Ever since the Poll Tax riots and Margaret Thatcher’s exit from Downing Street, the Iron Lady’s most fervent opponents have been talking about how they’d descend on Trafalgar Square the first Saturday after her death. Although a washout only in the literal sense, last night’s ‘celebration’ to mark the end of Thatcherism was nothing like the carnage of the 1990 protest. The crowd consisted of the usual few troublemakers, bemused observers, hurt miners and the anti-everything brigade. At the gathering’s peak (~7:30pm) roughly 2,000 seemed to be present:
Like the impromptu Brixton party, on which I dropped in earlier this week, many of the attendants were simply there to mess about and have a party. Dancing, drums and drink were in copious supply. But unlike Brixton, there were some political causes — the NUM North East branch turned up — and statements too:
The atmosphere made it easy to forget this was a celebration of an 87-year-old’s death, as opposed to a low-grade music festival. The police did a remarkable job, with a beefy professional presence — 1,700 officers according to one sergeant plus professional bouncers, with more shipped in throughout the evening — who did not overreact despite numerous provocations. This didn’t avoid the odd arrests and scuffles:
After four hours in the rain, it became clear the rumoured march of English Defence League/pro-Thatcher Millwall fans wasn’t going to act as a tinderbox. I headed into a rammed Whitehall pub to dry out. Whilst mulling over the Socialist Worker with a companion— discussing their tasteless front page and opportunistic ubiquity at every left-wing event — an angry middle-aged patron came over and starting berating the marchers:
‘My family was torn apart by Thatcher. My dad worked in a Nottinghamshire mine, but you don’t find me shouting and getting drunk in the rain. My family was ruined. Instead, I just put myself back into work, got on with it and made my own way in life.’
Unless a hidden rump of dissenters are saving up their energies for her funeral on Wednesday, the non-battle of Trafalgar suggests the direct action anti-Thatcher camp is now made up of a small number of lone voices.