In the punk wars they once asked Johnny Rotten what he was going to do about the state of the UK. His reply was ‘make it worse’.
It’s a nightmare thought but was the political anti christ and the enemy without, Margaret Thatcher the product of punk rock?
It’s a terrifying thought but one that holds some water.
She even looked like a weird cross between Malcolm Maclaren and Johnny Rotten, with Malcolm’s frozen bouffant and Johnny’s plea for individualism exaggerated out into a whole political ideology.
It’s been a nagging fear for years but was Margaret Thatcher the one true legacy of punk rock?
It seems an outrageous thing to say, because surely we thought we were all fighting in the other corner but somehow some of the DNA of punk seems to have mutated into the gross miscarriage of politics that framed and dominated the UK in the eighties. Was Thatcher, rising like a demented misappropriation of the powerful and iconic women in punk and with her deep understanding of the power of image and her hair curiously frozen into that Malcolm style bouffant and her skill at the sneering soundbite and her Johnny style contemptuous put down of questions, her mad, staring eyes and her call for the individual and the power of DIY- make your own culture, and her Sid Vicious style contempt of society – a bizarre by product of punk culture?
Like some sort of evil monster rising from a well meaning cultural shift, was Maggie Rotten the first punk rock prime minister? It’s the stuff of nightmares but there is always that lingering doubt that we may just have fucked up.
It’s an argument that journalist Neil Davenport certainly believes in, saying that, ‘But Thatcher and Punk had something in common: they expressed a searing hatred for the statist, social democratic consensus of the 1970s. Don’t forget John Lydon compared 1970s Britain to communism and preferred the United States rugged individualism. Ditto Thatcher’s belief in individualism chimed with young punks hatred for the masses. Of course, that’s not the entire story of punk, but Thatcher and Punk were unlikely bedfellows in their rebellion against the postwar, statist settlement.’
Of course there are, hopefully, lots of holes in this argument and, perhaps, it ultimately does not hold true but it’s a powerful statement that wakes us up from our smug, sleep walking sentiment of the rose tinted days of punk and that our memories were not quite as cut and dried as we like to think.
In 2013 punk has become as much part of the fabric of British culture as Thatcher and their fates have become entwined. For every Crass attempting to create some sort of last stand of the hippies idealism there were many others sneering at the ‘hippies’ and the ‘freaks’ in the middle of the punk storm, for every well meaning statement there was a cynical after taste.
Of course punk is far too complex to be labeled one thing and we are certainly not calling punk a Tory movement but we are wondering if it created the right sort of conditions and cynicism for the political Frankenstein of Thatcher to rise. Was Thatcher the first punk p