Margaret Thatcher, 1925 – 2013

THE timing was perfect. Midway through Q&A, on a show populated for the most part with panelists devoted to the vacuities of modern feminism, compere Tony Jones announced that Margaret Thatcher had passed away, and for the briefest moment the assembled tongues fell still.

Then The Whore with a book to flog broke the silence.

If only she had known, she said, she’d have brought the champagne.

Not to be outdone at her own game, the panel’s older peddler of outrageous self-promotion attempted to counter, but it was no good. Those synapses devoted for so many decades to quip and quote refused to fire, and the best sound-byte insight The Icon could muster was a pathetic meander through some semi-coherent theory of the British Establishment’s plot to reduce a former Prime Minister to speakers’ circuit penury.

It wasn’t anywhere near so attention grabbing as another of her assertions, that the West must address its own genital mutilations before contemplating Islam’s, but give her some credit for effort. She is old, it was late and the dash from England for some worshipful attention by the ABC and the inking, perhaps, of a fresh contract with Fairfax may well have been taking its toll.

From the others, with one exception, the reactions were no more edifying or enlightening.

The Indigenous Diva subscribed to the view that Lady Thatcher had it easy for not having been born black, or crippled, or with an additional ear in the middle of her forehead. The Internet Personality, having just excused Julia Gillard’s lies and corrosive incompetence, observed that the departed had been “divisive”. That is a terrible trait when found in a Tory, apparently.

Through it all Tony Jones nodded and smiled, raising not even a remonstrative eyebrow at the commercial slattern’s yearning for champagne.

With the exception of the Murdoch Columnist, those who had been  assembled into the evening’s ghetto of talking token heads could find almost nothing good to say of a woman who made her own way to the top, stayed there for far longer than expected, won a distant war and subdued at home a union army of economic saboteurs.

The reports say Baroness Thatcher’s wits failed her at the end, that she was drifting and vague, too far gone in age and decay to know or understand the country and the world she had helped to shape.

Gone she might have been, but even in her dotage one suspects the chattering of Q&A’s self-anointed would have penetrated the fog, so too the fact that only one of five panellists was prepared to say a sincere word in her memory. The others’ trade is in talk and the artful, nuanced poses that guarantee pride of place in an ABC booker’s Rolodex.

Hers was doing. That news of her passing should have drawn the lip service of such brief and bitter respect, not to mention The Whore’s cheap enmity, was the most appropriate farewell of all.

In life her strength and character drove the chatterers to impotent distraction. How appropriate to leave the local natterers from Central Casting in the same familiar state.

Roger Franklin is the editor of Quadrant Online

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