Do you agree with Russell Brand on Margaret Thatcher - 'I always felt sorry for her children'?

(98 Posts)
vivizone Wed 10-Apr-13 02:00:51

Yes another thread on MT and I am sure there will be more.

I have always liked RB and remember when he also wrote a fitting article about Jade Goody after her death. Behind the spiky hair and OTT personality, I find RB to be a very intelligent individual.

Anyway, here is a brilliant (IMO) article he has written about MT. Absolutely spot on.

(I have also pasted the article here to minimise accusation of trying to get hits for the Guardian, haha.

www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/apr/09/russell-brand-margaret-thatcher#start-of-comments

Russell Brand on Margaret Thatcher: 'I always felt sorry for her children'
The actor and comedian recalls a bizarre recent encounter with the Iron Lady, and how it prompted him to think about growing up under the most unlikely matriarch-figure imaginable

One Sunday recently while staying in London, I took a stroll in the gardens of Temple, the insular clod of quads and offices between the Strand and the Embankment. It's kind of a luxury rent-controlled ghetto for lawyers and barristers, and there is a beautiful tailors, a fine chapel, established by the Knights Templar (from which the compound takes its name), a twee cottage designed by Sir Christopher Wren and a rose garden; which I never promised you.

My mate John and I were wandering there together, he expertly proselytising on the architecture and the history of the place, me pretending to be Rumpole of the Bailey (quietly in my mind), when we spied in the distant garden a hunched and frail figure, in a raincoat, scarf about her head, watering the roses under the breezy supervision of a masticating copper. "What's going on there, mate?" John asked a nearby chippy loading his white van. "Maggie Thatcher," he said. "Comes here every week to water them flowers." The three of us watched as the gentle horticultural ritual was feebly enacted, then regarded the Iron Lady being helped into the back of a car and trundling off. In this moment she inspired only curiosity, a pale phantom, dumbly filling her day. None present eyed her meanly or spoke with vitriol and it wasn't until an hour later that I dreamt up an Ealing comedy-style caper in which two inept crooks kidnap Thatcher from the garden but are unable to cope with the demands of dealing with her, and finally give her back. This reverie only occurred when the car was out of view. In her diminished presence I stared like an amateur astronomer unable to describe my awe at this distant phenomenon.

When I was a kid, Thatcher was the headmistress of our country. Her voice, a bellicose yawn, somehow both boring and boring – I could ignore the content but the intent drilled its way in. She became leader of the Conservatives the year I was born and prime minister when I was four. She remained in power till I was 15. I am, it's safe to say, one of Thatcher's children. How then do I feel on the day of this matriarchal mourning?

I grew up in Essex with a single mum and a go-getter Dagenham dad. I don't know if they ever voted for her, I don't know if they liked her. My dad, I suspect, did. He had enough Del Boy about him to admire her coiffured virility – but in a way Thatcher was so omnipotent; so omnipresent, so omni-everything that all opinion was redundant.

As I scan the statements of my memory bank for early deposits (it'd be a kid's memory bank account at a neurological NatWest where you're encouraged to become a greedy little capitalist with an escalating family of porcelain pigs), I see her in her hairy helmet, condescending on Nationwide, eviscerating eunuch MPs and baffled BBC fuddy duddies with her General Zodd stare and coldly condemning the IRA. And the miners. And the single mums. The dockers. The poll-tax rioters. The Brixton rioters, the Argentinians, teachers; everyone actually.

Thinking about it now, when I was a child she was just a strict woman telling everyone off and selling everything off. I didn't know what to think of this fearsome woman.

Perhaps my early apathy and indifference are a result of what Thatcher deliberately engendered, the idea that "there is no such thing as society", that we are alone on our journey through life, solitary atoms of consciousness. Or perhaps it was just because I was a little kid and more interested in them Weetabix skinheads, Roland Rat and Knight Rider. Either way, I'm an adult now and none of those things are on telly any more so there's no excuse for apathy.

When John Lennon was told of Elvis Presley's death, he famously responded: "Elvis died when he joined the army," meaning of course, that his combat clothing and clipped hair signalled the demise of the thrusting, Dionysian revolution of which he was the immaculate emblem.

When I awoke today on LA time my phone was full of impertinent digital eulogies. It'd be disingenuous to omit that there were a fair number of ding-dong-style celebratory messages amidst the pensive reflections on the end of an era. Interestingly, one mate of mine, a proper leftie, in his heyday all Red Wedge and right-on punch-ups, was melancholy. "I thought I'd be overjoyed, but really it's just … another one bites the dust …" This demonstrates, I suppose, that if you opposed Thatcher's ideas it was likely because of their lack of compassion, which is really just a word for love. If love is something you cherish, it is hard to glean much joy from death, even in one's enemies.

Perhaps, though, Thatcher "the monster" didn't die yesterday from a stroke, perhaps that Thatcher died as she sobbed self-pitying tears as she was driven, defeated, from Downing Street, ousted by her own party. By then, 1990, I was 15, adolescent and instinctively anti-establishment enough to regard her disdainfully. I'd unthinkingly imbibed enough doctrine to know that, troubled as I was, there was little point looking elsewhere for support. I was on my own. We are all on our own. Norman Tebbit, one of Thatcher's acolytes and fellow "Munsters evacuee", said when the National Union of Mineworkers eventually succumbed to the military onslaught and starvation over which she presided: "We didn't just break the strike, we broke the spell." The spell he was referring to is the unseen bond that connects us all and prevents us from being subjugated by tyranny. The spell of community.

Those strikes were confusing to me as a child. All of the Tory edicts that bludgeoned our nation, as my generation squirmed through ghoulish puberty, were confusing. When all the public amenities were flogged, the adverts made it seem to my childish eyes fun and positive, jaunty slogans and affable British stereotypes jostling about in villages, selling people companies that they'd already paid for through tax. I just now watched the British Gas one again. It's like a whimsical live-action episode of Postman Pat where his cat is craftily carved up and sold back to him.

"The News" was the pompous conduit through which we suckled at the barren baroness through newscaster wet-nurses, naturally; not direct from the steel teat. Jan Leeming, Sue Lawley, Moira Stuart – delivering doctrine with sterile sexiness, like a butterscotch-scented beige vapour. To use a less bizarre analogy: if Thatcher was the headmistress, they were junior teachers, authoritative but warm enough that you could call them "mum" by accident. You could never call Margaret Mother by mistake. For a national matriarch she is oddly unmaternal. I always felt a bit sorry for her biological children Mark and Carol, wondering from whom they would get their cuddles. "Thatcher as mother" seemed, to my tiddly mind, anathema. How could anyone who was so resolutely Margaret Thatcher be anything else? In the Meryl Streep film, The Iron Lady, it's the scenes of domesticity that appear most absurd. Knocking up a flan for Denis or helping Carol with her algebra or Mark with his gun-running, are jarring distractions from the main narrative; woman as warrior queen.

It always struck me as peculiar, too, when the Spice Girls briefly championed Thatcher as an early example of girl power. I don't see that. She is an anomaly; a product of the freak-onomy of her time. Barack Obama, interestingly, said in his statement that she had "broken the glass ceiling for other women". Only in the sense that all the women beneath her were blinded by falling shards. She is an icon of individualism, not of feminism.

I have few recollections of Thatcher after the slowly chauffeured, weepy Downing Street cortege. I'd become a delinquent, living on heroin and benefit fraud.

There were sporadic resurrections. She would appear in public to drape a hankie over a model BA plane tailfin because she disliked the unpatriotic logo with which they'd replaced the union flag (maybe don't privatise BA then), or to shuffle about some country pile arm in arm with a doddery Pinochet and tell us all what a fine fellow he was. It always irks when rightwing folk demonstrate in a familial or exclusive setting the values that they deny in a broader social context. They're happy to share big windfall bonuses with their cronies, they'll stick up for deposed dictator chums when they're down on their luck, they'll find opportunities in business for people they care about. I hope I'm not being reductive but it seems Thatcher's time in power was solely spent diminishing the resources of those who had least for the advancement of those who had most. I know from my own indulgence in selfish behaviour that it's much easier to get what you want if you remove from consideration the effect your actions will have on others.

Is that what made her so formidable, her ability to ignore the suffering of others? Given the nature of her legacy "survival of the fittest" – a phrase that Darwin himself only used twice in On the Origin of Species, compared to hundreds of references to altruism, love and cooperation, it isn't surprising that there are parties tonight in Liverpool, Glasgow and Brixton – from where are they to have learned compassion and forgiveness?

The blunt, pathetic reality today is that a little old lady has died, who in the winter of her life had to water roses alone under police supervision. If you behave like there's no such thing as society, in the end there isn't. Her death must be sad for the handful of people she was nice to and the rich people who got richer under her stewardship. It isn't sad for anyone else. There are pangs of nostalgia, yes, because for me she's all tied up with Hi-De-Hi and Speak and Spell and Blockbusters and "follow the bear". What is more troubling is my inability to ascertain where my own selfishness ends and her neo-liberal inculcation begins. All of us that grew up under Thatcher were taught that it is good to be selfish, that other people's pain is not your problem, that pain is in fact a weakness and suffering is deserved and shameful. Perhaps there is resentment because the clemency and respect that are being mawkishly displayed now by some and haughtily demanded of the rest of us at the impending, solemn ceremonial funeral, are values that her government and policies sought to annihilate.

I can't articulate with the skill of either of "the Marks" – Steel or Thomas – why Thatcher and Thatcherism were so bad for Britain but I do recall that even to a child her demeanour and every discernible action seemed to be to the detriment of our national spirit and identity. Her refusal to stand against apartheid, her civil war against the unions, her aggression towards our neighbours in Ireland and a taxation system that was devised in the dark ages, the bombing of a retreating ship – it's just not British.

I do not yet know what effect Margaret Thatcher has had on me as an individual or on the character of our country as we continue to evolve. As a child she unnerved me but we are not children now and we are free to choose our own ethical codes and leaders that reflect them.

Crunchymunchyhoneycakes Wed 10-Apr-13 09:25:24

I read this earlier, I thought it was pretty good in a slightly rambly kind of way(I believe he wrote it, he's a bright man). I understood the feeling sorry for her children thing to be his perception of her as a child - he saw her as a strict headmistress type rather than a warm mummy sort. It's interesting that then (and now probably) a woman has to act less warm or she will be considered 'too soft' or 'feminine' to be taken seriously. A female prime minister who brought a 'maternal' warmth and empathy(traditionally considered feminine qualities although not exclusive to women by any means) to leadership would be real progress I think.

noddyholder Wed 10-Apr-13 09:27:40

I love Russell

limitedperiodonly Wed 10-Apr-13 09:29:46

Was there a point in there somewhere? I'm afraid I nodded off way before the end.

Nancy66 Wed 10-Apr-13 09:30:21

Dawndonna - yes, but he isn't a journalist and he has a ghost writer.
I'm not being judgemental and rude. I'm being knowledgeable and realistic.

hackmum Wed 10-Apr-13 09:31:08

I doubt it was ghosted. It's quite usual for politicians to have their pieces ghostwritten but not, surely, comedians, who are used to writing their own material. A ghosted piece would have been blander and lacking in that distinctive voice.

Snazzynewyear Wed 10-Apr-13 09:31:52

I find him irritating in person but his articles for the Guardian are very good. He also wrote something good after Amy Winehouse's death. I assume they have changed the sub (or ghostwriter, if you're nancy66) who edits his work since then as his use of commas was awful in the Winehouse piece (which was otherwise great) but is fine here. <grammar pedant moment>

threepiecesuite Wed 10-Apr-13 09:34:21

I really enjoy his writing and agreed with many of his points of view. I was a Thatcher child too and a boring (in both senses) headmistress is exactly what she was to me.

Nancy66 Wed 10-Apr-13 09:35:58

hackmum - that's not true. Celebrities are ghosted all the time for newspapers.

willyoulistentome Wed 10-Apr-13 09:39:25

I do feel a bit sorry for them in that their very public Mum was so very publically hated by so many. That must have been hurtful.

awaynboilyurheid Wed 10-Apr-13 09:45:15

wish mumsnet had a like button sometimes, this is very good, spot on, especially the link with no such thing as society, which is essentially other peoples pain is not your problem, pain weakness and weakness is deserved, pretty much sums up all Thatcher dogma right there. Yet we expect society to pay for the funeral, wonder if anyone will be able amongst all the glowing speeches at the funeral to have a say for lives ruined by short sighted politics and yes many are old men and ladies of today certainly not seeing out their days at the Ritz but freezing to death of cold and poverty due to Thatchers legacy.

MrsClown1 Wed 10-Apr-13 09:50:02

Dawndonna - articulate soul! I wonder if Andrew Sachs would consider him an articulate soul! IMHO Russell Brand is a cocky twat along with Jonathan Ross.

chibi Wed 10-Apr-13 09:51:34

he also made a prank call to rape crisis

what a winner

JamNan Wed 10-Apr-13 09:57:48

I can't abide Brand but this is an eloquent piece of writing.

OP may I point out that it is frowned upon to copy and paste a complete article from another publication. It is a also a breach of copyright. By all means give the link and paste the first paragraph. Please consider asking MNHQ to edit you post.

adeucalione Wed 10-Apr-13 10:01:10

The 'there's no such thing as society' quote is always taken out of context - her point was that there's no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.

ChocsAwayInMyGob Wed 10-Apr-13 10:01:14

He wouldn't have written it. It would have been ghosted

No. I saw Russell Brand live, doing a two hour stand up show and he was outstandingly articulate, intelligent and compassionate.

If you'd just seen him on Big Brother's Big Mouth or just heard about the Andrew Sachs scandal, it might be easy for someone to assume that he cannot write as beautifully as this article suggests. But he has enormous intelligence and many aspects of his act were unrehearsed and spontaneous i.e hecklers, and making up commentary on that day's local newspaper.

I also do not think his article is anything to do with the SAHM-vs-WOHM debate. He is saying that MT's coldness made him wonder what warmth her children might receive at home, if any.

Dawndonna Wed 10-Apr-13 10:16:52

MrsClown1 You can still be rude whilst being articulate, take a look at this place! By soul, all I meant was a person.

WhoPaintedTheLion Wed 10-Apr-13 10:20:48

I do not see this as an attack on working mothers at all, but rather just a memory of a baffled kid imagining having Margaret Thatcher as your mother. It is quite weird to think about that. Being sent to your room by Margaret Thatcher. Having Margaret Thatcher make your rice crispies for you. Turning up to parents evening with Margaret Thatcher. Having Margaret Thatcher reading Peter Rabbit stories to you. I cannot really imagine anyone calling her mum, she was such an iconic figure.

It's such a tiny part of the article though.

OhLori Wed 10-Apr-13 10:25:40

I thought it was a rather patronising and insensitive comment of Brand.

As for the article, badly written too.

vladthedisorganised Wed 10-Apr-13 10:53:38

Lovely article.

KarmaBitch Wed 10-Apr-13 10:58:08

I read an article on Carol Thatcher many years back. It was just after I'm a celebrity... She mentioned that she often was left to her own devices as a child because MT was always so busy.

thebody Wed 10-Apr-13 11:01:39

Yet someone else who doesn't really have a clue about the state if the country in 1979?

I remember and totally agree with Holly. The country was quite frankly ungovernable, even my left of left wing patents acknowledge that.

Russell isn't a parent or a woman but a drug abusing nasty piece of work ( according to Katy perry)

He should shut up about things he knows nothing about.

How date he critisise any woman's patenting ability.

Jesus shall we all go back to the 1950s and stay at home?

ChocsAwayInMyGob Wed 10-Apr-13 11:03:42

OhLori- you think the article was badly written? I thought it was superbly articulate and head and shoulders above so much of the shoddy journalism and bile inducing commentary that we see today.

If you think this is badly written, then your standards must be unattainable.

MrsClown1 Wed 10-Apr-13 11:03:43

It just seems to me that someone can do something absolutely disgusting (Sachs/Rape Crisis) and because people have incredibly short memories, it is all forgotten about - hence the shit society we live in. I saw Andrew Sachs being interviewed about it and the aftermath and he said though he received an apology he said they could not be that sorry as they continue to do the same kind of disgusting things.

By the way, the article is shit and sounds like it was written in 1950!

ChocsAwayInMyGob Wed 10-Apr-13 11:07:16

*Russell isn't a parent or a woman but a drug abusing nasty piece of work ( according to Katy perry)

He should shut up about things he knows nothing about.

How date he critisise any woman's patenting ability.

Jesus shall we all go back to the 1950s and stay at home?*

He is a recovered drug addict, who works bloody hard at his recovery and has been clean for about 8 years. Katy Perry has never called him nasty in public, so unless you know her personally, this is conjecture. RB was not criticising MT's parenting skills, but WhoPaintedTheLion's post above explains it perfectly.

Again, RB is not doing the old SAHM-vs-WOHM argument. He is simply saying that MT did not strike him as maternal, more of a bossy figurehead and it was hard to imagine her being warm and chuckly at home.

bakingaddict Wed 10-Apr-13 11:10:56

I obviously have no idea what MT was like as a mother but I find it somewhat saddening that even now people cannot seperate successful woman from their working roles and the logic is if you have a high powered job you are a cold distant figure in the home.

Maybe, maybe she could put her 'Maggie Thatcher' persona back in the box and reverted to just being mum in the house, a lot like what the thousands of other high powered working mums must do across the country.

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