When former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died last week, she was lionized by the British and American conservatives, Cold Warriors and free-marketeers who saw her as a hero in the 1980s fight against global communism, Western decline and unions. But she was not well liked by the British punk movement of her time, and her legacy is still deeply controversial among British youth, liberals and more vulnerable classes.
A skit this weekend on "Saturday Night Live," believe it or not, nicely captures some of the 1980s tension over Thatcher in a (fake) documentary about a punk band whose lead singer becomes a Thatcherite. The punk movement was then at its peak, in part as a reaction against the larger conservative movement that Thatcher represented, and perhaps, at times, against Thatcher herself. It would be like Bob Dylan supporting the Vietnam War or Lady Gaga adopting Sharia law. It's funny, but it's also a reminder of the real and often tense divide in Britain over Thatcher's legacy.
I won't ruin the jokes by explaining them, although it's worth noting that Fred Armisen's cockney lecture about "parasites" and "taking it easy is what put this country into decline" is classic Thatcherism. In a b-side song, he endorses Thatcher's mission to defend the Falkland Islands from Argentina and encourages her privatize more state-run industries, which was deeply controversial at the time.
The video also features an appearance from Steve Jones, a founding member of the Sex Pistols.