Opinion Writer Idris ap Gwynedd takes an objective, working class perspective on the death of Margaret Thatcher.
If you google ‘Neath Port Talbot history’, the first result that comes up is Neath Port Talbot Country Borough Council’s webpage dedicated to describing the history of Neath. A corpus study would reveal lexemes like ‘manual’ ‘colliery’ ‘tinworks ‘mining’ and ‘steel’ appearing in abundance.
I am from Neath, I am working class and let me begin by stating that this is not a ‘ding-dong, the witch is dead’ article, nor is this a ‘oh, the working class is so hard-done-by’ rant, it’s an attempt at justifying why the death of Margaret Thatcher has been met with such fervour in working class communities such as mine.
In traditional working class areas, there was joy and pride to be found in both skilled and unskilled manual labour, communities built up around pits, quarries, and works. Everyone was ‘in the same boat’, so to speak and because of this, there was mutual respect and support from peers, working class communities were by no means perfect but they were stable.
However, it became apparent by the 1970’s that the reins of the nation were firmly in the hands of the Working Class. The nation’s economy relied on natural resources produced through labour in areas like Powys and Durham and therefore, Trade Union leaders had a firm say in the running of the country.
This did not sit well with the upper-middle class and an entire Government was spurred into putting the plebs back in their place and re-establishing the distribution of power where it belonged, with the bourgeois.
Legislation was placed that left the wages of miners and other workers slashed, leaving them financially handicapped and with only two options: work for peanuts or strike. The history of the miners’ strike is as deeply ingrained in our history as Alfred the Great or Shakespeare and will receive no coverage in this article.
However, what will be covered are the after-effects of the middle-class savagery and fragmentation of the middle class. The aforementioned notions of community and togetherness were shattered, replaced instead with individualism and personal gain. Whereas before there had been pride in manual labour, there was, and still is, mass unemployment and an unknown resentment, borne of frustration, aimed at other members of the community instead of the legacy of a Government that betrayed a generation.
For most, this betrayal is embodied by one person, Margaret Thatcher, she was the figurehead of a Government that hamstrung the working class. Here we face a dichotomy, one person does not push legislation through Parliament, it takes hundreds of people to enforce such dramatic change to a country. However, it was evident that Margaret Thatcher chose to be in the position she was in, she saw herself as a moral crusader and therefore, does her name deserve the torrent of hatred it has received?
It has been argued that students and young people are not ‘entitled’ to criticise Thatcher’s time in office because they weren’t ‘there at the time’, if that’s the case then everyone under the age of 70 should probably give Mr. Hitler the benefit of the doubt.
I personally don’t believe death should ever be celebrated but when a person such as Margaret Thatcher, whose name embodies so much betrayal and hatred to so many, dies, it is more than flesh that dies, it is everything they stood for. When we think of death in these terms, it’s understandable why people have raised a drink and celebrated.
I personally feel that this exercise in catharsis is merely a distraction from the current onslaught against society’s most deprived going on in Parliament as we speak.