The toddler is dead

[O]f course Thatcher didn’t need much sleep when she was Prime Minister, because as far as I can tell without ever having met the woman, self-doubt was not a problem for her. Her agenda was to dismantle and destroy: the welfare state, the NHS, the unions, the UK’s manufacturing industry. She didn’t lie awake worrying about it any more than your average toddler lies awake worrying about bashing the furniture.


Being a selfish, destructive arsehole with little or no understanding of responsibility is much less tiring than behaving responsibly. If someone doesn’t need much sleep, it’s probably because they’re not doing their fair share of the worrying or the real work. They’re not to be praised or admired for it. Thatcher was basically a giant guilt-free toddler with a wrecking ball, having too much fun to go to bed. Is this at the root of the left-wing obsession with when she’ll finally be laid to rest?

That’s what I said about Thatcher just under a year ago, and I stand by all of it.

I used to wish for her death. But mostly that was because I thought it would lead to the death of everything she stood for. I thought that if that steamroller of a personality was put out of the way, surely that would halt the damage. But after she left office, it became obvious that her death would change nothing. The damage was done, and politicians after her were happy to continue doing more of it.

Her death won’t re-open the coal mines. It won’t revitalise our outsourced-to-China manufacturing industry. It won’t undo the global recession brought on by her obsession with the banking sector and clearing regulation out of the way. The thousands of people who died as a result of her actions won’t be brought back to life.

But still, I’m delighted she’s dead. Somewhere in the back of my mind, her continued existence has been bothering me, and now I’m free of that worry. Free of the illogical worry that she would somehow return and do more damage, in her unhinged, inhuman way.

In a toddler, mindless destruction is containable and sometimes cute. We can handle it because we know that eventually, the toddler will grow up, and they’ll understand what’s acceptable and what isn’t.  Yes, it’s exhausting, but it’s not for ever, because one day you’ll be able to reason with them.

Thatcher was never to be reasoned with, and she never publicly repented her actions. That’s what makes me furious, even now. OK, so she wasn’t built for reflection. But she never showed a moment’s regret for the soldiers who died in the Falklands, for the striking miners she ordered to be beaten up by police, the people who died in poverty as a result of her actions. That’s what makes me furious.

And if there is a hell, I hope she’s in it. I’ll rephrase that: I hope there’s a hell, just so that she can be in it. She preached personal responsibility; I want her to be in hell right now learning that her own actions have consequences. I hope she spends 11 years in hell feeling every baton blow, every hunger pang, every racist taunt she caused. (I’m being merciful; I’m not asking that she spend any of that time waiting in the cold for a delayed train or in pain for a delayed hip operation.)

I’ll mark her death by trying that little bit harder to undo her legacy: in politics, in voluntary work, in daily life. I’ll try a bit harder to be kinder, to reframe public debates so they’re less in her terms and more in mine. Maybe if we all did that, we could turn the rage into something positive. But right now, the toddler is finally asleep. So let’s do what grown-ups do and open a bottle.

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