Jokes about Margaret Thatcher could well be considered old hat. She's history, many will say, move on. In that context they're right; why go on about someone who was kicked out of No. 10 by her colleagues when they saw the damage her beloved poll tax was doing to them?
However, every now & again, activists of a certain generation find it hard to resist a jibe at Thatcher. In the right setting, it goes down well. That may well account for John McDonnell's remarks at the GMB conference in Southport (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jun/07/john-mcdonnell-assassinate-thatcher-joke ).
Predictably, the Tory tabloids & the right-wing blogs are shrieking their outrage (strange how Guido Fawkes routinely refers to ex-Labour ministers as "tw*ts", implies that Gordon Brown has mental health issues & is fond of referring to female politicians as "totty", yet suddenly discovers a misplaced sense of morality with this story).
Let's get this straight: McDonnell's comments are pretty tiresome &, more woundingly, juvenile. Much as I loathe Thatcher for her record & legacy, I always knew that if someone, or some group, assassinated her, there would be no interruption of Tory policies. Another cabinet minister would have become Prime Minister & the policies would have continued apace. For all the jokes told about the 1984 Brighton bombing, most fellow activists readily accepted that; to use a good old-fashioned & clumsy phrase, the tactic of individual terrorism is inimical to socialism.
It's unfortunate that McDonnell has given the media a great big, juicy slab of red meat with his quote because he appears to be the only candidate for the Labour leadership who has a clearly thought-out alternative to the New Labour mantra of markets good, unions bad.
That McDonnell had next to no chance of getting anywhere with his leadership bid is blindingly obvious. The leadership will be fought over by three candidates (the Miliband brothers & Balls) who stand for a continuation of the New Labour "project". Enough to make any Thatcher disciple smile.