Stephen Irvine, 20 March 2012
With Mother’s Day following suspiciously quickly in Valentine’s tawdry wake, I grudgingly decided it was high time for me to venture into my local branch of Clinton Cards this weekend – their ‘Because it Matters’ slogan a particular draw, even for the hardest of hearts. Having eventually plumped for a card with a picture of some roses up top and ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ in sweeping italics within, this just didn’t seem right; surely the special people in one’s life deserve better than obvious, ready-made sentiments that are so lacking in personality? They hadn’t even bothered trying with this one. And it cost me £5.99.
It was therefore with some delight that I learned how that notorious softy, the loveable Margaret Thatcher no less, was of the same persuasion, and was in fact setting the standard with her personalised Christmas cards all the way back in 1981. As reported by The Guardian this weekend, papers released by Cambridge University reveal that Maggie and Denis took their season’s greetings seriously, and if you were the kind of person the Thatchers felt was deserving, you could well be in line for a card emblazoned with an image of the lovely couple at Chequers, often with a personal message to boot. How pleasant.
So, amongst the mince pies, multi-packs of socks and Trivial Pursuit cheeses at Muammar Gaddafi’s compound in 1981 was a touching card addressed “To the Leader of the Great First of September Revolution.” That was of course the revolution that was to proceed “in the path of freedom, unity, and social justice, guaranteeing the right of equality to its citizens, and opening before them the doors of honourable work.” That wasn’t quite the way it was to pan out in Libya under ‘the Brother leader.’ Oh well, we’re all allowed an error of judgement – the rest of names on the ’81 Christmas list were probably all lovely people.
The inclusion of a certain Saddam Hussein throws some doubt upon that theory, and this doesn’t appear to have been the Iron Lady’s finest year in terms of character judgement. Unfortunately her message to Saddam wasn’t amongst the boffins’ revelations, but I’d like to think that instead of relying on the power of her pen, Maggie let her pressie do the talking. That would of course have been a copy of The Human League’s Don’t You Want Me, the classic track that was topping the Christmas charts in 1981, with Phillip Oakey’s haunting vocals reminding the barking-mad Ba’athist who was boss; ‘Now five years later you’ve got the world at your feet / Success has been so easy for you / But don’t forget it’s me who put you where you are now / And I can put you back down too.’
It wasn’t of course to be Maggie who put him down; his rule was to long outlive her own, but The Human League were right about how easy success was for Saddam, he certainly made sure of that. In 2002, as long as twelve years after Thatcher’s resignation, he won 100% backing in a referendum on whether his rule should continue for seven more years. That’s a ‘yes’ vote from every single one of the 11,445,638 eligible members of the electorate.
A pretty convincing victory then, and it’s clear that he had taken real inspiration from Don’t You Want Me back in 1981, as relations with Maggie and the West broke down and he was left to rule the county his own way: ‘But now I think it’s time I live my life on my own / I guess it’s just what I must do.’
It just goes to show – you should always be careful before pouring your heart out in greeting cards to new friends, as you never know quite how they’ll turn out. That’s all from me this week anyway; I’m off to post the Ba’ath Party the ‘Thinking of you on the anniversary of your leader’s Public Execution’ card I found in Clinton’s.