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Irvine Welsh reveals ‘sympathy’ for Thatcher

Irvine Welsh was surprised at how much sympathy he felt for Margaret Thatcher. Photographs: Toby Williams

Irvine Welsh was surprised at how much sympathy he felt for Margaret Thatcher. Photographs: Toby Williams

  • by MARC HORNE
 

HER divisive ­policies transformed Scotland forever and inspired Irvine Welsh to write his incendiary debut novel Trainspotting.

The radical author held Margaret Thatcher responsible for unleashing a spiral of ­unemployment and hopelessness that led to Edinburgh ­becoming ravaged by heroin addiction in the 1980s.

However, the staunchly left-wing Leith-born author has ­revealed that when he finally came to face-to-face with the Iron Lady he found himself feeling pity and sympathy, rather than rage.

The novelist, who made his name as the enfant terrible of Scottish writing, has revealed he dined next to the former Prime Minister in one of ­London’s most exclusive hotels. Welsh, who once denounced Thatcher as a “jackboot stormtrooper of the Fourth Reich of the rich”, confessed to having an unlikely encounter with the Tory icon after staying up all night partying at a London nightspot.

He said: “I was f***in’ out of my box and we were coming out of the club Fabric, a bunch of us, and we decided we’d go to The Dorchester because it’s the most expensive breakfast in London. We were just out to annoy everybody.

“The four of us went there and Thatcher was at the next table, just with her minders and she looked over.”

However, much to his ­surprise, he found himself expressing pity and compassion for the ailing Baroness.

The 54-year-old told arts website The Quietus: “We thought, it’s Thatcher! Let’s get ripped in about this and that, but we just looked and felt sad.

“She just looked absolutely miserable, looking into this ­paper, nobody around. Just her minders. Lonely and f***in’ defeated.

“The feeling of pity that I had for her really surprised me. It was quite life affirming for me that I felt that kind of pity for her because I didn’t think I ever would.”

The writer, who is married to his American-born second wife Elizabeth, 31, did not ­approve of those who rejoiced at her death in April.

He said: “I thought this is a bit f***in’ sick, because the ­celebration of death is not a good thing.

“Fetishising death isn’t a good thing. You should be ­celebrating life and enjoying it and all that.

“I just thought it was such a cathartic thing for so many people who’d suffered under her policies.”

He added: “Cameron’s far worse, f****in’ Blair was worse, but she was the most kind of nakedly vicious.

“More honest and transparent than them. They are patronising wankers who come out with PR smarm whilst they are knifing everyone in the back. Whereas she was just like: ‘You’re scum. I hate you’.”

Welsh, once dubbed ‘Poet Laureate of the chemical generation’ due to his depictions of the misuse of illegal stimulants, confirmed he longer no relies on drugs for creativity.

He said: “Once you hit 50 you get to a stage where the hangover is severe and the buzz doesn’t hit you the same way. When the drug stops ­showing you something new it loses its appeal as an intoxicant. It’s like sports: drugs are a young person’s game.”

The Hibernian-supporting author admitted he never ­enjoyed smoking cannabis.

He said: “I never really liked pot. I just go to sleep. ­Occasionally it made me a bit giggly. It doesn’t stimulate my imagination; it dulls it.”

However, the former Heriot-Watt University student remains unapologetic about his previous use of amphetamines, opiates and hallucinogens.

The Scot told the American magazine High Times: “I’ve done speed, ecstasy, mushrooms and heroin, but I’ve never been a pothead.

“Honestly, if I were getting the same buzz off drugs the way I used to, I’d do them all the time. If I were starting over with a blank slate, I’d be doing drugs. No questions asked. However, your psychology and physiology change as you get older.”

Welsh has high hopes for the film adaptation of his 1998 book Filth, which stars James McAvoy as a corrupt ­policeman, who is about to be released.

However, he admits there were many problems with the 2011 big-screen version of his book Ecstasy, featuring a ­largely Canadian cast.

He said: “The flaws in it were obviously the accents, which irritated the f*** out of a lot of people because it’s Canadians trying to be Scots and it just sounds like Groundskeeper Willie. It’s kind of like me going in to a pub and ­doing a John Wayne thing and the barmaid talking back in the exact same John Wayne ­accent.

“It starts to get a bit crazy. It wasn’t my strongest book or my strongest material. It’s not in the same league as Filth. I mean Filth is the best British film since Trainspotting. It might even be better.

“I keep watching it back to back with Trainspotting to try to work out which is the best. I can’t split them.”

 

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