A couple of years ago, a member of my friendly localsocial centre told me of their plans to hold the party of all parties when Margaret Thatcher died.
My initial reaction was, maybe not quite outrage, but certainly disappointment at what seemed like a needless and distasteful celebration of the demise of an elderly lady, who no longer had any relevance to our daily lives, and whose term I don't remember.
So how did I end up, last Monday night, sipping buckpagne (that’s champagne and buckfast, I urge you not to try it) under bunting, surrounded by fellow (allegedly) sensitive types, mulling over the relevance of this lady’s death and what good it could do?
As a child, I was always aware of her existence, even after she had left office, because Spitting Image was full of funny caricatures which matched - rather than exaggerated - my childhood perceptions of their real life counterparts.
In my mind, Margaret Thatcher was as terrifying, severe and real as the Roald Dahl villains who had taught me how scary grown-ups could be.
I had been told she had snatched the milk from our school, and this subsequent image of her sneaking into the classroom in the middle of the night and running away with the crate of miniature milk bottles seemed perfectly logical, in the same way as Santa’s ability to get round all the world’s houses in one night.
There’s something to be said for these ‘out of the mouths of babes’ instincts. For the record, Savile always gave me the creeps, and as much as I wanted to ride a unicorn to school, I would never have written to him to ask if he could fix it for me.
My perception of Margaret Thatcher was based firstly on these childhood observations, but was later added to with what I learned as I grew up. But she still held very little relevance except to occasionally think ‘thank goodness that’s over’.
But it’s not, is it.
What the Daily Mail et al are damning as sick celebrations are not celebrations at all, but protests. These are not happy events celebrating the end of a life, anyone can see that they are frustrated ones, shouting about the continuation of its influence, lashing out with the nearest occasion to hand.
There can be no such thing as a real celebration of Margaret Thatcher’s death, because anyone who disagreed with her so furiously couldn’t fail to see that her legacy is all around us, under this Government more than ever.
It’s a relief to me that protest is relatively calm and good humoured at the moment, but it’s a surprise. It’s even more of a surprise that it’s being criticised for the peaceful form it’s taking, when it could be so much worse.
Every copy of Ding Dong downloaded could easily have been a window smashed instead.
What Margaret Thatcher’s death has done is create a focus for the frustrations of many younger citizens who are only now - with the constant discussion of her career and principles - realising that history is repeating itself.
A few years ago, Margaret Thatcher’s death would have meant very little to me, and no doubt countless others who didn’t feel themselves directly affected by her. The fact that her death has been ‘celebrated’ so widely and unexpectedly among this group is exclusively the fault of the current Government, and anyone feeling personally offended would do well to remember that, and to lay the blame at the door of Number 10.
Welfare Reform; the Bedroom Tax; Job Centres given sanction targets and training to cope with suicide threats; ATOS declaring people fit for work one week who die the next; student fees tripling; tax breaks for the rich; the end of the NHS; nods to minimum wage reduction or abolition; noises about sacking off Human Rights; food banks picking up after the actual banks, who are laughing all the way to themselves - Margaret Thatcher’s death has brought this Government’s throwback policies around persecution of the poorest and weakest into sharp and clear focus.
Teenagers who are being mocked for having an opinion on Margaret Thatcher’s leadership, when they weren’t even born, may not actually be jumping on an old bandwagon they don’t understand, but a new one, which they suddenly do.
And this time around, the internet is cutting through the bullshit. Any inaccuracy or lie broadcast through the mainstream media is torn to pieces as a meme within the hour on social media. It’s the printing press all over again.
The wealth and speed of available information forming the basis of any policy means that propaganda and prejudice is easily separated from fact. You only need to watch Owen Jones firing data at any flustered opponent to see the devastating effect this can have.
In the face of cold statistics, the arguments in favour of cruelty are reduced to ‘this one bloke did this thing one time..’ and they fall down like the flimsy prejudices and excuses they are.
People on low incomes are demonised over the benefit crimes of a tiny percentage (according to stats) rather than a staggering number (according to anecdotal evidence) of people on welfare. Immigrants are blamed for claiming money, houses and jobs that they have not, and cannot.
This is at the same time as tax avoidance (which could plug the financial gap the poor are being blamed for) is chased with nothing like the same vigour as those same ‘undeserving poor’ are chased.
When this Government is falling apart under scrutiny with every passing day, with failings being shared and shared and shared online, is it really any wonder that people are frustrated? And is it any wonder that this frustration has come out now, in symbolic reaction to the death of an original source?
It is very difficult to see the pain and suffering caused to so many people under the Conservative Prime Ministers of then, and now, and be so insensitive that sympathy for Lady Thatcher’s few immediate relatives should silence one side of debate.
Yes, she is somebody’s mother, but she’s not having the funeral of somebody’s mother, and it is the funeral which is really cementing negative feeling.
Because, unbelievably, we currently live in a society where an £8m funeral is being funded by the public, at a time when too many of them are having to choose between feeding their children or keeping them warm, in one of the richest countries on earth. And the austerity measures responsible are not only unevenly distributed, but they are also not working.
If public feeling about the evils of Thatcherism is so strong, it’s people’s right - even duty - to use this very public event as an opportunity to say so. I want to live in a society where there is outrage about the almost identical elitism and cruelty of governments past and present, because it’s this outrage that proves we still have a society.