troops marched, the bands played and the crowds applauded and cheered. Yesterday’s funeral saw Britain at its best – a nation honouring a historic figure who changed it for the better.
The very streets the funeral cortège rolled through testify to Margaret Thatcher’s impact on the United Kingdom. Look back to archive footage of 1979 and you will find the streets of Britain mirroring the malaise that gripped the country.
Strikers and pickets were scattered across the land, rubbish piled on pavements for weeks and tired buildings still bore the dirt from 150 years of coal fires.
The political consensus of managed decline meant that all this was to be expected, an inevitable sign of Britain’s post-war spiral into obscurity and decrepitude.
As the hearse and then gun carriage bearing the coffin trundled through London yesterday morning, the picture was very different. Gleaming new office blocks stand next to the cleaned façades of historic monuments, hosts to a population who even after a double dip recession enjoy wealth, opportunity and technology unimaginable in the 1970s.
The scattered hard left protesters in the crowd summed up the scale of the Iron Lady’s success. A revolutionary socialist movement which could once bring the country to its knees has been reduced to a small band of Trotskyites yelling slogans and booing. The fact they were free to do so, but that so few did, is due to the true popular revolution of the 1980s.
None of this would have happened if Margaret Thatcher had been the establishment arch-conservative portrayed by some media outlets.
In truth she was a revolutionary, not a reactionary. She toppled oligarchies and monolithic institutions wherever she found them — from nationalised telephone lines to the USSR. She understood that the free market requires us to challenge entrenched elites and oppressive traditions.
Yesterday was a historic commemoration for the Lady, but the revolution she began has only just begun.
Her prescient views on the single currency 23 years ago led to her downfall. They have now become the dominant position in her party and the country at large.
Many of those MPs who voted through her numerous reforms did so because they agreed with her analysis of the country at the time and they knew she won elections. I suspect many of today’s Conservative backbenchers have a deeper understanding of her analysis of politics in general – particularly those newly elected in 2010.
They are Thatcher’s children in upbringing and ideology – set on true devolution of power, rights and property to the people. We no longer need to imagine what Thatcher would have done in the Internet age – Douglas Carswell, Jesse Norman, Steve Baker, Priti Patel and other MPs are about to show us. I’m certain that Margaret Thatcher would have loved to see it for herself.
Mark Wallace is founder of the political blog, Crash Bang Wallace.