I couldn’t help but laugh when I heard there were street parties in Glasgow celebrating the long-awaited death of Maggie Thatcher last Monday. If I wasn’t living in England now I would have been there in a heartbeat, joyously joining in the celebrations.
However, after being exposed to just some of the endless bickering in the media about who she was, what she did and what it meant, I started to question my unbridled glee, and wonder where it came from. After all this is a human being we are talking about, and I’m rarely so callous as to celebrate people’s deaths.
So why celebrate her death? What makes her different?
I was only a toddler when Thatcher lost power, but my father – a socialist in his day – made sure I knew all about this wicked woman, this rich and snobbish bogeyman who greedily privatised Britain whilst the working man suffered and lost everything. My father was working-class and the first of his family to go to university, purely as a result of Labour government funding. He did well, and my childhood was comfortable, but our lives could have been very different under a Conservative government, and I never forgot that.
I grew up to become a young socialist, listening to inspiring speeches by the then-leader of the Scottish Socialist Party – Tommy Sheridan – who was a key figure in the anti-poll tax campaign that eventually lead to Thatcher’s demise. Graffiti from the riots can still be seen in central Glasgow.
I went on to study Social Policy at University in Scotland (paid for by the Scottish Government). A fundamental theory in Social Policy was the importance of equality in society – and my fellow Scottish students seemed so like-minded that when Thatcher was mentioned in lectures, a near-audible boo would shoot round the room.
Over time it became clear to me that left-wing (anti-Thatcher) ideals and Scottish Nationalism were inextricably linked. Thatcher thrust her unwelcome right-wing policies on a mostly left-wing Scotland, who –without a Scottish Parliament - was too small to defend itself against this Westminster imposition. This dynamic closely mirrored all the patriotic history lessons I had growing up about the English invasions in the thirteen and fourteenth centuries, in which the underdog Scotland bravely fought back but, outnumbered, were ultimately defeated.
The imposition of Thatcherism in Scotland therefore paved the way for the Scottish Parliament and greater independence – as Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond explains "What Margaret Thatcher did was turn the Scottish Parliament from being a nice idea - democratic advance to being something absolutely essential".
So when I heard that Glasgow was having spontaneous street parties to celebrate her death, I got a little rush of patriotic pride and a feeling of belonging and understanding that made me laugh – although a little sad as I was no longer living with my ‘kin’. The bogeyman was dead – and therefore so was all that she stood for to me; the imposition of unfair right-wing policies from England on an unwilling but outnumbered left-wing Scotland.