Anyone over the age of 20 will doubtless remember the hysterical outpouring of public sympathy which greeted Princess Diana's death in 1997. Sadly, none of us will ever be able to forget the throngs of mourners crying outside Buckingham Palace, the tacky tableaus that swamped the streets, or that Elton John song which was played so often its anodyne lyrics are seared into our consciousness for eternity.
Now imagine what would have happened had a bunch of anti-monarchists, opposed to the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by Diana and the royal family, clubbed together to buy a song celebrating her death. Say Airbag by Radiohead, or Always Crashing in the Same Car by David Bowie. If those anti-monarchists had wanted some genuinely visceral shock value, they could have chosen any number of songs entitled, simply, Car Crash.
Had this come to pass, and a song about road accidents scaled the heights of the Top 40, the BBC would have been obliged to play it during the Sunday chart show. After all, the anti-monarchists would have said, people had bought it, the chart show exists to convey the choices of the masses. But BBC bosses would have simply blanked it out, in fear of a mass mob descending on Television Centre and lynching Pudsey the Bear. The government would probably have got involved as well, to ensure there was absolutely no chance of the tasteless ditty being aired.
Why? Well, the censors would have said that decent, sensible people do not desecrate a person's memory in such a way. In Britain, a country rooted in respect and rationality, it's just not cricket to go around, quite literally, dancing on a person's grave.
So why should the death of Margaret Thatcher not be afforded the same respect? How can people seriously say it is okay for the BBC to broadcast Ding Dong The Witch is Dead on Sunday, even if the song reaches the top of the charts? The sole reason this song has roared up the rankings is because people want to mock Thatcher's death; it is simply an opportunity for people who hated her to exact some sort of childish, spiteful revenge.
That people still revile Thatcher, almost 25 years after she left power, is understandable. Thousands lost their jobs because of her policies, and it's still hard to believe that she ever thought the poll tax was a good idea. She imposed stringent spending cuts in housing and education, and one can argue that by deregulating the stock market, and encouraging people to be brutally selfish in pursuit of their goals, she sowed the seeds of Britain's current financial predicament.
Hitler, Mugabe or Jimmy Savile
But it's important to remember that Thatcher did some good things too. She allowed council house tenants to buy their properties, for example, and brought an end to the strikes which brought misery to millions during the 1970s. She may have been stubborn, and often wrong-headed, but she wasn't devious or maniacal. She wasn't Hitler, Mugabe, or Jimmy Savile.
With this in mind, perhaps the Thatcher haters should have a rethink. We've already had the death discos in Brixton and Glasgow, which ended up in looting and arrests. How much more mirth do people want to eke out of the death of someone who has been out of public life for a quarter of a century? And, for those who piss on the memory of dead people in search of kicks, how desperately pathetic must life be?
No sane person wants Thatcher's passing to receive the sort of mawkish hysteria that greeted Diana's death 16 years ago; such delirium would, in its own way, be just as embarrassing as the death parties which took place this week. But surely it's time for Britain to grow up and stop buying, streaming and downloading that creepy godawful Wizard of Oz song.
Thatcher's critics always argued that she was petty, heartless and vindictive. By celebrating her death, they are simply stooping to the same level.