Journal column - 13/3/18

Erecting a statue of Margaret Thatcher would create work for repair teams who specialise in gluing back on the heads of toppled sculptures.


So let’s be honest and accept a figure of her would quickly become the most targeted effigy in the country’s history.


The cops would inevitably be kept busy chasing former coal miners seen running away from a pile of crumpled stone with sledgehammers.


The likely huge cost of a 24-hour armed guard couldn’t be justified to protect a 10-foot tall provocation to victims of her uncaring Toryism.


Back in 2007 I opposed the unveiling of a statue to Thatcher in the members’ lobby of the House of Commons where the Milk Snatcher casts a frightening shadow over visiting school children.


My objection then as now was political not personal: a cruel, divisive Conservative Prime Minister who inflicted misery on working class communities in North East England and elsewhere unworthy of the honour.


Millions of people would love to forget Thatcher and not see her honoured on a plinth.


The Thatcher statue hidden away in Parliament is made of tough silicone bronze to withstand a whack after an initial marble version was decapitated by a vengeance-seeker while on display in London’s Guildhall Art Gallery.


Commissioned by the then Speaker’s advisory committee on works of art, a protester in 2002 beheaded the £150,000 statue with a metal pole holding the rope around the base after the cricket bat he’d hidden down his trousers failed to do the trick.


I’ve heard people at the annual Durham Miners Gala suggesting more fitting ways of remembering her reign but I think it best not to mention them here.


Far better, I suggest, to spend the money on an NHS that proves the Labour socialist way of delivering health care - from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs - is cheaper, fairer and more effective than Tory neglect.


Or on this era’s young when she wasted a generation in the 1980s.  Improving the lives of retired miners and their families would be another smarter way of repaying Thatcher’s debt to communities.  Anything except a statue.


One of the reasons I became involved in politics in the first place, long before I was an MP, was trade unionism.


The idea of a decent day’s pay for a decent day’s work, that grafters by uniting are able to stand up for themselves instead of expected to shout “How high?” when ordered to jump by the likes of Thatcher.


I believe in fairness, equality, sharing prosperity, giving everybody a chance and the NHS, a cradle-to-grave welfare state for us all and strong trade unions.


Thatcher stood in direct and pointed opposition to all of these things.


Her errors continue to blight communities in a very real way to this very day.


And that’s why she doesn’t deserve a statue, with or without a head.


If Thatcherism was merely political history, if the policies she spent her life advancing, were no longer part of our everyday lives I’d probably still be against an adoring monument.


But we’re living with Thatcher’s legacy and in Theresa May an echo.  May isn’t as formidable as Mrs Thatcher but nor is she a clean break.  Let’s keep our heads and oppose that stupid statue idea.


Meet your MP


Stephen Hepburn has served the Jarrow Constituency as MP since 1997.

He was last elected to serve in June 2017 and won the seat with a conclusive 17,263 majority.

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