I always thought of Labour as being the knee-jerk tribal party. Perhaps that’s because I live outside of the “Home Counties”. I am beginning to change my mind.
The late Margaret Thatcher was a notable Prime Minister but she was not the sovereign and she did not enjoy the overwhelming support of someone like Churchill. Yet we are seeing the Tories in full tribal flow. They have successfully managed the general population’s views of immigrants and those on benefits. They now seem to believe that through this “event” they can make the whole population finally believe that Thatcher was the greatest ruler ever and that anyone who does not agree with them is mad or bad.
The Tribe has so far:
- Put her on the same pedestal as The Queen Mother and Diana, Princess of Wales. She was neither.
- Set the level of military honours for the “ceremonial funeral” as virtually indistinguishable from that of a Tory sanctioned State Funeral. The military owe allegiance to the head of state and it is distasteful to many to see massive numbers of troops (more than 700) turning out to escort and ceremonially protect the cortege of a mere here-today gone-tomorrow head of government. There will be military bands with muffled drums, and artillery salutes (as if for a fallen warrior – she was not Wellington or Nelson)
- The PM has told the Queen to attend (convention is that the Queen does not attend funerals outside the close family – Churchill, her first Prime Minister and our wartime (National Government) Prime Minister, being the exception). If ever there was a time to throw a sickie and avoid this political celebration Mam, Wednesday is the day.
- The BBC, in its role of quasi-state broadcasting company, will go wall-to-wall multichannel in its coverage (the Tribe will have made it a major event, so the news has to cover it).
- Parliament has been specially recalled, and the House of Commons is to have a tribute debate many times longer than the more dignified tributes for Churchill – she was no Churchill (and at least Churchill had the decency to be virtually all-party). Do the “so many [Tory] MPs who want to speak” realise that they are distorting her place in history beyond what is credible or realistic?
- The BBC is broadcasting (15:00 Wednesday 10 April 2013) the Commons Tributes live on BBC2, BBC News Channel and BBC Parliament (and Radio 5 Live is discussing the tributes). Why, when in the post digital switch-over, even those with only a restricted Freeview service can get all three of those TV channels, do we need such saturation? One channel is enough to cover the opening speeches, then switch to a second channel if you want to discuss them.
- The Police are now talking about monitoring websites and twitter and pre-emptively arresting people who may protest near the funeral route (N.B. I would not waste my time and money struggling into London and I would rather leave the streets empty – or just filled by obvious city-types). I suspect there will be discrete bussing-in of safe supporters (“her people”) to line the streets. The Tribe would be foolish not to adopt this technique used by other regimes – they need to manage the perceptions of this event and this is a wholly sensible and legal way to do so and within a moderate journey of London sufficient supporters will be found..
The Tribe is either being intentionally divisive or are totally unaware of the impact of this triumphalism on those who did not support her* and who are still suffering the effects of her rule. In that respect it is the Tribe that is bad or mad (or both). (* She never got a majority of the popular vote.)
The impact of this tribalism is to again rub in the dirt the noses of those that the Tribe view as plebs, proles and generally “not one of us”. Many people had allowed their memories of industrial strife and divided communities, de-industrialisation, redundancies and devastated societies, and individuals suffering despair, despondency and dependency to start to fade. Now they are beginning to remember just how much this politician was loathed. Will they want the Tribe to be able to take over the streets and airwaves to proclaim and celebrate the victory of Thatcherism over everyone and anyone who disagreed? Particularly at a time when we are suffering the effects of amoral capitalism, bailed-out banks, privatised utility companies running amok with their direct debit paws in our pockets, insurance spivs, an imminent housing crisis, increased under-employment, depressed living standards and massive insecurity? We have no politicians of sufficient stature to demand a sense of proportion.
There will be huge anger and hurt and the Tribe just expect people to bottle it up.
The Tribe say “the future belongs to us”; the rest of us know our place.
(An appropriate alternative? Anyone who has held high office should have a private family funeral like the rest of us. If they served in the forces, let there be military pall-bearers – if mutually agreed. Then if friends and colleagues want a memorial service (and the family does not mind), let them hire a suitable church in a suitable location (and St Paul’s being “central” and big might well be suitable for an ex-Prime minister). It would also be news-worthy to report that the funeral and memorial services took place. But those who held high office should remember that once they cease to hold that office they are just like the rest of us.)