An anti-tribute to the lasting scar of Thatcherism,
on the death of its namesake, 8 April 2013
Tongue to tongue the new-strung language
Wound in ambages
Incomprehensible to some,
Untranslatable to teeth ground down
To candle-stumps
Congealed in red-wax seals of bleeding gums
Rose red blood undone
Between teeth and tongue
Slid coinages
Palm to palm
Crumb to crumb
As Tories and evangelists
Held euphoric Eucharists
Bodies into bread
Sharp teeth into Tongues
Totems of torches and tambourines
Insurmountable symbols
Bitter-tasting medicines
To apostates and unbelievers
Socialists and obsoletes
Neither ways held aught solutions
For all those in material need
In the age of “respectable greed”
At those ecstatic rallies unfathomable banners hung
Forbiddingly like blue-midnight Berlin drapes beneath
The giant flaming torch of that ethical occult who called
Themselves ‘Conservatives’ –what did that mean? To
Conserve? Conserve what? –or Tory, that chimed with Torah,
But derived from the Irish word Tóraidhe, meaning outlaw,
Robber or brigand, from the Irish word tóir which denoted
Pursuit, or pursued men –but it was us who were being 
Pursued, hunted down by fence-posts of manifestos, all 
Those who did not agree with the fractious rhetoric, 
The uncompassionate dialectic, the grasping pursuit of profit, 
The serpentine shibboleth of entrepreneurialism, the cryptic 
Sanctification of ‘animal spirits’ in competition, semantic 
Daggers poking through the closing cloak of the young-up-
And-coming cut from the cloth of an ancestral Right Club, 
Oral sacraments in the ranting choruses of a new Capitalist
Magnificat, catapulted from contrapuntal tongues of youth’s
Teutonic apprentices, blond boys in razor-sharp suits who
Seemed so furiously free –if so free, why so angry? Free
To be shopkeepers, bank managers, loan sharks, anything 
They wanted or could imagine within the artificial limitations
Of material reality, their cash-card authenticity –
From what some of us could see, this ascendant fiscal faith
Thrust self-interest, greed, one-upmanship and wolfish
Opportunity to the fore; no mercy for those who refused to
Succumb, to race to worship at the altar of this intractable
Tract of attitude, “Thatcherism”, as it came to be called –
After its shop-proprietor, Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Oxford-
Finessed daughter of a grocer from Grantham who thought in
Victoriana –Her creed made greed “respectable” again;
And those who still spoke in the obsolete tongue of One
Nation, community, social cooperation –all such dissenters
And recusants still touched by the symptoms of a more
Compassionate post-war consensus, were persecuted in
Spirit by Thatcherism’s snatching atmospherics –it
Represented not a ‘change of heart’, but a faulty transplant…
There was something primal in that almost-hysteria 
At those highly charged rallies as those that had fifty or 
So years before intoxicated the national neuroticism 
Of Thirties Germany to the rumbustiously choreographed 
Fascist ranting of a gassed Austrian Corporal who’d won 
The Iron Cross, and coasted homeless from doss house 
To soap box, and those flaming torches throbbing in 
Nocturnal marches goose-stepped through evening streets 
In Nuremberg; something of that harsh rationalism so 
Disposed to irrational demagoguery at those cornflower 
Conferences of the Eighties –the stacking waves of blue, 
The muscularly flexing blue flag trumping the red, sailing 
Obstreperously in the conditioned air by the hand of that 
Ferocious lioness of rhetoric with her mane of lemon-
Meringue hair – that snarling, intractable, matriarchal totem…
At these rallies, designed to intimidate all Opposition,
After the spokespersons had extemporised their raptures,
All waved frantic Jacks, singing ‘I Vow to Thee My Country’,
Cecil Spring Rice’s insipid lyric to the pastoral passage
From Gustav Holst’s ‘Jupiter’, which the composer had
Christened ‘Thaxted’, after the Essex village where he
Had sojourned in a socialist community congregated round
Conrad Noel, the ‘Red Vicar’ –Holst must have been turning
In his orbit as these Tories milked his composition for
Empty patriotism; sometimes they’d even thump out Blake’s
Revolutionary anthem ‘ Jerusalem ’ to the mawkish strains
Of Hubert Parry’s hymnodic score, ‘And did His feet/ In
Ancient times/ Walks upon England ’s mountains green…’
In puerile interpretation, but symbolic transplantation…
Those Thatcherites spoke in a collective Glossalalia,
A new Tongue which only they understood, at least,
Initially, but one which was to prove infectious to many,
As a virus, a germ spreading its contagion rapaciously
In the blue heat, intoxicating communities with carrots
Of Right-To-Buy schemes, while yuppies and guppies glorified
Gerunds, ‘enterprising’, ‘capitalising’, buoyed on endorphins
Of opportunism, speculation, filofaxes and portable phones,
Their ideological emblems… Oh there were some who
Could not brook such bare-faced avarice and acceleration
Of get-rich-quick rat races at the expense of the less
Materially resilient –for those socialistically inclined
Recusants none of it echoed any moral commonality,
But blared like hunting bugles in the ears of numbers-blind
Urban foxes, roared its gory fanfares of fiscal fallacy
And grab-all amorality, offended deep-held convictions
Of so many who then were without a voice for all the clamour
Of venal ventriloquy; and while socialism was in decline
After discontented winters (germinating new national
Mythology of union bogeymen and closet-Trotskyite
Kite-like closed shop stewards with views as narrow and thin
As their ironic pencilled moustaches –perceived as spivs
Of industry, red rackets), the general choice of contrapuntal
Moralism, not opposition but distraction from the new
Rampant materialism, was in resurgent Evangelicalism,
The “Born Again” Christians, trooping on their Make Way
Marches through knotted Cornish fishing villages, rustling
Tambourines, or in the cities, thumping their Bibles in grubby
Faces of the cardboard faithless, or rejoicing “He Lives” in
A society where “He”, above all others, would have been
Calling for a faithful opposition to the blueing tide of greed…
But seemingly His followers, his modern-day evangelists,
Contemporary apostles and apologists thought it best
To celebrate his Word in rustic chapels with priests in neck-
High cardigans strumming guitars to congregations clapping
Their hands, holding up their palms to grasp at Godly energies
Generated in the body-heat of epileptic chapels, blood-
Bone-sinew believers, eyes shut, smiles of beatific, almost
Sexual glee beaming wide across their believing faces,
Raptures of waving palms; and in the auditoriums,
Conference centres and Billy Graham rallying stadiums
Sometimes the atmosphere would be so charged with religious
Energy and wild spiritual abandon that many mouths
Would start erupting into Tongues, splurge forth Glossolalia,
The holy language of God, untutored to human ears,
Apparently untranslatable, but somehow tapped spasmodically
At such ecstatic gatherings, a deeply embedded babble,
A gabbling incomprehensibility, whose otherworldly aural
Whorl made more reluctant Christians inwardly shudder,
Which seemed to release –or unleash– energies more primal
Than scriptural –Was this religion? was this the oil of God?
The chemical of faith? Was religious ecstasy supposed to be
So psychically orgiastic? Was religion the new orgasm?
A rapture ectopically tapped far from merely physical
Erogenous zones –but from some pineal gland? Apostates
Felt almost instinctively that whatever this language was,
It wasn’t God’s –not the idiom of the Almighty, but more
Like some sort of argot of a demigod, or demiurge, some
Strange and not altogether benign spiritual entity that
Magicked up this grotesque world for metaphysical sport,
A kind of trickster or sub-deity whose disobedience
Had brought us forth, a rogue, rebellious spirit-tóir who
Particularly delighted in deceiving us into believing
Its shibboleths, like those Tory tongues’ “individualism”,
“Aspiration”, “self-interest”, “initiative”, “enterprise”,
“Privatisation”, “free market”, “monetarism”, the new
Torque tenets of history, the torches of teleology,
Lighting the way into powerful futures, the will to power,
The triumph of the till over the human spirit –and like all
Sinister minor gods, it told us in deep-seeding whispers
To reject compassion and philanthropy, embrace capital and
Property, to go for “dog eat dog” over the underdog…
While all the time the smoky, pug-faced Old Labour God 
Puffed his pipe, his large pale eyes frowning down 
Disappointedly at just how swift the swing from Left to Right 
In the blink of a milk-snatcher’s eye, in terms of time; how 
Quick the dancing hands spread palms then closed them tight
On their new gains, and grasped still more for whatever
Else was in their reach –and soon the new Tongue, the strange
Glossalia of energies and animal spirits emitting
Indecipherable pheromones through every pore of politics,
Germinating in the new white heat of angular collars and
Paisley-patterened ties, compassion no longer in fashion,
Apache hair and corduroy flares scythed away to layered
Styles and tapering chinos, gloss and gaudiness, the new
Ergonomics for well-oiled ogres of self-gain; a grab-it-all
Bacchanalia overcame the nation, but there was no one
To blame, at least visibly, for this harsh and charmless abandon –
Those made poor or destitute by the behavioural change,
Subsisted on diets of giros and Mogadon, Bevanite nostalgia
And the glucose shots of Militant tirades to appease their
Political desperation, packet meals to placate their rationed
Appetites, and for some, the occasional miracle of a charity
Hamper silently donated, left on the doorstep by the more
Sympathetic fringe evangelists, no strings attached, only
Budget-brand salvations, and the tinned fruits of dialectical
Materialism arrested in syrups of acidic contradictions –
And all the time more and more waxed aspirational, spoke
In Monetarist Tongues, of bartering, profiting, sculpting out 
Opportunities from the prisons of others’ misfortunes, 
Parasites of free enterprise, while those brought low by shifting 
Tides and ostracised by scraping plates of priorities 
And consensuses, became microscopic anomalies in censuses, 
Scraped out subsistence from obscurity, strangers to 
Glossolalia’s golden tongues and silver handshakes; classless 
Skidders jolted out of place in the scheme of things, surpassed 
In status rapidly by blue collars now rinsed of solidarity 
With their fellow workers, their common tongue decommissioned,
Their allegiances deregulated, their industries gutted,
Their class-bonds severed in the grasping race for mortgages,
Now socialism, the anathema, first casualty of the epidemic
Spiel of “aspiration”, the mouse spun in a vertical wheel;
Those thrown to the bottom of the heap sucked on tinned substitutes
Of their labours’ shrunken fruits, as Tongues liberated brutes…  
Alan Morrison
Art: Claire Palmer



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