Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher: the view from Broken Barnet

As we have observed many times, here in Broken Barnet, there is a certain inexplicable synchronicity that underlies the sequence of events, the peculiar chronology, the hidden history, and the unseen geography of our borough. 

Our Tory councillors have no regard for local history, or heritage: Broken Barnet, in their conception, exists in a dimension of its own, in a place caught forever in a moment of time.

Yes: of course we are talking about the Thatcher years. The only legacy that matters, for local Tories, who represent a particularly mutant form of Conservatism, clinging obstinately to a set of values that their own party shoved to the back of the drawer years ago, but probably speaks to a certain type of unthinking, Daily Mail reading voter: a quaintly retro obsession with unions, the threat of 'socialism', an instinctive fear of Europe, a detestation of 'red tape', bureaucracy, political correctness ... 

Finchley constituency was the seat of Margaret Thatcher for thirty three years, from 1959 to 1992. At every election night, she would come to Hendon Town Hall, and wait impatiently for the result - once Prime Minister, as Mrs Angry recalls, this visit would entail an enormous security operation - and a covert installation of copious supplies of gin for the Mayor's Parlour, and the gratification of Denis, as the count inevitably continued into the small hours. 

Look at the following footage of election night, 1987, and the results announced in the council chamber at the Town Hall. (One can only wonder how differently might the course of history have run, of course, here in Broken Barnet, if only Lord Buckethead had won, instead of Margaret ...)

And listen very carefully, half way in, once the speech begins, the admirably rude heckling, and references to 'fascist scum' are followed by what appears very much to Mrs Angry to be a contribution by our dear friend Mr Shepherd, the veteran attendee of all council meetings, who sits throughout sorting through two bags of cuttings from the Morning Star, and making impertinent suggestions to Tory councillors ...

That Margaret Thatcher's long reign in Finchley was universally popular is a myth that local Tories would like everyone to believe: but many of them are far too young to remember how it was, and indeed the keen ardour with which they view her, and the iconic status she holds as their generation's political pin-up, is a most peculiar phenomenon. 

The Tory party in Barnet is curiously misogynistic in outlook, and membership: there are a few older women, of the matronly type, who are permitted to sit on a few committees, as long as they do as they are told, and keep their heads down. The majority, however, is a motley collection of frankly deluded old timers and an equally loopy, unseasoned intake of hardline, immature young men, whom suspended Tory councillor Brian Coleman describes as 'The Boys'.

All of them, though, are devotees of the cult of Thatcher, with an unthinking, unswerving loyalty to - well, to what, exactly? A female embodiment of male authority, an iron resolution and a dispensation to be utterly self centred, ruthlessly unsentimental, culturally unresponsive, socially irresponsible. This is everything that gives them a sense of power, but they also loved Margaret because, like them, she was a working class Tory with aspirations to climb the social ladder - they are the same breed, small town Tories, Rotarians, masons, not public school, not Bullingdon Club: they will never belong to the establishment, or have brilliant political careers, but they can dream, and Margaret Thatcher still inspires those dreams.

The Barnet Eye made an interesting point on the day of her death: that it was notable how little official local recognition there is of Margaret Thatcher: nothing named in her honour, no Thatcher House, no Thatcher wing of any local hospital, no -oh, ok - yes, she, in her role of destroying angel,  is really associated with shutting things down, rather than someone you think of to name new things after, perhaps ... and in truth in this respect a fitting commemoration is already everywhere to be seen, in every jobcentre, every hospital, every council estate, every ravaged corner of Broken Barnet.

When Mrs Angry heard Mrs Thatcher had resigned, she was, as it happens, at a meeting in a council office across the road from the Town Hall, in her capacity of something Maggie would have despised - a union convenor. (Yes, Mrs Angry has had many lives and incarnations, before she became Mrs Angry). In the midst of rather obstreperous negotiations, a secretary came rushing in, eyes gleaming, and whispered an urgent message in the ear of the senior officer. He gulped. 'Mrs Thatcher ... Mrs Thatcher has resigned' he said ... Mrs Angry threw her notebook in the air and cheered. 

It was a memorable moment, savoured all the more for the memory of the poll tax demo not long before, outside the same Town Hall, (which nearly proved to be the end of Mrs Angry, due to an incident leading to a ruptured appendix and a nearly fatal case of peritonitis ... )it is hard to explain now the absolute sense of injustice that the Poll Tax engendered, or the hardship that it caused, except to say that what is happening now with the Bedroom Tax is horribly reminiscent. 

And here is the thing, while reminiscence is the order of the day ... for all the dreadful, shameful things that happened in the Thatcher era, it has been clear, since the beginning of the evil coupling of this Coalition government, that the current Tory agenda, affirmed and facilitated by the scabby Libdems, is as bad, or perhaps even worse, than anything Margaret Thatcher produced. Yes, she destroyed our industrial base, and taxed the poor, and oh, devastated every mining community to be found in the length and breadth of the country (and Mrs Angry, without going all Billy Elliot again, has reason particularly to despise this contemptible deed) ... but here now, in her place, we have a Tory leader and a cabinet of monstrosities, a cabal of public school elite men, buffered by centuries of inherited privilege, set on humiliating the despised underclasses of modern Britain, and sending them to the depths of despair.

Margaret did not come from this background, of course, and here was the secret of her success, and her appeal to the Barnet Tories: the outsider who wants to be an insider has only one way to get there, by trampling on the class she comes from. Those who are there already, it might be argued, have no need to demonstrate any such act of betrayal: they trample on the poor simply because they enjoy it, and it reinforces their sense of entitlement.

Mrs Angry was in North Finchley on Monday, walking carefully along that faultline of Broken Barnet, by Tally Ho, opposite the epicentre of the Barnet Spring, Cafe Buzz, and passing by the spot where local legend Horace, much mourned by local residents, used to sit in the street, colouring in his drawings with crayons, and wishing people 'the very best of luck'. 

Mrs Angry then noted another familiar face, out of context: it was one of the squatters who had taken occupation of Friern Barnet library, busking outside a shop, with a battered old guitar. He usually goes about barefoot, this guy, even in the coldest weather, something some of the more conservative minded residents of Friern Barnet found hard to understand. 

A man with a face as worn as his guitar, a raggedy grey beard, and a gap toothed smile, he greeted Mrs Angry, and told her how much he had enjoyed his time in the occupation, and the founding of the People's Library, watching the empowerment of a community: Mrs Angry agreed, and said it had been an experience which was really about so much more than the sum of its parts, the library, or the Barnet Spring: it was the making of friendships, across boundaries which would never have been crossed before, and something else too, less easy to define. He smiled again, then, very sweetly.  Mrs Angry moved off: and then, just a few yards on, with timing surely prompted by the underlying synchronicity of Broken Barnet,  looking at her phone, stopped in her tracks, because she had just received a text saying that Margaret Thatcher had died. 

And when you died, Margaret, as a Mr Damian Mc Bride noted on twitter, there was less mourning for you, here in Finchley, than there was for our man of the street, Horace, whose death was marked by a genuine sense of loss. 

That something indefinable: community, no ... society, a place where people care about each other, that's what we were talking about, Margaret, when you shuffled off this mortal coil. We've been living it, here in your backyard, in the face of your monstrous legacy, the Barnet Thatcherites,  who have been trying to sell us into privatised bondage to Capita for the next fifteen years.

You died in comfort, in your bed in the Ritz, but you died alone, lost in the shadows of dementia, no one at your side, no family, no friends. 

My father died in the grip of the same cruel illness, not in luxury, moved from a hellish local care home to an NHS hospital, here in Barnet, but at least his daughter was there to hold his hand, as he slipped away. I think I know whose was the better death, and who left the better legacy, and who will be truly mourned.

Meanwhile, back in Broken Barnet: Thatcher is dead, but Thatcherism lives on. 

Watch it fighting for survival, then - in the only way it knows how. 

You Thatcherites by name lend an ear
You Thatcherites by name, your faults I will proclaim,
Your doctrines I must blame, you will hear, you will hear
Your doctrines I must blame, you will hear

You privatise away what is ours, what is ours
You privatise away what is ours
You privatise away and then you make us pay
We'll take it back some day, mark my words, mark my words
We'll take it back some day, mark my word


Anonymous said...

Superb piece, Mrs. A, superb!

Anonymous said...

Here's an exclusive for you. You may decide it's better not published.

Sometime in the mid-eighties, I met a jeweller who worked in Hatton Garden. He told me that his company had the job of servicing Mrs Thatcher's watch. According to him, someone scribed a hammer and sickle logo inside it, and then he and his colleagues took it in turns to put the watch down their trousers and up their bottoms.

Just the sort of puerile and childish behaviour that Clegg feels is "so out of keeping with the character of us as a nation". Well, it made me laugh.

I do hope it's true - though I suppose we'll never know.

[Anon 1]

Mrs Angry said...

Very kind,thank you.

Mrs Angry said...

Naughty commenter no 2: you should be ashamed of yourself. No one is laughing, and Mrs Angry cannot possibly endorse such a disgraceful anecdote.

Mrs Angry said...

PS: But if it upsets Nick Clegg: that's good enough for me.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it generous of Clegg though, that he thinks so highly of us?

[For avoidance of confusion, I shall now call myself Commenter no. 2 - even if I'm commenter no. 1 or no. 3]

Mrs Angry said...

You are a tease, Commenter 1,2 and or 3 ...

Mrs Angry said...

mind you: good job it wasn't an alarm clock, I suppose ...

Anonymous said...

Ouch! I can tell, you're giving this a lot of thought.

There aren't many photo's of Thatcher that have a watch visible. Here's one though:

On the right wrist. Is the picture reversed?

It's fun to think it may feature a hammer and sickle!

All these years later I can't remember the exact words used to describe the actions. But it's a small watch (I hesitate to call it feminine, given the context), and the obvious question is: How far up?.

[Commenter no.2]

Mrs Angry said...

... or even a grandfather clock ... yes, Commenter No 2, clearly this is a subject in which you have a deep interest, and perhaps some experience. Mrs Angry is far too innocent to understand your anecdote, but she suggests you find something to take your mind off such unwholesome thoughts. Being of a suitably feminine disposition, she enjoys knitting, rather than horological based activities.

Anonymous said...

Listen! Charles Moore will already be updating his book, and this is just the sort of anecdote that he'll be looking for - to liven up a dull interview on the Andrew Marr show.

Your news outlet has been chosen to reveal this scoop to the world. So put a peg on your nose, cover your ears, close your eyes... but the clicks will be coming, from the BBC, Sky, Whitehall, the MPS, Reuters...

You'll thank me one day.

Mrs Angry said...

... on the other hand, as someone once said: try anything once, except incest and folk dancing ... sadly, Mrs Angry can't dance at all, and is not inclined to the former.

Mrs Angry said...

oh, hang on, missed last comment: yes, Anon, in fact Broken Barnet is visited by all those, and a lot more besides, but ... is this really a news outlet? I have been tussling with this thorny problem for some while now, getting rather hacked off, to be frank. Am I a lone blogger, or a relevant publisher, or perhaps an irrelevant lone blogger? Clearly I am a menace to society, unlike Rupert Murdoch, and must be stopped.

Anonymous said...

Oops! Have I dropped you in it?

Of course I meant to say that you are merely a hobbyist whose presence on the web is of no consequence. After all, who'd bother reading this lot of rubbish?

Obviously not a news outlet. More a cyber care-in-the-community.

Mrs Angry said...

Is that really you, Commenter 2? That's very unkind. I may have to send you to the Broken Barnet gulag. Shame on you.

Anonymous said...

I'm only trying to spare you from having to pay exemplary damages. I'm sure I read that loners, misfits and oddballs will fall outside the scope of the new charter. Is that wrong?

So if you are sane and anyone reads your blog, you pay. On the other hand, if your blog is a hobby and you write about a subject so dull that no one could possibly be interested, then you'll be spared.

Don't you prefer the latter?

Anyway, you shouldn't take offence. There's enough of that around already.
[Commenter no. 2 - yes it was me]

Mrs Angry said...

I see: so which am I, mysterious commenter 2, or which should I pretend to be, to evade the dreadful fate of exemplary damages?

And, more to the point, which are you? Who are you? Come on: stop teasing, give us a clue ...

Mrs Angry said...

Chicken ...

Anonymous said...

You're impatient.

Clues would only help if you knew me. You don't - I'm just an ordinary Barnet citizen.

I was unfortunate enough to be a pupil at FCHS though (during a period of decline that resembled the Brezhnev era Soviet Union). It made me the man I am today, and that's not a good thing!

Mrs Angry said...

Hmm. If you say so, Commenter 2, if you say so.

I imagine you will have been at school with Damian Mc Bride, then? Or perhaps you were there the same time Mrs Angry was at St Michael's? We must have mutual friends? All those horrible oiky spotty boys, brothers of my friends.

Or, perhaps you are not quite as clever as you think you are: do not underestimate the forensic skills of the citizen journalist, or indeed the psychic powers of Mrs Angry ...

Don't worry, your secret will be safe ... x

Anonymous said...

I don't remember a McBride. Is Angry your maiden name?

Of course I'm not clever - I went to FCHS! I certainly don't underestimate your skills, either as journalist or as a psychic, but I'd prefer to remain Commenter no. 2, if you don't mind.

By the way: has that school ever produced anyone of note? Apart from the chap from Madness.

Mrs Angry said...

Don't worry, not so clever Commenter 2, discretion is my second name. My maiden name? I have always been Angry.I am not still a maiden, although I may be reverting to one.

No, no one of note, only Damian McBride.

But if you went there, Commenter 2, why are you asking me about the Old Boys? Are you so old you can't remember?


Mrs Angry said...

In fact, before Miss A is threatened with exclusion from another school, perhaps she should mention some semi-famous old boys: a couple of editors: Martin Ivens,Tony Gallagher, writer of the Italian Job, Troy Kennedy Martin; Sir John Hegarty, Sir Hugh Rossi ... and the Barnet Eye blogger, who was expelled for being too argumentative.

Mrs Angry was very nearly expelled, too, from St Michael's, for starting a strike in the second form.

Can you see a pattern beginning to form?

Anonymous said...

Catholic schools need to try harder to crush the spirit of their pupils. As it is, they do a pretty good job, but there are always a handful who survive with their spirits uncrushed, and these go on to cause all sorts of trouble in society - usually armed with a home-made, extra-curricular sense of right and wrong. Very dangerous!

Mind you, that list of yours is disproportionately Tory. Perhaps they are the ones that actually enjoyed [spit] their time at school.

Aside from that, I have been wondering how it was that FCHS was largely populated by thickos, and yet these very dimwits had sisters (apparently by the same parents) at St Michael's getting 10(+) O Levels.

Anonymous said...

I can think of a few convicted criminals - possibly a higher calling than working for a Tory rag.

Mrs Angry said...

Hmm. As you should know, if you were not such a fecking liar, it used to be a grammar school, like St M's. But it is now actually a very good school, and unlike St M's without a ridiculously elitist entrance exam which creams off the top scoring girls & takes them from Croydon, Hackney etc to remain top of the school leagues, rather than serve the local community. Oops, another black mark for Mrs A and daughter.

Catholic education is a marvellous thing, endows you with a lifetime of complexes and an enhanced sense of pleasure in sinful activity. I recommend it to all.

Thickos? Wonder what school you really went to, Commenter 2? Eton? Harrow? Approved?

Mrs Angry said...

I think you may be right, Commenter 2, about the preference for convicted criminals ... when my (much much older) brother was there I think one of the pupils accidentally shot one of the masters in the car park, come to think of it.

And no, I am not publishing your other comment, for fear of exemplary damages ... I believe that particular school still retains that title, and with some justification. Clearly St Michael's girls are far more virtuous.

And no, I do not believe you really were a pupil: who was your headteacher? What was the tolley? Who was the classics teacher? Or, more likely, were you one of the woodwork boys, or too busy up at QE girls?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it is a case of M√ľnchausen syndrome: feigning attendance at FCHS and the consequent psychological trauma to gain sympathy.[See also Binjamin Wilkomirski]

Otherwise, I can't think of any good reason to pretend I had been there. To get a seat at a good restaurant? To get a job? I've never wanted a job, so I certainly wouldn't lie to get one.

Don't believe me then!

I can recall three classics teachers, but only one had a black belt in karate.

Mrs Angry said...

Ha: exactly so: it is very easy to feign a false identity, as you demonstrate ... your knowledge of our schools is perhaps based on friends in the area? If you don't know the name of the headteacher: well, an odd thing to forget, no? And if you can't explain the tolley, you definitely did not go there ... Yes,I would say such behaviour is attention seeking: clearly you wish you were living in Broken Barnet, and enjoying the challenging political environment, and the stimulating company of Mrs Angry. Who could blame you?

Anonymous said...

All of those questions could be answered by looking at the school webpages. That wouldn't prove anything.

I've told you something that could only be known by someone who had been there at the time. Indeed, even the classics teacher in question probably has no idea of his supposed skill in martial arts.

There's a lot more (much libelous)besides, but I don't want to give you anything that will allow you to triangulate my whereabouts. Have you seen The Heroes of Telemark?

One day I hope to save enough pocket money for a bus ticket to North Finchley. Apparently this eminent blogger frequents a cafe in that area.

An impossible dream!

Mrs Angry said...

Well that's where you are wrong, Commenter 2: these questions are carefully chosen,and checked for absence of clues online, as you should expect ... and Mrs Angry happens to be friends with one or two classics teachers from that school ... why did you say he, not she?

Not sure what triangulation is, as Mrs A spent all her maths lessons staring out of the window and doodling in her rough book, but be warned: her methods of detection may not rely on mathematics so much as syntactical analysis, code breaking and other skills ...

The Heroes of Telemark is one of those awful boring boys films they used to show on wet bank Sunday afternoon films, with no women, no romance, and no happy ending, so no, Mrs A has no idea what you are banging on about. Does it involve heavy water? Are you making a nuclear bomb? Ooops, will get some funny visits now.And perhaps so will you.

Do come to North Finchley: should I send you an Oyster card? Drop me your address and I'll send one in the post ...

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.