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How Thatcher lost her culture war She was despised for her suburban taste

A "stupid mindless Philistine” Pictures Ltd./Corbis/Getty Images

A "stupid mindless Philistine” Pictures Ltd./Corbis/Getty Images


April 13, 2023   7 mins

Back in the Fifties, when he was still an Angry Young Man, novelist Kingsley Amis declared that he would always vote Labour. Come May 1979, however, and he was one of those feeling jubilant at the election victory of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party. “Bloody good, eh?” he wrote to his friend, the poet Philip Larkin. Meanwhile, Peter Hall, the director of the National Theatre, who’d always thought of himself as being on the Left, had been so driven to distraction by a succession of strikes that he too cast his vote for the Tories. “It wasn’t at all difficult,” he noted in his diary. “In fact it positively felt good.”

These were the exceptions rather than the rule in the cultural establishment. For the most part, there was an early dislike of Thatcher that rapidly hardened into hatred. She was, said TV dramatist Dennis Potter, “the most obviously repellent manifestation of the most obviously arrogant, divisive and dangerous British government since the war”. Or, in the words of Jonathan Miller, she “was loathsome, repulsive in almost every way, with her odious suburban gentility and sentimental, saccharine patriotism”.

No previous prime minister had attracted these levels of opprobrium, but more striking still was that she exerted such a strong cultural fascination even before reaching Downing Street. There were jokes about her in sitcoms such as George and Mildred and Fawlty Towers when she was leader of the opposition, and she warranted a mention in Linton Kwesi Johnson’s 1978 poem “It Dread Inna Inglan”: “Maggie Thatcher — on she goes with a racist show, but she has to go.” She went on to set a modern record both for the length of her premiership and for the number of negative appearances she made in comedy and music.

Part of the dislike came from the fact that Thatcher herself appeared so little interested in the world of culture. She was, said Malcolm Williamson, Master of the Queen’s Music, a “stupid mindless Philistine”. Even the former Labour MP Woodrow Wyatt, a friend and devotee, who liked to think of himself as an eminently civilised man, concluded sadly: “She has no taste.”

That wasn’t quite right. As a teenager, she’d been a regular cinema-goer, dreaming of dancing like Ginger Rogers and enthusiastically reviewing the movies she’d seen in letters to her older sister. (“I can’t say I liked it,” she noted of the 1941 adaptation of Love on the Dole.) But her taste never seemed to develop much further.

As an adult, she had better things to do, and the arts were strictly peripheral in her life. She was a guest on Desert Island Discs in 1978, and opted for obvious pieces by Beethoven, Dvorak and Verdi. A decade later, when she was asked about her favourite books, she said she was currently re-reading Frederick Forsyth’s thriller The Fourth Protocol, a novel in which she herself featured (favourably, in this instance). The impression was that she didn’t know much, and cared slightly less. She was more clear about what she didn’t like; she dismissed Francis Bacon as “that artist who paints those horrible pictures”, which may have been the truth but wasn’t the whole truth.

It was all so appallingly middle-brow and — to use that insult of Miller’s — suburban: the most damning of all adjectives in British cultural circles. To make things worse, she disapproved of state funds being used to prop up uneconomic businesses and made no exception for the arts. After all, Andrew Lloyd-Webber was a man of the theatre and he managed to stand on his own two feet without relying on government hand-outs. “Why can’t you be more like Andrew?” she demanded of Hall, who was beginning to regret his 1979 vote. As Jim Hacker said in her favourite TV show, Yes, Minister: “Why should the rest of the country subsidise the pleasures of the middle-class few?” For her enemies, this wasn’t a culture war so much as a war on culture.

As was sometimes the case with Thatcher, however, the rhetoric was not matched by reality. During her time in office, spending by the Arts Council in England and Wales increased by over 20% in real terms. (It fell slightly in Scotland.) There were major new initiatives, as well. One of the biggest projects of recent decades — the building of the British Library — was undertaken on her watch, and there was also the introduction, after decades of lobbying, of the Public Lending Rights scheme, which rewarded writers when their books were borrowed from public libraries.

And then there was Channel 4, launched in 1982 and charged with catering for minority tastes and interests. Jeremy Isaacs, the chief executive of the new channel, understood this as meaning “minorities” in a Ken Livingstone kind of way. “Should black Britons, should the young, should feminists, should homosexuals see themselves, canvass their ideas, on television?” he said. “I see no reason why not. They are of this society, not outside it.” That wasn’t what the government meant. “You’ve got it all wrong,” the Employment Secretary Norman Tebbit told Isaacs. “Golf and sailing and fishing. Hobbies. That’s what we intended.”

It was too late, and the new channel became in its early years a beacon of anti-Thatcherism, giving a platform — among others — to alternative comedians, who suited both the tone of the channel and its tight budgets. Altogether, noted The Times, Channel 4 was “just the sort of thing to inflame that school of opinion, so strong in the upper echelons of the Conservative Party, which believes that the Left is in control of the nation’s television”.

The same law of unintended consequence also operated in Tebbit’s most substantial contribution to the arts. As the dole queues lengthened to three million and more, he launched the Enterprise Allowance Scheme under the slogan: “Inside every unemployed person, there’s a self-employed one.” If you’d been unemployed for at least 13 weeks and could find £1,000 of capital (possibly in the form of a bank loan), then the government would pay you £40 a week for a year to get a business started. The income was tax-free and was substantially higher than the current rate of unemployment benefit.

The intended recipients were the self-employed; plumbers and window-cleaners were the oft-cited examples, and it was reported that an early trial had helped “such diverse activities as a kissogram service, a hang-gliding school, a private detective agency and a lampshade manufacturer”. But there were also applications from people working in the creative industries. In 1984 a group from Solihull, Eye Do It, became the first pop band to release a single under the scheme, with “I Lost My Mind”. That didn’t make much impact, but others were more successful, including artists Tracey Emin and Rachel Whiteread and comedians Alan Davies, Harry Enfield and Sean Lock.

Inadvertently, Tebbit had turned into one of the great patrons of culture in modern Britain. Again, though, there was little gratitude on display. “We weren’t children of Thatcher; we hated her,” insisted McGee. Viz comic, on the other hand, which was another beneficiary of the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, always seemed to have an ironic affection for her; as late as 2009 it pictured her on a “True Blue” cover of Playboy magazine with the headline: “Maggie! Maggie! Maggie! Tits Out! Out! Out!”

The cultural antipathy to Thatcher continued throughout her premiership, but it changed as it went on. The evolving mood was captured most concisely in pop music. Her first term saw the high point of Rock Against Racism and of protest songs. Mass unemployment produced the riposte of UB40’s “One in Ten” (1981) and the Specials’ “Do Nothing” (1980). The B-side of the latter was a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm”, which had gained a new relevance: “I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s Farm no more.” The Beat went with the more direct “Stand Down, Margaret” (1980).

She didn’t heed that advice, and after her re-election in 1983, the tone became more fearful, with a spate of anti-nuclear hit singles by Iron Maiden, Culture Club, Sting and Genesis. The real trend, though, was away from politics and towards charity. The Live Aid concert in 1985 featured Paul Weller’s band the Style Council performing politically engaged songs “Walls Come Tumbling Down” and “Internationalists”, but the central impulse was one that chimed perfectly with Thatcher’s espousal of Victorian values of faith, self-help and charity. Elsewhere, the most memorable song directly addressing Thatcher in 1985 was the Exploited’s punk anthem “Maggie”, not so much a protest as a howl of impotent rage: “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, you fucking cunt!”

And then, as the years wore on and on, a sense of fatalism descended. Thatcher looked immovable and the fantasies started of her death: the Blow Monkeys’ “(Celebrate) The Day After You” (1987), Elvis Costello’s “Tramp the Dirt Down” (1989), Morrissey’s “Margaret on the Guillotine” (1988). There was still a visceral hatred, but no hope, just a weariness. A decade after she left office, the same theme was to be found in “Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher” in Billy Elliott: The Musical (2000), cheerfully celebrating that we were “one day closer to your death”. On 8 April 2013, the day she actually died, the audience at the show was asked if it should be excluded from the night’s performance; overwhelmingly, they opted for it to be left in.

And still, the cultural fascination continues. In the forthcoming movie Reagan, Lesley-Anne Downe will become the latest in a long line of actresses to give us their Margaret, which can be traced all the way back to Janet Brown in the James Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only (1981). Best known was Meryl Streep’s incarnation in The Iron Lady (2011), which in turn inspired the pornographic satire The Iron Lady Garden (2012), with Rebecca More as Aggie Snatcher.

It’s been a long, strange affair, this relationship of Thatcher with the arts. She knew it sort of mattered, which is why, in her first conference speech as Tory leader in 1975, she denounced “those who gnaw away at our national self-respect, rewriting British history as centuries of unrelieved gloom, oppression and failure”. (The context made it clear that she was talking specifically about the BBC.) But it wasn’t really important enough, and there were so many other dragons to be slain.

So while she was busily rewriting the political norms on public ownership, trade unions and the economy, she was losing all the cultural arguments. And since cultural artefacts have a longer shelf-life than do inflation rates, they have increasingly shaped the memory of Thatcher. The further we get away from her, the more public attitudes are shaped by hostile depictions of her and her policies. She still looms large, even for those born after her defenestration in 1990, but she’s seen more and more negatively.

It is worth remembering, though, that when it really mattered, Thatcher’s instincts were absolutely sound. For most of the Eighties, Salman Rushdie was one of the loudest voices of condemnation. Hers were “the politics of the Victorian nursery”, he mocked, and in The Satanic Verses (1988) he referred to her as “Maggie the Bitch”. That was the book that saw Iran offer a $6 million bounty to anyone who would kill Rushdie. In the ensuing tumult, Thatcher saw only a simple principle. “It is a fundamental matter of freedom of speech,” she said. Whatever else she thought about the role of the state, she was sure that one of its duties was the protection of its citizens from foreign governments, and for the best part of a decade — until he withdrew it — Rushdie was given full-time police protection.

He and she only ever met once, at Scotland Yard. Given their very different characters, it seemed unlikely that they could ever find a personal rapport, but somehow a connection was made. “She was very touchy-feely,” remembered Rushdie. “She was, like, pawing at me, and I thought, ‘I’m being groped by the Prime Minister!’”


Alwyn W. Turner is a cultural and political historian.

AlwynTurner

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Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

The snobbery of the intelligentsia is breathtaking. Repulsive even.

Selwyn Jones
SD
Selwyn Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Why flatter them with their preferred term of “intelligentsia”? There’s a marvellous short story by Chekhov illustrating the useless narcissism of such creatures by comparison with a modest, capable engineer of suburban tastes and origins. They despise him. He dies. Very gloomy. Well, it is Chekhov.
We all know what happened to their unfortunate country, thanks to their political prejudices. Their cohesion, as Solzhenitsyn points out, has and had nothing whatsoever to do with brains or insight. It is a blend of social origins – they all know each other, marry each other, commit adultery with each other, a la Bloomsbury – and ideological recruitment.
Perhaps the most interesting comparison is with that character who ends by cutting down the cherry orchard. He does so, you will recall, from exasperation. In the same spirit, I hope and trust that someone, some day, will thrust our “intelligentsia” out of its position of permanent power.

Mike Doyle
MD
Mike Doyle
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

…the intelligentsia… Repulsive…

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

I guess James Clayton is a member of the intelligentsia. When he complained to Elon Musk (whilst interviewing him for the BBC) about the increase in hate speech on Twitter and of being a victim of himself, Musk challenged James Clayton to produce an example of hate speech – he couldn’t. The closest he came to producing an example was saying he had received slightly racist and slightly sexist comments. Musk asked James Clayton who was to be the arbiter of hate speech. James Clayton had no answer. He didn’t seem to understand that he, James Clayton, was implicitly claiming to be an arbiter of hate speech by claiming to be a victim of hate speech.

Last edited 1 year ago by Aphrodite Rises
Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

I saw that interview. It was a rather splendid destruction of the “people say that…” school of “journalism”.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jonathan Nash
SIMON WOLF
SIMON WOLF
1 year ago

Wish Musk had asked Clayton if he liked any blues based rock music as most its seminal songs are more than just ‘slighty sexist’?

Jonathan Nash
JN
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

I saw that interview. It was a rather splendid destruction of the “people say that…” school of “journalism”.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jonathan Nash
SIMON WOLF
SIMON WOLF
1 year ago

Wish Musk had asked Clayton if he liked any blues based rock music as most its seminal songs are more than just ‘slighty sexist’?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Jonathan Millar and Dennis Potter and the like engage not so much in virtue signalling as masturbating in public.
Their contempt for Thatcher was only matched by their contempt for the ordinary people of this country who refused to play the respectful prol an old them in the reverence which they think they richly deserve
Why on earth are their views of any interest or relevance?

D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Thatcher’s first degree was in chemistry. She later took a law degree and qualified as a barrister.
When the arts people sneer that she was stupid, they mean that she was very clever, just not in any way that they understand themselves.
I wish we had more politicians with a scientific education. The best argument for the Lords is that there are people in it like Matt Ridley and Robert Winston who actually know what they are talking about.

Aphrodite Rises
AR
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago
Reply to  D Glover

I am not sure that would help. James Clayton is the BBC’s technology reporter so presumably, but not necessarily, is a science graduate. I have googled him, but there is virtually no information. I guess he has gone into hiding. I wanted to know where he was indoctrinated.

Last edited 1 year ago by Aphrodite Rises
Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

No evidence I can find that he’s a science graduate – please do share ! He certainly doesn’t behave like a scientist. Making assertions with no evidence and rejecting evidence that doesn’t happen to agree with your prejudices isn’t science. So he’s a perfect BBC appointee – no real domain knowledge or expertise, but feels able to comment as though he’s some sort of authority.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Spot on! Another “loathsome toad” unmasked!
Well done!

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

Hold on – I’m not saying he doesn’t have a science degree – merely that I cannot tell. I’m an engineer. I try to deal in facts where I can.
However, his immediate predecessor as the BBC’s point man in Silicon Valley was Rory Cellan-Jones. Dulwich and Modern and Mediaeval Languages at Cambridge. Zero technical street cred in the Valley then.
Then there’s Roger Harrabin – the BBC’s main man for energy and the environment. Private school in Coventry and English at Cambridge.
Always dangerous to generalise from a small sample, but technical qualifications don’t appear to be a requirement for reprting on science and technology at the BBC.
Perhaps it’s just career limiting to be known to have a STEM degree at the BBC and he’s just keeping his head down …

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Thank you.Point taken.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Aphrodite Rises
AR
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

English at Cambridge and indoctrination is a match with Cathy Newman.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CS
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Thank you.Point taken.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Aphrodite Rises
AR
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

English at Cambridge and indoctrination is a match with Cathy Newman.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

Hold on – I’m not saying he doesn’t have a science degree – merely that I cannot tell. I’m an engineer. I try to deal in facts where I can.
However, his immediate predecessor as the BBC’s point man in Silicon Valley was Rory Cellan-Jones. Dulwich and Modern and Mediaeval Languages at Cambridge. Zero technical street cred in the Valley then.
Then there’s Roger Harrabin – the BBC’s main man for energy and the environment. Private school in Coventry and English at Cambridge.
Always dangerous to generalise from a small sample, but technical qualifications don’t appear to be a requirement for reprting on science and technology at the BBC.
Perhaps it’s just career limiting to be known to have a STEM degree at the BBC and he’s just keeping his head down …

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

I made the assumption he has a science degree because he is the technology reporter for the BBC. In the past, it would have been a natural assumption but I am aware of how times have changed which is why I googled him. Having a science degree does not preclude indoctrination. It never did. It is well known, during a certain time period, most German scientists were heavily indoctrinated.

Last edited 1 year ago by Aphrodite Rises
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Spot on! Another “loathsome toad” unmasked!
Well done!

Aphrodite Rises
AR
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

I made the assumption he has a science degree because he is the technology reporter for the BBC. In the past, it would have been a natural assumption but I am aware of how times have changed which is why I googled him. Having a science degree does not preclude indoctrination. It never did. It is well known, during a certain time period, most German scientists were heavily indoctrinated.

Last edited 1 year ago by Aphrodite Rises
Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

No evidence I can find that he’s a science graduate – please do share ! He certainly doesn’t behave like a scientist. Making assertions with no evidence and rejecting evidence that doesn’t happen to agree with your prejudices isn’t science. So he’s a perfect BBC appointee – no real domain knowledge or expertise, but feels able to comment as though he’s some sort of authority.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  D Glover

Would Lady Thatcher have fallen for the great COVID scam?
I very much doubt it!
But both those vacuous ‘Arts Graduates’ Johnson & Cummings did, big time, more’s the pity.

Aphrodite Rises
AR
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago
Reply to  D Glover

I am not sure that would help. James Clayton is the BBC’s technology reporter so presumably, but not necessarily, is a science graduate. I have googled him, but there is virtually no information. I guess he has gone into hiding. I wanted to know where he was indoctrinated.

Last edited 1 year ago by Aphrodite Rises
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  D Glover

Would Lady Thatcher have fallen for the great COVID scam?
I very much doubt it!
But both those vacuous ‘Arts Graduates’ Johnson & Cummings did, big time, more’s the pity.

Selwyn Jones
Selwyn Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Why flatter them with their preferred term of “intelligentsia”? There’s a marvellous short story by Chekhov illustrating the useless narcissism of such creatures by comparison with a modest, capable engineer of suburban tastes and origins. They despise him. He dies. Very gloomy. Well, it is Chekhov.
We all know what happened to their unfortunate country, thanks to their political prejudices. Their cohesion, as Solzhenitsyn points out, has and had nothing whatsoever to do with brains or insight. It is a blend of social origins – they all know each other, marry each other, commit adultery with each other, a la Bloomsbury – and ideological recruitment.
Perhaps the most interesting comparison is with that character who ends by cutting down the cherry orchard. He does so, you will recall, from exasperation. In the same spirit, I hope and trust that someone, some day, will thrust our “intelligentsia” out of its position of permanent power.

Mike Doyle
MD
Mike Doyle
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

…the intelligentsia… Repulsive…

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

I guess James Clayton is a member of the intelligentsia. When he complained to Elon Musk (whilst interviewing him for the BBC) about the increase in hate speech on Twitter and of being a victim of himself, Musk challenged James Clayton to produce an example of hate speech – he couldn’t. The closest he came to producing an example was saying he had received slightly racist and slightly sexist comments. Musk asked James Clayton who was to be the arbiter of hate speech. James Clayton had no answer. He didn’t seem to understand that he, James Clayton, was implicitly claiming to be an arbiter of hate speech by claiming to be a victim of hate speech.

Last edited 1 year ago by Aphrodite Rises
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Jonathan Millar and Dennis Potter and the like engage not so much in virtue signalling as masturbating in public.
Their contempt for Thatcher was only matched by their contempt for the ordinary people of this country who refused to play the respectful prol an old them in the reverence which they think they richly deserve
Why on earth are their views of any interest or relevance?

D Glover
DG
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Thatcher’s first degree was in chemistry. She later took a law degree and qualified as a barrister.
When the arts people sneer that she was stupid, they mean that she was very clever, just not in any way that they understand themselves.
I wish we had more politicians with a scientific education. The best argument for the Lords is that there are people in it like Matt Ridley and Robert Winston who actually know what they are talking about.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

The snobbery of the intelligentsia is breathtaking. Repulsive even.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

Interesting to reflect that the arts didn’t do badly in spite of the lack of state sympathy. Or perhaps because of it. I tend to the view that it was more the latter.
Also – whatever happened to kissograms ? I guess that might now qualify as “sexual assault”. Ah, those more liberal, less puritan times under Thatcher (as no one has ever said) !

Last edited 1 year ago by Peter B
Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

Interesting to reflect that the arts didn’t do badly in spite of the lack of state sympathy. Or perhaps because of it. I tend to the view that it was more the latter.
Also – whatever happened to kissograms ? I guess that might now qualify as “sexual assault”. Ah, those more liberal, less puritan times under Thatcher (as no one has ever said) !

Last edited 1 year ago by Peter B
Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago

How did ‘Thatcher lose her culture war’ if culture didn’t much matter to her and it’s not what she was focused on? It was not ‘her war’ albeit a culture war of sorts which was waged on her. From afar, methinks the Brits did not appreciate the ‘paradigm shifter’ that she was. Seems like she was the real revolutionary.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago

How did ‘Thatcher lose her culture war’ if culture didn’t much matter to her and it’s not what she was focused on? It was not ‘her war’ albeit a culture war of sorts which was waged on her. From afar, methinks the Brits did not appreciate the ‘paradigm shifter’ that she was. Seems like she was the real revolutionary.

Brendan O'Leary
BO
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

No mention of “Ghost Town”? A bigger hit and better song than the others you mentioned.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

Or “I’m in love with Margaret Thatcher” by The Notsensibles – possibly ironic.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

“Tyler Smiles” by Attila the Stockbroker. Great song. Includes the line “A hand-picked bank clerk holds the line” – that’s John Major.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Given that Corporal Major failed his bus conductor arithmetic test, he could never rise to the dizzy heights of bank clerk: he was given a bank job in return for protecting the then bank bosses extra curricula carnal activities, and giving him a wage !

Nicky Samengo-Turner
NS
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Given that Corporal Major failed his bus conductor arithmetic test, he could never rise to the dizzy heights of bank clerk: he was given a bank job in return for protecting the then bank bosses extra curricula carnal activities, and giving him a wage !

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

Or “I’m in love with Margaret Thatcher” by The Notsensibles – possibly ironic.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

“Tyler Smiles” by Attila the Stockbroker. Great song. Includes the line “A hand-picked bank clerk holds the line” – that’s John Major.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

No mention of “Ghost Town”? A bigger hit and better song than the others you mentioned.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

The headline contention that she may have won (some) of the economic war, but lost the cultural war does seem to resonant esp for those of us old enough to remember those formative times. But I think important we don’t conflate the culture war back then as equivalent to the woke/anti-woke debate now. The reason she may have lost it is overwhelmingly the country was evolving in a much more ‘liberal’ direction – not entirely unique to the UK. Either end of the extremes of woke/anti-woke do not IMO have anything like the same traction, although the extremes on both sides will be v noisy.
Slightly separate – I was no fan of much, but not all, of the Thatcherism/Neo Liberal drive and consider it sowed the seeds of many of our national problems now, however also sensed some misogyny behind some criticism of the Iron Lady too.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Thatcher was a liberal herself, she conserved nothing

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I’d go further – she was a right-wing radical. I never liked her, never voted for her, but after reading this piece I have a certain sympathy for her when she is in sulted by such snobbery. Criticise her policies, not her tastes.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I’d go further – she was a right-wing radical. I never liked her, never voted for her, but after reading this piece I have a certain sympathy for her when she is in sulted by such snobbery. Criticise her policies, not her tastes.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Thatcher was a liberal herself, she conserved nothing

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

The headline contention that she may have won (some) of the economic war, but lost the cultural war does seem to resonant esp for those of us old enough to remember those formative times. But I think important we don’t conflate the culture war back then as equivalent to the woke/anti-woke debate now. The reason she may have lost it is overwhelmingly the country was evolving in a much more ‘liberal’ direction – not entirely unique to the UK. Either end of the extremes of woke/anti-woke do not IMO have anything like the same traction, although the extremes on both sides will be v noisy.
Slightly separate – I was no fan of much, but not all, of the Thatcherism/Neo Liberal drive and consider it sowed the seeds of many of our national problems now, however also sensed some misogyny behind some criticism of the Iron Lady too.

Charlie Two
CT
Charlie Two
1 year ago

so rich, effete, gormless, public school twats hated her for not being a rich, effete, gormless, public school t**t. and for forcing them to pay for their own entertainment instead of milking the rest of us to fork out for their favourite shite. She’s risen even higher in my estimation now. and what repulsive twats, utterly repulsive twats those gigantic, talentless snobs were (are).

Zaph Mann
Zaph Mann
11 months ago
Reply to  Charlie Two

That may be the case, in part, but I was working class – no one went to university before me – Passed the 11+ and very high in all tests thrown at me and so elevate to UNi – but only because the state paid for my education (paid back 100 times in tax) – Thatcher removed this grant from people like me. In my the policies of her governments re-instated the class divides – but I don’t expect any upvotes here in this blinkered forum

Zaph Mann
Zaph Mann
11 months ago
Reply to  Charlie Two

That may be the case, in part, but I was working class – no one went to university before me – Passed the 11+ and very high in all tests thrown at me and so elevate to UNi – but only because the state paid for my education (paid back 100 times in tax) – Thatcher removed this grant from people like me. In my the policies of her governments re-instated the class divides – but I don’t expect any upvotes here in this blinkered forum

Charlie Two
Charlie Two
1 year ago

so rich, effete, gormless, public school twats hated her for not being a rich, effete, gormless, public school t**t. and for forcing them to pay for their own entertainment instead of milking the rest of us to fork out for their favourite shite. She’s risen even higher in my estimation now. and what repulsive twats, utterly repulsive twats those gigantic, talentless snobs were (are).

John Murray
JM
John Murray
1 year ago

“Opportunities” by the Pet Shop Boys seems to me to be both a better and far more iconic song then any of the various protest songs that got made. My memory as a kid was that while there was lots of left wing protest art it was all pretty much dretch.

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

Thought you were joking at first, but in case you’re not:
‘Opportunities… Despite its instant rapport with City traders who drunkenly sang along to it, it was an icy satire on dehumanisation and greed, and ended with the startling lyrics “All the love that we had, and the love that we hide/Who will bury us when we die?”
https://thecritic.co.uk/the-politics-of-the-pet-shop-boys/
the Pet Shop Boys were on the left..

Last edited 1 year ago by Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
DW
Desmond Wolf
1 year ago
Reply to  John Murray

Thought you were joking at first, but in case you’re not:
‘Opportunities… Despite its instant rapport with City traders who drunkenly sang along to it, it was an icy satire on dehumanisation and greed, and ended with the startling lyrics “All the love that we had, and the love that we hide/Who will bury us when we die?”
https://thecritic.co.uk/the-politics-of-the-pet-shop-boys/
the Pet Shop Boys were on the left..

Last edited 1 year ago by Desmond Wolf
John Murray
John Murray
1 year ago

“Opportunities” by the Pet Shop Boys seems to me to be both a better and far more iconic song then any of the various protest songs that got made. My memory as a kid was that while there was lots of left wing protest art it was all pretty much dretch.

Adam Bacon
Adam Bacon
1 year ago

Enjoyed this article, which led me on to the one about Morrissey and how he riled/offended the progressive Left back in 1992.
Never been a huge Morrissey fan, but it was a good album, with some presumably ‘controversial’ lyrics, goading the Leftists I think, and that endeared him to me a bit.

I’d forgotten how they had, within a few short years, utilized the Union flag for their own political purposes, having demonized Morrissey for using it earlier in the same decade!

Adam Bacon
Adam Bacon
1 year ago

Enjoyed this article, which led me on to the one about Morrissey and how he riled/offended the progressive Left back in 1992.
Never been a huge Morrissey fan, but it was a good album, with some presumably ‘controversial’ lyrics, goading the Leftists I think, and that endeared him to me a bit.

I’d forgotten how they had, within a few short years, utilized the Union flag for their own political purposes, having demonized Morrissey for using it earlier in the same decade!

Zaph Mann
Zaph Mann
11 months ago

Good writing as usual by Turner, one of the better on Unherd. We may have different politics (he’s cannily hard to pin down) but he’s worth reading and weighing his viewpoints

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
1 year ago

Why do I keep having to edit my comments on here in order to put in the paragraphs that had been there when I had submitted them? Does anyone else have that problem?

Anyway, when Margaret Thatcher died, then the hashtag #nowthatcherisdead was taken over by grieving souls who sincerely thought that it had meant “Now that Cher is dead”. If I could turn back time, indeed. We all know about the death parties around bonfires, and about Ding, Dong, The Wicked Witch Is Dead, deprecated even by Dennis Skinner in his memoirs. But time passes, and Thatcher was last depicted on British television, for the first time in quite a while, in December’s Prince Andrew: The Musical, the title of which spoke for itself, and in which she was played by one Baga Chipz, a drag queen.

Of course, gender self-identification is the inexorable logic of the self-made man or the self-made woman, and figure comparable to Thatcher, emerging in the Britain of the 2020s, would be assumed to be a transwoman, just as Thatcher herself emerged in the Britain of everything from Danny La Rue and d**k Emery to David Bowie and The Rocky Horror Show. In a generation’s time, everyone will be saying out loud that Tony Blair had always been as androgynous as Thatcher was. Leo Abse wrote eye-opening books on both of them.

Last edited 1 year ago by David Lindsay
David Lindsay
David Lindsay
1 year ago

Why do I keep having to edit my comments on here in order to put in the paragraphs that had been there when I had submitted them? Does anyone else have that problem?

Anyway, when Margaret Thatcher died, then the hashtag #nowthatcherisdead was taken over by grieving souls who sincerely thought that it had meant “Now that Cher is dead”. If I could turn back time, indeed. We all know about the death parties around bonfires, and about Ding, Dong, The Wicked Witch Is Dead, deprecated even by Dennis Skinner in his memoirs. But time passes, and Thatcher was last depicted on British television, for the first time in quite a while, in December’s Prince Andrew: The Musical, the title of which spoke for itself, and in which she was played by one Baga Chipz, a drag queen.

Of course, gender self-identification is the inexorable logic of the self-made man or the self-made woman, and figure comparable to Thatcher, emerging in the Britain of the 2020s, would be assumed to be a transwoman, just as Thatcher herself emerged in the Britain of everything from Danny La Rue and d**k Emery to David Bowie and The Rocky Horror Show. In a generation’s time, everyone will be saying out loud that Tony Blair had always been as androgynous as Thatcher was. Leo Abse wrote eye-opening books on both of them.

Last edited 1 year ago by David Lindsay
David Lindsay
David Lindsay
1 year ago

On this, on Buddhism, and on the Wagner Group, my comments have been taken down, in this case within minutes or possibly seconds of having been posted. I pay for this.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

Did your comment mention the word “Th*tcher”? That’s an absolute no no in the eyes of the AI moderation software.
To avoid automatic “awaiting moderation” status you must put yourself in the shoes of a Victorian vicar: squ*shy is a bit suspect as a word because it vaguely suggests carnal acts; pud*nda is, of course, verboten. Actually, verb*ten is frowned on because of its possible association, in the fevered imagination of a few, with a certain German dictator.
I currently have a comment awaiting moderation because, I suspect, it includes the word “bl*dgeon” in a metaphoric sense. AI don’t handle metaphor too well.
Chin up. View this as practice for the AI-regulated future that lies ahead.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
NS
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Dennis Thatcher was lower middle class Kent man from central casting!

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

What have you got against Mr Thatcher? Unless you posit him as a “power behind the throne” he seemed pretty innocuous.

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
1 year ago

They wouldn’t thank you for calling them that at Mill Hill.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

What have you got against Mr Thatcher? Unless you posit him as a “power behind the throne” he seemed pretty innocuous.

David Lindsay
DL
David Lindsay
1 year ago

They wouldn’t thank you for calling them that at Mill Hill.

Helen Nevitt
HN
Helen Nevitt
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I once was banned from Twitter for a day for suggesting someone was banging their head against a brick wall. Apparently I was encouraging self harm.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
NS
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Dennis Thatcher was lower middle class Kent man from central casting!

Helen Nevitt
HN
Helen Nevitt
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I once was banned from Twitter for a day for suggesting someone was banging their head against a brick wall. Apparently I was encouraging self harm.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

Did your comment mention the word “Th*tcher”? That’s an absolute no no in the eyes of the AI moderation software.
To avoid automatic “awaiting moderation” status you must put yourself in the shoes of a Victorian vicar: squ*shy is a bit suspect as a word because it vaguely suggests carnal acts; pud*nda is, of course, verboten. Actually, verb*ten is frowned on because of its possible association, in the fevered imagination of a few, with a certain German dictator.
I currently have a comment awaiting moderation because, I suspect, it includes the word “bl*dgeon” in a metaphoric sense. AI don’t handle metaphor too well.
Chin up. View this as practice for the AI-regulated future that lies ahead.

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
1 year ago

On this, on Buddhism, and on the Wagner Group, my comments have been taken down, in this case within minutes or possibly seconds of having been posted. I pay for this.