So after having the Masters sweepstake in the office this week and one on the Grand National not long
before it, I've accidentally become addicted to gambling on things about which I know very little. Every horse I backed appears to be on the Pathway to Findus and most of my stellar golfers either didn't make it to the weekend or appeared to be genuinely aiming at the water.
So I have found myself wondering what to waste my money on this week. I thought I could just burn £5 but where's the fun in that? Plus I imagine there are laws against it dominated by phrases like "desecration of the image of the Sovereign" and "legal tender". I'd imagine (I have to imagine because I can't be bothered to spend 15 seconds checking on Google) that burning a Lady Godiva quietly sits in the apparently still extant set of crimes that warrant a death sentence, which if folklore be believed include treason, and perhaps killing swans. So instead I have started a new sweepstake - how many times will the BBC manage to say the word "divisive" during today's coverage of Baroness Thatcher's funeral?
Answers on a postcard - For My Attention, Ranting Towers, Little Ravingdon, The South.
I did a little light checking and confirmed my suspicion that no party had secured 100% of the vote in any general election on record, where 100% of the eligible population turned out to vote. Not even close I was astounded to learn. You see I was surprised because I thought from the press that this was the case in almost all elections in which Margaret Thatcher did not stand as leader of the Conservatives. This is because apparently this woman was uniquely "divisive". Not everyone agreed with her. There was dissent at the direction of some of her policies. You can imagine my horror.
As it turns out, that's rather the idea in a system the isn't North Korea or China, say. People get to say what they would do if in power, other people are free to agree or disagree and the one who gets more votes (Lib Dems: let's not get into the specifics but you get the point) gets to do those things for a while. This process is repeated every few years as a check on whether people still agree with those in power or whether they have decided they aren't really coming good on their promises. We call it democracy. Been around a while.
Human nature all but guarantees that there will be discord and difference of opinion. Democracy allows those differences to be represented and compete for public support. Every politician in a democracy where there isn't one party supported by everyone is therefore, by definition, divisive. They say one thing, lots of people will disagree with them. As it turns out, of those who voted in her three General Elections as party leader, Maggie secured 44%, 42% and 42% of their support. Blair's New Labour in 1997 managed just 43% in their landslide, the highest other post-war share of the vote.
So at the polls, Thatcher was one of the most supported Prime Ministers the country has seen since the advent of genuine three party politics. Divisive - of course: the stats also show that nobody in living memory has received over half the vote (even of those voting, let alone those who can't be bothered to vote). Which means no Prime Minister, the Iron Lady included, could claim to have a real majority of support - they are all therefore "divisive" - lots of people clearly disagree with them.
So why would the Beeb and others be constantly pointing out the obvious norm as if it was an anomaly?
Because it is their way of saying they don't like her. They mean the people who, like them, don't like her, are making lots of noise. These are the minority of people who have chosen to use the death of a frail 87 year old woman as a cause for celebration. Regardless of the illogical nature of their hatred of a Prime Minister who did more for this country than any others in the last hundred years bar Churchill and perhaps Attlee, they are displaying a disgusting lack of tact almost unique to the vitriolic left.
Even if you ignore all the many positives of Thatcher's tenure, the time to celebrate the fall of a political opponent is on their political fall - the Tory party's "et tu Brute" moment, or indeed the 1997 removal of Tories from power. It is not when they shuffle their mortal coil. That is the moment when humanity is meant to be united. Death, though it comes to us all, is a sad thing. It is when we are meant to put aside differences, no matter how large. It is why Everton fans observe silent tribute to the fans of their arch enemies Liverpool who died in the Hillsborough tragedy. It is why there are graves tended in England of WWII German bombers who crashed and died here on a mission to kill those who now are their guardians. It is why we pull together when a bomb goes off and human helps human, dividing lines forgotten.
It is a source of great shame that there are people in this country who cannot see this, though as Voltaire said, I will defend their right to state their misguided bile. There will be no Blair parties when the man who sent us into Iraq has passed away. There will be no Gordon parties when the man who bankrupted the nation in preparation for the global crash has loosed the surly bonds of mortality. This tastelessness is a problem seemingly only of the left. They simply cannot take that they were beaten, and so there will be a few protesters today, finally having found an occasion where they believe they have no chance of losing the argument because the object of their attack cannot defend herself.
They will wave placards or turn their backs, as is their misguided right. And the Beeb will give them disproportionate coverage like it has in their reports this week for poll tax rather than the Cold War and miners strikes rather than returning economic prosperity. And they will justify it by telling you how "divisive" this woman was. Whilst she may be disappointed, she would not have minded, as she said, "I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left."