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Sunday, 14 April 2013

'This puts a question mark over / Thatcher,' I told you.

Margaret Thatcher's death last Monday has provoked waves of nostalgia and hatred in Britain.

Without Thatcher, I'm not sure I would have gotten involved in politics, as I did, when I was fifteen years old. Much terrible stuff would have been avoided. But also I'd never have gotten to be part of the anti-poll tax movement, which was certainly a great thing to be involved in; no regrets about that.

These days I am self employed, and can't really deny that I'm now part of the world which her policies brought into being.

Below is a poem I wrote a few years back. Thatcher was always going to lose the next election. Except she never did.

               “As an ex-member of the Militant Tendency I wanted to bring down the State
               that most people supported. I'm glad the likes of me … were prevented from
               doing so … Thank you Special Branch.” (Stephen Brent, Chichester, on the BBC website.)

              1981. Capitalism was a Dimplex heater
              with a broken switch. We'd
              rush across the greasiest Formica,
              the nastiest carpet to agree with each other
              and cheer the news: redundancies rocket,
              stock markets on the floor.

              'Another Tory government
              is out of the question,' you told me.
              It was February, 1982. The daffodils
              couldn't have cared less.

              'This puts a question mark over
              Thatcher,' I told you.
              It was November, 1989. Hailstones
              on Stoke Newington High Street.

             Today, we meet with a history
             of fried bread and picket lines
             behind us. We believed in each other.
             Now, it's a hundred years

             since those afternoons
             full of sunlight and clenched fists
             when – in miners' strikes and poll-tax riots –
             we were like boys playing
             in hoped for snow.
This poem is also published here in the American current affairs magazine Dissent
and is included in my 2010 collection Frightening New Furniture,
which is available from Salmon Poetry.