Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Nearer my God to Thee - The House of Lords and Mrs. T


It was when the cameras cut to God's waiting room at the House of Lords that that the full story of the Thatcher years could be told.

Over in the Commons, new Tories and old climbed over each other to pay tribute to the greatest vote-snatcher they ever had. But, back in the Lords it was the appearance of the many vegetables that served in her many Cabinets which reminded viewers that there could still be life after death - or at least life after lunch.

In fact, the appearance of so many faces assumed to have already met their maker
could have caused the over-imaginative to believe Mrs T might also make a come-back.
But, they can rest in peace since the speeches, in both places, made it clear that like John Brown her body may be gone but her soul keeps marching on.

Parliament had been specially recalled to celebrate the life and times of Margaret Thatcher but it was clear in the House of Commons that the postman carrying the invites had clearly run out of puff as he made his way around the country.

Indeed on the Opposition benches he'd obviously not ventured much past Milton Keynes, how else to explain the absence of half its members? While on the Tory side coaches had obviously been booked.

David Cameron, rescued by her death from a useless trip to Europe, said how he had started in politics by working for her in 1988. He never thought he would be Prime Minister, he said, as some on his side and all those opposite nodded.

Next up was Ed Miliband who, with votes in the offing, neatly side-stepped saying anything the Daily Mail can get him for. He reminded the House that Mrs T said if you wanted anything done as opposed to anything just said, ask a woman. Theresa May smiled ominously - so did Harriet Harman.

Meanwhile back in the Lords, the ghosty spectre that was once Norman Tebbit, bared his teeth at his one-time cabinet colleagues and lamented their part in the downfall of the woman who made him and the rest of Chingford famous. Geoffrey Howe, whose mid-mannered condemnation of Mrs T led to her downfall, seemed un-moved as Norman bludgeoned him from afar.

Back in the Commons normal business also seemed to be returning as members, having signed the register and been seen by the prefects abandoned the premises to seek fun elsewhere. That meant most missed Labour's David Winnick's decision to ignore his leader and remind the House that Mrs T had not been universally loved - particularly anywhere up the M1. He was then suitably jeered by Tories from inside the  25 for suggesting she was indifferent to the unemployed.

But if Winnick was the taster the performance of the day came from someone who part in the proceedings of parliamentary life has sadly been often silent, Glenda Jackson. In an off-the-cuff peroration worthy of her stage roles and not normally associated with the leafy lanes of Hampstead, her constituency, she abandoned any pretence of the respect ordered for the day.

Mrs T had wreaked the most heinous, social economic and spiritual damage upon the country, her constituency and constituents, the Oscar-winning MP said. As Tory jaws dropped in collective amazement, Glenda used the absence of her colleagues to give full hand-wrenching and arm-waving draws to her performance. No script, no notes on display as she staved a word perfect demolition of the Thatcher era.

Everything she had been taught to regard as a vice like greed, selfishness, no care for the weak, sharp elbows, sharp knees, was, under Thatcherism, a virtue, she said. By now, even the slower Tories had caught on and portly figures rose to their feet demanding action from the Speaker who seemed pleased to have one of the better seats for the performance. 

"What concerns me is the I'm beginning to see possibly the re-emergence of that total traducing of what I regard as being the basis of the spiritual nature of this country",

she said, refused to bow, and sat down.