatcher death

By | Published on Tuesday 9 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher

So, the recently late Margaret Thatcher united the country in celebration yesterday – even if half were celebrating her life and legacy while the other half celebrated her mortal demise.

As the former British Prime Minister’s death aged 87 hit the headlines, the mainstream media, in the main (outside of Argentina, that is), focused on the former, using the euphemistic phrase “she was a divisive figure” to politely reference just how much hate there is in certain quarters of UK society towards the ex-PM.

On the social networks and blogosphere, though, those who see Thatcher and Thatcherism as a manifestation of the worse traits of British politics let loose, some openly delighted the Iron Lady was no more. Which began a circle of online comment – should you so quickly speak ill of the dead? Of course you should, this is Thatcher. But should you really? Yes you should. And so on.

In the creative world, of course, Thatcher’s detractors were always more obvious (and probably more numerous) than her sympathisers and supporters, partly because creative minds more often lean to the left poltically, and partly because the former Tory leader was never seen as a champion of the arts. Though, ironically, some of those artists who found the former PM’s polices most offensive in the 1980s might now admit that, so “divisive” was Thatcher, she fuelled (albeit angry) creative passion even if her government chose not to fund it.

But hey, this is really a very long drawn out way of saying: Maggie Thatcher’s dead then, I wonder what Morrissey has to say? In an open letter published by The Daily Beast, the former Smiths frontman was typically forthright following the news that the former political leader was dead.

“Thatcher is remembered as The Iron Lady only because she possessed completely negative traits, such as persistent stubbornness and a determined refusal to listen to others”, he began. “Every move she made was charged by negativity; she destroyed the British manufacturing industry, she hated the miners, she hated the arts, she hated the Irish Freedom Fighters and allowed them to die, she hated the English poor and did nothing at all to help them, she hated Greenpeace and environmental protectionists, she was the only European political leader who opposed a ban on the ivory trade, she had no wit and no warmth and even her own Cabinet booted her out”.

“She gave the order to blow up The Belgrano even though it was outside of the Malvinas Exclusion Zone – and was sailing AWAY from the islands! When the young Argentinean boys aboard The Belgrano had suffered a most appalling and unjust death, Thatcher gave the thumbs up sign for the British press. Iron? No. Barbaric? Yes. She hated feminists even though it was largely due to the progression of the women’s movement that the British people allowed themselves to accept that a Prime Minister could actually be female. But because of Thatcher, there will never again be another woman in power in British politics, and rather than opening that particular door for other women, she closed it”.

He concluded: “Thatcher will only be fondly remembered by sentimentalists who did not suffer under her leadership, but the majority of British working people have forgotten her already, and the people of Argentina will be celebrating her death. As a matter of recorded fact, Thatcher was a terror without an atom of humanity”.

Meanwhile another of the former Tory chief’s most vocal critics within the music fraternity predictably took a different approach, resisting the temptation to go over old ground about “Thatcher The Barbarian”, instead urging those whose anger towards Thatcherism was rekindled by the former PM’s passing to channel that anger into activism.

Posting to his Facebook page from Canada, Billy Bragg wrote: “This is not a time for celebration. The death of Margaret Thatcher is nothing more than a salient reminder of how Britain got into the mess that we are in today”.

“Of why ordinary working people are no longer able to earn enough from one job to support a family; of why there is a shortage of decent affordable housing; of why domestic growth is driven by credit, not by real incomes; of why tax-payers are forced to top up wages; of why a spiteful government seeks to penalise the poor for having an extra bedroom; of why Rupert Murdoch became so powerful; of why cynicism and greed became the hallmarks of our society”.

“Raising a glass to the death of an infirm old lady changes none of this. The only real antidote to cynicism is activism. Don’t celebrate – organise!”

Ah, sensible words from Mr Bragg even in this time of national mourning/jubilation (delete as applicable). Though if you’re in the latter camp and want some silly fun before plotting something more tangibly worthwhile, ‘Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead’ is currently just inside the top 20 on the iTunes chart.