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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.

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.

CharlMascara Wed 10-Apr-13 02:05:13

How is this AIBU?

vivizone Wed 10-Apr-13 02:08:25

AIBU to agree with him wink

TanteRose Wed 10-Apr-13 02:21:19

wow, brilliant writing by Brand!

in a way, I suppose, she was such a megalomaniac, her children probably didn't get much of a look-in...and her husband was an alcoholic so it must not have been easy for them.

but she always said that "family" was important, and of course, they had enough money etc. so I wouldn't feel too sorry for them smile

then again, as adults, the twins do have ishoos...stemming from childhood?

saulaboutme Wed 10-Apr-13 02:26:38

I agree with his feelings and impression she made on him. We're the same she and that's how it felt.
Well put

Springdiva Wed 10-Apr-13 08:31:32

Not a very lovabe person, MT, but no one mentions the days off school due to power cuts being on on a rolling timetable due to the dock strikes stopping coal arriving at power stations, the lack and shortages of certain foods due to same strikes and my DPs asking specifically for polish coal from the coal man because it was better quality and cheaper. So we didn't want british coal (the same as we want cheap goods from the far east today rather than overpriced british made ones). Hence the mines needed to close and the dock strikes had to be broken. Goods were never docked at british docks to the same extent ever again, they moved to Rotterdam, so thanks british strikers. Likewise British cars were poorly made, again due to workers and managers, so fall in industry due to many things as well as MT.

RB was too young to be aware of this, he should have spoken to his DPs first.

Springdiva Wed 10-Apr-13 08:32:25

I feel sorry for her DCs as much as I feel sorry for Prince Charles or anyone whose parent has hugely demanding job.

ubik Wed 10-Apr-13 08:36:16

Still, it's handy if your mum is PM when you get lost in the desert

HollyBerryBush Wed 10-Apr-13 08:37:05

So what he's saying is: working mothers are shite?

meditrina Wed 10-Apr-13 08:37:43


Mothers are meant to be humble home makers! Not work outside the home and have ambition/success!

That's where we're all going wrong.

chibi Wed 10-Apr-13 08:42:11

i look forward to hearing similar articles about male politicians oh that's right, i won't because no ever concern trolls men over their parenting ability or lack if it

whatever you think of Thatcher, her mothering abilities (apart from being private and thus wholly unfathomable) are easily the least interesting or important thing about her as a figure in british politics

bite me, russel brand, you tinpot greasebag misogynist, you

crypes Wed 10-Apr-13 08:48:18

Yea I agree with a lot of his article. I was a teenager when maggie came to power . I never thought of her as a feminist but probably like he said as a individual, a headmistress figure and a capitalist .when she was in power everyone was going to pay. Everyone still wants to make money out of the working classes.

LunaticFringe Wed 10-Apr-13 08:50:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

OnwardBound Wed 10-Apr-13 08:51:55

Wow, I sort of enjoyed reading this article and thought RB had some interesting and well thought out points to make.

But by golly, I felt exhausted by the conclusion.

RB really enjoys the sound of his own voice doesn't he. Why put something simply and concisely when you can make a florid simile or analogy...

Anyway, back to MT... I'll leave that to more politically minded posters to debate smile

FreudiansSlipper Wed 10-Apr-13 08:53:35

It is not an attack on working mothers, take in all that he has written, she lacked empathy he growing up as I did a thatchers child regognised this and felt sorry for her children and for us all who grew up watching her destroy so many people

melika Wed 10-Apr-13 08:53:42

Can't believe he actually wrote that.

chibi Wed 10-Apr-13 08:54:46

let's analyse her dresses or her hair next too late people already do

boy her reign as 3x prime minister must have been rilly dull and uneventful given that what she was like as a mum, or her dress sense is so much more fascinating


hackmum Wed 10-Apr-13 08:55:17

Some really odd responses here. The line about her mothering abilities - which is simply making the point that she wasn't a very warm person - is only a tiny part of the article. Most of the rest is taken up with the damage she did to the country. I thought it was very well-written and makes some excellent points. Never been a fan of Russell Brand, but this hits the mark.

One more thing, though, OP - couldn't you have just linked to the article? Copying and pasting the whole thing is a copyright infringement.

HollyBerryBush Wed 10-Apr-13 08:57:14

She wasn't a feminist - she didn't agree with all that malarkey at all. Equality is very different from feminism.

In 1979, for those around who do remember, we were a bankrupt country. She doggedly hounded the IMF to get our money back we'd been paying out to what was then the Common Market. Took her 5 years, but she got it back in 1984.

I suppose we'll never know, because life is full of what ifs. But I wonder what would have happened to Britain had she not been elected. I can't think of anyone else who would have stepped up to the plate and had the sheer tenacity that she had to turn the country round. Since her, all our Mps have been bland and mediocre, PMs much the same.

Nancy66 Wed 10-Apr-13 08:57:24

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

And hackmum is right - you should not reproduce the entire article, it's illegal.

ClaireDeTamble Wed 10-Apr-13 09:13:42

It's a good article although he is right, he's not as good as Mark Thomas wink

I think the point about the parties etc only taking place because of the sort of society she created is a good one, but that may be because I made the same point to DH last night.

Prior to Thatcher, the lack of respect and compassion for her family that is currently being demonstrated would be unheard of. I guess it just proves you reap what you sow!

Branleuse Wed 10-Apr-13 09:16:03

Brilliant article

Panzee Wed 10-Apr-13 09:19:49

I read this last night, I'd forgotten his writing is all style over substance. It doesn't say much really.

ClaireDeTamble Wed 10-Apr-13 09:20:03

Oh and she made being a mum part of her persona, so I think it is fair to comment on it.

There was an interesting interview with her on the BBC doc the other night, just after she'd been elected as an MP (one of only 25 women in parliament at the time). Carol and Mark were both there and the interviewer asked about her ambition to join the cabinet.

She declared that she would be waiting until the kids were older as she had enough on her plate raising them and being a back bench mp.

If she had never mentioned her kids in relation to her career it would be wrong to comment, but she did, so it isn't IMO.

Dawndonna Wed 10-Apr-13 09:24:23

He wouldn't have written it. It would have been ghosted
He is a fairly articulate soul with a documented passion for philosophy, I think you are being judgemental and rude.

As for cries of mysogeny etc. I honestly don't think that's the case. I think it's a well thought out, well written piece. He is stating what he felt as a fifteen year old and what he feels now. You have to, unfortunately take Thatcher in isolation.

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