Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Thatcher found Finchley perfect fit as MP and PM, deeming it 'one of us' enough

Growing up in the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher appeared inescapable and inevitable – growing up in the 1980s in Finchley, even more so.
Way back when, in callow childhood days even before forming the righteous – if juvenile – opinions of youth, the fact she was Britain’s first female prime minister meant little.
More significantly, she was not only prime minister – but, well, the prime minister.
Most often, that formidable personality came not only via TV screens – on BBC1 at Six or Nine O’Clock, on BBC2 otherwise – but often in front of pale blue walls. 
(Just imagine the CGI effects modern-day movie directors might apply.)
Then that Spitting Image monster loomed even more terrifying than Terrahawks, and only more convincing for competing with June Whitfield’s rather more anaemic impression on Radio 2’s Huddliners.
This North London boy never had the pleasure – sorry, disgrace – of being told off at school for pelting snowballs at the visiting prime ministerial limousine, a younger brother indulging instead.
Little time went by, though, without wandering through Finchley and noticing rings of steel suddenly surrounding a school or church hall no other MP could even dream of needing.
Yet ‘only’ seven years after Mrs Thatcher’s resignation as prime minister – and five after her succession in Finchley by prim, personality-free, researcher-pursuing Hartley Booth – somehow the constituency just about turned red.
Not only did Finchley fall in the most unlikely – and indicative – of gains for Tony Blair’s New Labour that was admittedly in thrall to Thatcher, but to an old-leftie lecturer in Dr Rudi Vis, who turned up to the count with no victory speech planned.
The Thatcher shadow still loomed, even if she no longer made local engagements with the assiduity of 1959 onwards and regularity even when loftier calls of state demanded.
Grantham may dominate the eulogies, Orgreave – and many similar others - the excoriations, but this stolid and respectable, stealthily aspirational North London suburb feels a suitable fit too.
Why, the current incumbent MP Mike Freer, returning the constituency to true blue after 13 years of the late Dr Vis, previously led Barnet council with a privatising – and, among local authorities, pioneering - zeal of a very Eighties flavour.
The so-called ‘easyCouncil’ approach seeks to shred social services and libraries to barely minimal efforts – and cost – so long as council tax increases remain low or even non-existent.
Mrs Thatcher may have found, in Finchley and far beyond, electoral prospects boosted by playing on patriotism, homeliness and alleged rectitude - yet also self-interest and greed.
For all the shrill hysteria of those who opposed, she did prove equally and expansively popular as well, perhaps thanks to many motives ambitious even if others might be more ambiguous.
Now this ‘Thatcher’s child’ suspects she would waste little time worrying about all those offending her admirers by celebrating her demise.
After all, one of her most striking and telling inquiries tended to concern whether anyone she met could be classed as ‘one of us’.
(And if not - ah, who cares...?)

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