A song of Margaret Thatcher
Written by Ewan MacColl, 1989
Reflecting on the popular view that Thatcher was power-hungry and dictatorial in nature, MacColl (a life-long socialist) writes of a politician who moves away from her hometown of Grantham, and the family grocer's shop of her youth, aspiring to rule the country with an iron fist.
She is portrayed in this song as the destructive agency who is soley responsible for the downfall of British industry and the reduction of trade union power, and the creation of a selfish and self-centred society.
Her background as the daughter of a grocer, in a "nation of shopkeepers" as one French wag put it, she shook of the soft and doughy image of a counter clerk and put on the mantle of a doughty fighter in the political arena.
Doughty she certainly was - few would dare stand up to her grim determination, and many were the lesser folk who fell beneath her feet. One cartoon showed her in the role of Boadecea riding into battle aboard her chariot, enemies cut asunder by the scythes on the wheels. She had a sharp tongue, and cared little for the feelings of others, as she ploughed them under in her headlong rush toward domination, not just of the party, but the whole nation and its way of thinking.
Certainly she went to great pains to promote an image of strength and respectability, taking lessons in elocution and public speaking, and many commentators noted how she moved through the ranks of the Tory party like a hot knife through butter. She fought political opponents both within and without the party with equal skill, and would not tolerate "wet" politics, taking a uncompromising stance on everything from the Poll Tax to the miners through to the Falklands War itself.
There was much talk at the time of the close relationship between her and Ronald Reagan, and her pro-Republican stance and her extreme distrust of socialism. Certainly, she took no prisoners in her dealings with the unions, although her apparent (limited) support of the Solidarity movement for PR reasons is here keenly contrasted with her desire to reduce the power of the unions. Indeed, this apparent hypocrisy, while it upset and offended many observers, was interpreted by others to demonstrate her desire to smash the mining unions, who she clearly felt held too much sway in the UK. Was she preparing the way for cheaper coal imports? We may never know.
Here is a bitter song, each verse pulling no punches in a commentary that expresses both a personal and political hatred for a politician and her policies. McColl holds nothing back - in his gently scathing manner, he uncovers each of her political battles, her devil-take-the-hindmost attitude and her (to McColl) selfish plunge to rule a country and to change it forever.
Were he still alive today, he would doubtless see the social and political scars left behind by one of the most powerful political forces of the 20th century.
The Grocer (excerpt)
When she was a pukin' babe-in-arms, she read in a magazine
About the Royals, and decided then she'd like to be the Queen
But the job had already been taken, so she stamped her foot and said
"If I can't be the Queen or the Prince of Wales, I'll be the PM instead"
The Lady often said she'd like to have lived in the Golden Age
Before the days of the unions and the National Minimum Wage
And she smiled when she though how Hitler had smashed 'em all to hell
"What he can do I can do better", she said, "and probably twice as well"
And so she set out on the job of castrating the unions, one by one
All except the ETU and that had already been done
Teachers and civil servants, workers down the mine
Needed a taste of the Lady's whip to make 'em toe the line
Well, the Lady's reputation plummeted down into the red
But trouble blew up in the Falklands, it was jam on her gingerbread
"Thank God for a nice little war", she said "the is Britain's finest hour"
So a couple of hundred squaddies died so she could stay in power
Once, behind the counter in her father's grocer's shop
She sold butter and flour and Spam and jam, and everything else, the lot
But now the merchandise has changed, all prices don't apply
She's selling the nation off in lots to all who want to buy