Has enough time passed for comment on the ‘service’ Queen Elizabeth granted England over 70 years? Probably not, but I’m not one to stand on ceremony.
My recollection is of a monarch who was, unlike her son Charles, devoid of relevant opinion on any subject. She had a neutral persona that allowed an adoring public to project upon her a range of fantasies that had little to do with reality. It was the secret of her success – she was as accommodating as a dress-up doll. I pity Charles for the obligation he will no doubt feel to follow suit.
I remind readers that Her Majesty was compliant in terms of Gough William’s dismissal – nothing to see there. She was also a bit rough on Princess Diana, but the royal spin doctors soon took care of that. The topic of Baroness Thatcher sticks in my throat though; I’ve long wondered how a shopkeeper’s daughter not only acquired a bigger plum in her mouth than anyone in the royal family, but became a member of the aristocracy bearing the Queen-blessed title ‘Baroness’.
I’ve been reminded of Thatcher by the new British PM, Liz Truss, who apparently was a fan of Thatcher to the extent of even aping her very clothing. Now she has further aped the Baroness by granting tax cuts to the rich and privileged in order to ‘stimulate the economy’. Some things never change, especially class betrayal.
One of the Baroness’ most aggressive measures in the ‘80s was to try to impose a ‘poll’ tax. Everyone was obliged to pay £10 tax, regardless of income or means. It was, in other words, an existence tax, a tax on being alive in Britain at that time.
So, I happened to be in England at the time the Falklands war broke out. I remember reading in the British press that Argentina had militarily taken over some islands off their coast, which Britain had long regarded as their own, part of their colonial empire. Press coverage was two or three paragraphs, meaning that no-one really gave a stuff; had never even heard of the place.
Enter dear Thatcher, who was well down in the opinion polls at the time. Suddenly apathy turned into confected outrage; nothing like an external war to distract the peasants, eh! A fleet commissioned by a second-rate power called Britain then confronted a third-rate power called Argentina, with predictable results. My enduring image is of an old battleship called the ‘General Belgrano’ being pursued and sunk, with the gratuitous loss of 300 plus lives. A sacrifice to the Baroness.
It was 30 years later that I understood this incident a little better. Older readers will be aware that Britain has long exercised military censorship via ‘D-notices’. For example, the Split Enz song ‘Six Months in a Leaky Boat’ was banned as a possible threat to morale. However, it was a documentary that was aired about five years ago that really lifted the lid on Britain’s military competence. Interviews with Argentine air force pilots revealed how much this third-rate power knew about Britain’s vulnerabilities; a total of 28 British ships were sunk, a couple courtesy of French-built exocet missiles. In other words, the hit on the Belgrano at a time when the war was all but over was simple old-fashioned vindictiveness – and seen as such even in Britain. Anyway, the Baroness in her various ways set back the feminist tide by a generation, demonstrating that fearlessness alone will not change the world for the better. Meanwhile I wonder whether Queen Lizzie awarded Maggie the title as a reward for killing on the high seas (long valued by Britain) or for their services to privilege and male ascendancy?