A fierce joy at Thatcher's death - Macleans.ca

A fierce joy at Thatcher’s death

On some streets in Britain, celebration of a passing


Some Londoners took to the street in celebration of Margaret Thatcher's death.

Margaret Thatcher “made Britain great,” the Telegraph declared. “So completely has her legacy shaped modern Britain, so fully have she and her ideas been woven into its fabric that it can be hard to appreciate the depth of our debt to this most extraordinary of individuals.”

Revelers across England would at least agree on the reach of her legacy. So deeply do they feel Thatcher stripped bare the welfare nation that streets from Leeds to Liverpool and London filled with people on Monday celebrating her death. Some even ate cake.

Twitter erupted with anger-fueled joy on news of the Iron Lady’s death at 87:

“Working class around the globe will cheer to the end of Thatcher tonight,” reads one tweet.

“Hope that **** burns in hell,” states another.

“Fireworks and flares going off in town!” notes one from Liverpool.

“Sat sipping a proper #whisky from #Scotland one of the few industries not destroyed by #Thatcher#,” someone boasts.

Another says simply: “Let the party begin!”

And so it did.

“For years and years people have discussed how they will party when Thatcher died,” one reveler explained on the phone from London. (He asked to remain anonymous because his job prohibits public political comments.)

He learned about a party in Brixton, south London, on Facebook, and decided to go because he is “relatively glad” she’s gone. By 9 p.m. about 300 people—”aging punks” in their 30s, 40s and 50s—filled the street outside the Ritzy Picturehouse.

“It was quite boisterous,” he said. “The chant when she was prime minister was, ‘Maggie! Maggie! Maggie! Out! Out! Out!’ People just kept chanting, ‘Maggie! Maggie! Maggie! Dead! Dead! Dead!’”

Some graffitied anti-Thatcher slogans. Others made posters: “Ding dong, the witch is dead” and “Rejoice!”

Someone arrived with pints of milk. When Thatcher was minister of education in the 1970s, she cut a government program that provided free milk to school-aged children. From that day she was known at Thatcher the Milk Snatcher. On Monday evening, her critics toasted her demise with milk.

Someone climbed the balcony of the Ritzy theatre to unfurl a banner: “The bitch is dead,” it read.

The crowd swelled and police officers milled around. Says our source: “It was all very good-natured” — an odd way to describe a death party.

Online there was vulgar jubilation. The Telegraph closed its comment sections. “Even our address to email tributes is filled with abuse,” editor Tony Gallagher said.

“It does seem odd to be celebrating someone dying,” our source agreed upon reflection. But the parties were about so much more than Thatcher, he explained. “Thatcherism is still alive and well. People were sort of celebrating Thatcher dying because they dramatically failed to defeat Thatcherism.”

Filed under:

A fierce joy at Thatcher’s death

  1. People on the left, classy as always, celebrating death.

    • Were you living in Britain during her tenure? If not, perhaps you don’t understand the depth of some people’s anger and should just withhold your sanctimonious judgment.

      • Maybe you should withhold your own. This is a comment board and I’m commenting. It’s called free speech, a concept which the left finds uncomforting. Maybe it’s you that doesn’t understand what you’re talking about.

        • Yeah, I guess we have to endure your mindless drivel about “the left”. If you understood anything at all about UK politics and the distemper of Thatcher’s times, you’d know it wasn’t just “the left” who loathed her. Her critics included much of the working class (or blue collar workers as they’re known on this side of the pond), many of whom tend to be extremely conservative in their world view and values, who found her government obdurate and bloody-minded.

          • You continue to prove my point.

          • Besides your inane, half-baked “insights” on the failings of “the left”, WTF is your point?

          • Aren’t you so very civilized. I feel enlightened. Actually, no I don’t, it’s quite typical, your so-called debate.

          • He proves your point? I thought you said you believed in free speech. He’s responding to your argument. It’s called debate.

            Why is it appropriate for you to comment but not appropriate for someone to respond to your comment?

          • You’ve got a lot of straw men there. I’m not interested in your pretend debate. I made my point a long time ago and it’s quite an obvious point, but people like you love to make excuses for inexcusable behaviour. You can pretend that boorish behaviour is “debating”, go ahead, I’ve see it all before, that’s the whole point. For you, it’s perfectly fine to spout vitriol, as long as it’s the right kind of vitriol. For people on the left, the end always justifies the means, always.

          • For people on the left, the end always justifies the means, always.

            Wow! Just plain wow.
            It would be so easy to substitute right for left in that statement, wouldn’t it?

            Painting in awfully broad strokes aren’t you scf?

            Whenever a bold leader dies, there are going to be those who mourn and those who celebrate; that is just the way it goes. Thatcher’s reign made believers of some and enemies of others. Should the enemies hold parties and celebrate openly? That is their call. Classy? No. But it’s not a left/right thing. Vitriol spews easily from the lips of both sides.

            Let’s just say it’s not something I would choose to do.

          • Whenever a bold leader dies, there are going to be those who mourn and those who celebrate; that is just the way it goes.


            Let’s take an example… her contemporary Pierre Trudeau. I don’t recall anything of this sort for Trudeau, the guy who invoked the war measures act, the NEP, etc. No doubt he was bold and disliked on the right, but no, there was nothing remotely like this, nothing at all remotely like it from the swaths of Albertans and others who did not like him.

            How about John Kennedy? He was bold, of the Cuban Missile crisis. Jack Layton?

            This is part where you say, well that’s different, because of excuse number 1, excuse number 2 and excuse number 3, or make false comparisons and claim that Albertans really were this bad when Trudeau died, etc etc.

            As I’ve said before, neither side has a monopoly on ugliness, but the left has the biggest market share by a wide margin. This is exhibit A. You would never see this behaviour from the right. And I mean never.

          • You need to bear in mind, in making your comparisons, that (a) there is a significant cultural difference between us and the British, and (b) no one Canadian PM has caused the amount of upheaval and reordering of society that Thatcher did. The closest, in terms of the trying times faced, would probably have been R.B. Bennett. So comparing the way the people of the UK are reacting to Thatcher’s death to the way Canadians reacted to Trudeau’s is rather nonsensical.

          • John Kennedy died in 1963. That was 50 years ago and I think it is fair to say those were different times.

            Richard Nixon died in 1994 – 19 years ago. Now I didn’t really follow headlines at the time, but I don’t recall celebrations in the streets; were there? Perhaps those were different times.

            Pierre Trudeau died in 2000 – 13 years ago. Once again, I wasn’t really following headlines at the time, but I don’t recall celebrations in the streets. Perhaps those were different times.

            Now here we are in 2013 and a divisive leader dies and some people tastelessly celebrate in the streets. Not my cup of tea, but perhaps they have their reasons; I don’t know, I didn’t share their experience. Can you honestly tell me that if Barrack Obama were to die (moreso once he were no longer president) there wouldn’t be a segment that celebrated it? No way? Never?

            Do you remember Ted Nugent saying that he (meaning Nugent) would be “either dead or in jail” if Obama were re-elected? Now I know Nugent is not representative of the “right,” but he is representative of a segment of society that are loud mouthed schnooks. Cable “news” shows amp up these attitudes even further, and coupled with internet anonymity and the facebookian desire to not keep any thought unexpressed, and we arrive in a new era, one bereft of basic civility. It stinks up pretty much every board I read and enables people who feel they are “engaging” when they are really only ranting and rumbling for thumbs up through their infantile playground name calling. People call Harper Hitler and Trudeau shiny pony and I’m sure we’re nowhere near bottom yet.
            I feel older all the time

          • Just as I thought. Excuse #1, excuse #2, excuse #3, …

            Ted Nugent? Wow, you’re really digging deep.

          • Pretty disappointing comeback, scf.

            I even prefaced the illustrative Nugent reference with him not being “representative of the right”, but you chose to bully it over with a coat of bile.

            You ignored the timeline perspective and didn’t address the Nixon reference at all, despite him being a far more divisive figure than Thatcher. Perhaps it challenged your theory? Were the left dancing on Reagan’s grave too? You also chose to completely ignore the Obama question. Could it be that the States don’t do grave dancing? Where would that leave your theory? In England? Behind the times?

            You’ve been at this too long and for every valid point you make, you bog down in even more misdirected sniping.

            Though you participate in this internet age, you don’t seem ready to acknowledge that the internet is largely what feeds this exponential lack of civility.
            Aren’t you so very civilized. I feel enlightened. Actually, no I don’t, it’s quite typical, your so-called debate.

          • You’re insane. Trudeau has been vilified every damned day in right wing media and by right wing posters.

          • Speaking of spouting vitriol…

      • I was living in Britain during her tenure, and the only ones who hated her were the mafioso union bosses and frothing marxist demagogues. Kind of like you

        • If you’ve mislabeled me so carelessly (based on no evidence at all) why should I believe anything else you’ve got to contribute to this discussion?

          Now run along and play. This debate is for adults.

        • What about her own party who stabbed her in the back in 1990? Or the British populace who turned away from the Conservatives in droves in the 90s? I don’t think it’s in good taste to celebrate the death of an old woman, but I have a lot of British friends and family, none of whom are “mafioso union bosses and frothing marxist demagogues” who don’t have much nice to say about her. The anger that she unleashed in Britain was very real, and it has persisted. She always behaved as though she had absolutely no regard for anyone who suffered as a result of her policies – and people suffered a great deal.

    • They’re not specifically “People on the left,”. They’re people whose lives were seriously damaged by Thatcher’s brand of politics. I don’t see the value in celebrating anybody’s death, but you have to understand that in certain parts of England people experienced some pretty horrific experiences that were directly connected to her ideology.

      Let’s not pretend that either the left or the right has any monopoly on ugliness in public expression. Politics is emotional.

      • I beg to disagree. Neither side has a monopoly on ugliness, but the left has the biggest market share by a wide margin. This is exhibit A. You would never see this behaviour from the right.

        • You’re living in a dream-world, my friend.

          But, whatever, it’s always easier to dismiss opposing points of view by demonizing them.

          • Oh, how funny. Now I’m the one demonizing, you claim. Wow, you’ve mastered the technique of playing the victim card and turning things around 180. What skill you have. Here we are witnessing extreme ugliness, but apparently I’m at fault for bearing witness to it. Aren’t you so classy, my “friend”.

        • I see you a Thatcher death party and raise you a “one dead Indian”.

    • “We have closed comments on every Thatcher story today – even our address to email tributes is filled with abuse…Many of the people blocked from comments on our ThatcherCoverage appear to have clogged up my timeline with their foul abuse” – Tony Gallagher, editor of the Daily Telegraph, on twitter.

      Yep…that pretty much sums it up. When a titan of the left dies, no-one ever has to do this.

      • Oh, give it a rest. What “titan of the left” would you be talking about anyway?

      • Yes, that sums it up. We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again. And we’ll see lots of excuses from those who believe that anything is justified in pursuit of their ideology.

        • Like supporting Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge?

          Oh no, my mistake. You’re talking about people saying mean things.

      • The problem is not so much the wackos on the left who take to the streets to celebrate the death of a leader who probably saved Britain. Though much fewer in number, there are wackos on the right who do outrageous things, however, they are almost immediately condemned by all reasonable people on the right.

        The problem is the lack of courage by supposedly reasonable people on the left like Bloom and dog above who condone wackos who celebrate death, by not condemning them.
        Thatcher had courage.
        I see no courage on the left.

        • Well said. I’ve been trying to make exactly the same point, but you did so much more eloquently than I could have.

        • “Reasonable people” know that sometimes you or friends have to push people out of helicopters over the ocean, make special rules for the coloured folk, or even slaughter masses of troublesome ethnics.
          Unfortunately, in this world there are also horrid, nasty, unreasonable people who (you may want to stop reading here) say ghastly things about reasonable people.

      • It’s one example, but SDA had to shut down their comments after the death of Jack Layton because of ‘vitriol’… and he was never even in power (and therefore had no government record for folks to resent, unlike Thatcher.)


        • At least Kate had the sense to shut it down. How many “progressive” sites will shut down because of similar vitriol directed at Thatcher? Will Rabble shut down when people show up there to make their gleeful remarks? Hell, I doubt even the Globe and Mail will shut down, regardless of how many of their target audience spews venom at Margaret Thatcher. Even Macleans seems to be allowing comments about Thatcher that they never would have about Layton.

          • Wait a sec… John’s point was that ‘titans of the left’ aren’t subject to abuse when they die. Layton was. I wasn’t commenting about sites’ shut-down-comment policies.

            But, regarding your point… For what it’s worth, no site should shut down their comments, for Layton or for Thatcher. Let the right-wing pinheads spew about Layton, and let the left-wing pinheads spew about Thatcher. It’s hot air, and neither group could ever be counted on to provide anything resembling reason. I just tune ’em out.

          • For what it’s worth, no site should shut down their comments, for Layton or for Thatcher.

            I respectfully disagree. A blog like SDA is a bellweather of the conservative movement, and fair or not, the neanderthal-ness of its commenters reflects on the host. I believe even legal cases have been pursued against blog owners based on potentially libelous comments from the peanut gallery. Policing comes with the territory.

          • Obviously… but there’s libellous and there’s just plain being a jackass. For me to say Jack Layton should rot in hell or say I’m dancing a jig now that Thatcher’s dead, that isn’t libellous. That’s just me flying my jackass flag.

          • Sure. But if I own a newspaper or a blog or whatever, I’m not going to devote resources or bandwidth to people whose comments end up reflecting poorly on me. Fly your jackass flag on your own dime. :)

            By the way, have I ever mentioned that I especially like your comments? Mostly because I imagine them being read in Samuel L Jackson’s “Pulp Fiction” voice, which makes them more entertaining.

            Cue retort about Animal’s voice reading my comments.

          • The feeling’s mutual… but I don’t imagine your comments being read by Animal… which is probably a good thing when you’re trying to get a point across.

        • Touche. I had forgotten that. Thumbed you up.

          But I will point out that Kate is regularly reviled as one of the “intolerant” ones here. Yet she demanded respectful commentary after his death and shut it down when her following did not comply, and it’s fair to say that she did so despite personally detesting Layton. These are not the actions of an intolerant person.

          • Indeed, though I’m not a frequent reader of SDA and I’m of no opinion on Kate… I sure haven’t called her intolerant. I didn’t even know who ‘Kate’ was.

    • Sure, she may have been an enabler of folks like Suharto, Hussein, Pinochet, and the Khmer Rouge, who collectively murdered millions, but we’ve all done bad things haven’t we?

      Saying all these mean things about her in death just gives me the vapours, though.

    • Don’t smear people on the left, asshole. This makes me sick to my stomach. She may have been horrible to swaths of Britons, but there’s no reason to celebrate her deterioration and death.

    • Oh please, as if the right doesn’t do exactly the same thing.

  2. As Lady Thatcher’s health deteriorated, the issue of whether she should be granted a state funeral – as Churchill was – grew increasingly controversial. The general view was “never mind what sort of funeral – please God it’s soon”. Don’t mention this vicious harridan in the same breath as Churchill. Just rejoice.

    • Rejoice that I might never have to meet such a vile, petty, spiteful little creature as yourself face to face. That is rejoice-worthy.

      • It’s the pettiness the really gets me. I mean, we don’t hear a bunch of Cambodians taking this opportunity to whine that Thatcher trained the soldiers that slaughtered their spouses and children. It could be because they’re dead too, but y’know, whatever.

  3. and after all the sacrifices people made someone comes in and in a few short years gives it all away with horrendous budget deficits that will one day be followed by cuts and sacrifices that will make Thatcher look not so bad.

    • Blair was a traitor. He turned the UK into a welfare-addicted immigrant cesspool

      • Blair “helped” turn the UK into a welfare-addicted cesspool, but he was still the best Labour PM since Keir Hardie, and the best PM since Thatcher.

        Rather than a traitor, he had a genuine love for Britain, but was hobbled by a party full of psychotic Fabian leftish, and it’s hard to play ringmaster for that sort of clown show.

        The real blame for the UK’s mess lies with Wilson.

        • Your analysis is, I believe, entirely accurate. Blair modernized the Labour Party as much as was humanly possible. Considering the gong-show that was Labour when Neil Kinnock was leading them, it’s a bloody miracle Blair was able to moderate the party as much as he did. Kinnock would have been a disaster unparalleled since the Luftwaffe’s last flyover. (Note that right wingers generally did not celebrate in the streets when Kinnock died suddenly. Just thought I’d mention that. It does seem somehow relevant today.)

        • He was certainly hobbled by a psychopath – but it was the one he looked at every morning while he shaved.

  4. It seems regardless of what objective stats on unemployment or wage increases may or may not be it always happens over a long tenure that extreme resentments build up. I think it does happen much more on the left, but it’s hard to simply call it a matter of having no class. Generally, conservatives think of the left as having nice goals but counterproductive policies or crazy ideas of what should be goals – on the left there’s a much stronger bent to thinking the right are essentially bad people, smart or dumb. So having read Thatcher’s autobiography and feeling her positive passion about getting unions out of the way of the welfare of the average person these people seem extreme to me but I see where they’re coming from. The question isn’t really whether they are being ‘small’ as whether the fact that they couldn’t recognize that passion in her, whether it was accomplished or not, is immature or through a lack of sympathy.

    I think a more significant difference is in the basic attitude towards leadership between conservatives and liberals. There’s a much stronger sense of society as an organic whole for progressives and that applies particularly to leadership. The whole “Bush derangement syndrome” was about that – an emotional sense that having a leader with an essentially different worldview was ‘organically’ negative. And when you inherently think of society as a unified whole people who have different opinions or ideas than you aren’t just individuals with different values but look more like something fundamentally at odds with society as you see it. It wasn’t so much political opportunism and crassness in the degree that Bush was immediately blamed for Katrina as much as an expression of the belief/feeling that his negative presence as leader was literally causing a sort of organic chain reaction that Katrina was in a way a symptom of. It’s hard to delimit the notion without sounding wacky, but leaders have almost always had a totemic attitude about the ‘holiness’ or ‘organic rightness’ of their leadership being aligned with the basic order of things and it’s still an undercurrent today. I think anyone not left of center would definitely agree that hope and change and stopping the rise of the oceans are much less specific policies than totemic notions about getting ‘good people’ into power which will naturally lead to a healing. (And I don’t 100% discount that being a value in terms of societal rifts)

    Anyway, I think it’s a matter of worldviews most of all that makes “fierce joy” the way the left can react to the death of a conservative. I think the choice of worldview – ie wanting to believe people you dislike or disagree with are inherently bad – can be uncivilized or immature but it’s definitely not as much that as it often looks like from the right.

    • Thoughtful prose is always welcome. Thanks for that.

    • Excellent points.

    • Stereotypes are always the way to go!

      • Avoiding the use of stereotypes, or at least recognizing that we are using them, is hard work.

    • It looks exactly like what it is, classless, uncivilized behaviour that is unacceptable even in some third world cesspool, let alone on the streets of London.

    • A headline made tongue-in-cheek isn’t the same thing as celebrating someone’s death. I guess that little nuance is lost on you. Macleans was hardly recommending that readers truly “hate” Anne Hathaway to the point that they would be cheered by news of her death.

  5. I just think it is very sad. I know she was disliked by many but she wasn’t evil like a murderer. IMO it seems wrong to be rejoicing in her death. It is a funny world we live in.

    William Paul

  6. People were sort of celebrating Thatcher dying because they dramatically failed to defeat Thatcherism.

    Seems to be doing a good job of defeating itself at the moment.

  7. Let me give this a try:

    Progressives are just so compassionate, possessing such a strong sense of community, of caring, we just can’t help but celebrate the death of a polarizing right wing figure like Thatcher. Far from being uncivilized, this celebration is a demonstration of our inherent goodness. Only a sociopathic right winger would fail to understand the emotional burden – brought on by a decade of Thatcherist oppression – that causes this outburst of elation. These people are surviving victims of Thatcherism who finally have closure, and with it, a chance to heal. They deserve the support of progressives everywhere.

    So, how’d I do?

    • Pretty much as expected.

    • That’s almost as idiotic as the victimization card played by right-wingers in America, crying about the loss of their precious freedom at the hands of that “socialist”, Obama.

      • That was the whole point. It was sarcasm. You didn’t get that? I’ll bring puppets next time.

        And indeed, when the right resorts to the language of victimization, we know they are really and truly effed. Jumped the shark so to speak. The American right has become a caricature of the maudlin, self-pitying “oppressed minority” they spent their lifetimes ridiculing. It is pathetic.

        • I’m quite capable of recognizing sarcasm, but thanks for the help. It’s the intent of the sarcasm that is idiotic. There is so much outraged sanctimony among conservatives regarding the boorish behaviour of alleged left-wingers (actually, I suspect more than a few of the celebrants of Thatcher’s death are just lager louts looking for a piss-up, not politically-informed activists). You tend to overlook, forgive, justify, or explain away similar displays of insensitivity at the other end of the spectrum.

          It’s extremist elements on both ends of the ideological spectrum who are invariably jerks and, therefore, equally worthy of condemnation. We could both carry this discussion on ad nauseam, dredging up examples to support our respective cases .

          • You tend to overlook, forgive, justify, or explain away similar displays of insensitivity at the other end of the spectrum.

            Did you even read my second paragraph? I think I made it pretty clear what I thought of the other end of the spectrum.

  8. This is not all that uncommon. When Pierre Trudeau died in 2000, right wingers did not celebrate, but some old school Quebec separatists certainly did. Oh sure, a few right wing malcontents left the odd cowardly online remark, but even they had the good sense to be ashamed enough to remain anonymous. The old guard radical sovereignists and their modern apologists, however, had no such inhibitions; some could not contain their glee.

    There is a level of shamelessness – and outright vengefulness – found among the radical progressive left that exists nowhere else on the political spectrum. It is precisely this type at whom Thatcher took dead aim, precisely these people she left disorganized, humiliated, defeated and outcast. Ultimately, even the Labour Party was forced to ostracize and quarantine the radical progressives, leaving them without a voice for the first time in a century. And even in her death, she brings these flakes to the surface and makes fools of them once more.

    • Seems to me that Obama takes a lot of verbal sewage (including death threats), daily, from elements of the American right that is every bit as “shameless” and “vengeful” as anything so-called leftists are serving up about Thatcher.

      None of which is justifiable on either side, but don’t smugly assume conservatives are on the side of the angels here.

      • I assume no such thing, and there is no shortage of right wing trash. But generally, when they behave like trash, they’re called in it, even by their fellow right wingers. But what do we see in this thread? More than a few people defending the gutter-dwellers toasting and celebrating Thatcher’s death, as though it’s some how OK because she was so “divisive”. Perhaps the petty vengegulness is more noticable on the left because they feel more comfortable expressing it, and receive more sympathy when they do.

  9. There are very few things going on in the world today, the migration of jobs to China, the banking scandals, the increasing separation of wealth from the middle class to the exclusive hold of .1% of the people, the movement of society to a rentier base (and if you don’t know what that means, you should google it and read) that cannot be traced for their direct cause to the pseudo conservative revolution of the 1980’s.
    That said, it’s inappropriate to have a party over someone’s death, at least in public.

  10. It somehow sounds as she was a merciless dictator. Did not she achieved all her `wicked` accomplishments by fully democratic process? And being re-elected?

  11. Something that seems to go unsaid is that it was not only what Thatcher did in her lifetime that some of us found horrific and unacceptable, but also how she gloated and seemed to enjoy the misery she caused. Rejoice at the Belgrano sinking with hundreds of young conscripts on it, contempt for the grieving families of Hillsborough, saying they were ‘moaning’ when all they wanted was the truth. Shameless gloating when the miners were defeated, and unbridled homophobia when talking about Section 28. Hardly surprising then, that those affected and who did not agree with what she did should celebrate in similar style to what she did whilst causing mass misery.