Support 100 years of independent journalism.

19 October 2010updated 09 Feb 2015 4:56pm

Let’s not be mawkish about Maggie Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher may be ill, but her legacy has never been healthier.

By Laurie Penny

On the eve of the greatest-ever attack on social democracy in this country, Baroness Thatcher has been admitted to hospital — but her legacy has never been healthier.

Nobody should be fooled by her octogenarian frailty: Margaret Thatcher is more than mortal. The rhetoric of the spending review is no doubt being rewritten as we speak, to feature sycophantic imprecations for the Tory spiritual leader’s swift recovery, but her brutally right-wing, union-breaking, worker-alienating agenda is looking remarkably robust.

Like any self-respecting tactless teenage reds, my friends and I long ago started a kitty with which to buy booze and party streamers in the event that the Iron Lady should suddenly shuffle off this mortal coil. How impish of us. Tonight, though, it seems that Mrs Thatcher is going to have the last laugh.

The party funds have long since been drained to finance years of soul-crushing unemployment and student debt, and tomorrow George Osborne will announce the revivification of the cruellest state-slashing policies of the 1980s. The Big Society is Thatcherism reanimated, with all of the cold horror and none of the subtlety; drooling and lurching and smelling slightly funky. She will never really die. She will return, like any good mythic leader, whenever the rich and powerful are in their hour of greatest need, pull the iron handbag out of the stone, and lead the neocons to bloody victory with a dash of sugary sentiment on the side.

Let’s not get mawkish about Maggie. She may be a sick woman, but unlike hundreds of thousands of other sick women in the country, she’s not about to be threatened with eviction and destitution as her disability benefits and housing allowance are wrenched away. She’s not going to be affected by the decimation of the Welfare State, 30 years after she laid out her project to destroy the Attlee Settlement. Even in hospital, she enjoys wealth, power and the prayers of a grateful right-wing caucus, but the prayers for clemency of the young, the poor, the sick and the disenfranchised are currently falling on deaf ears in Whitehall.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. Your new guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture each weekend - from the New Statesman. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Tell you what, though: let’s dig out the party hats anyway. The protests of charities, the public sector, the unemployed, the unions, women’s rights organisations and a sizeable chunk of the people haven’t scared the coalition into reconsidering their cuts, but a big, menacing hoedown to remind them just how hatefully parts of the nation nurse the memory of Thatcherism just might. Cheap, yes — but not as cheap as the Tories.