Historians are divided on the impacts of Thatcherism and what sort of Britons it produced.
On one side are those who view Thatcher’s Homo Economicus Britannia as a positive creation: a creature who thrived in the open market, success assured with the right mix of entrepreneurial savvy and raw hard work.
On the other side are those who say that Thatcher’s Britain produced a generation of sociopaths: unable to relate to their fellow human beings, cruel and single-minded, whose pursuit of their own self-interest could easily lead to calamity.
Mr Bean was a solitary man of few words. With an almost alien inability to relate to other humans, he instead found friendship in a brown Teddy bear.
Neither a successful High Street banker nor a hardened coal miner, as Thatcher’s labour market reforms kicked into gear, Bean moved between a series of low-paid jobs in London’s services sector.
But this didn’t bother Bean, who seemed resigned simply to drift through life. Realising his inability to influence the bigger picture, he instead focused his attention on solving the little things in life: purchasing the right toothbrush through trial and error, or changing into one’s swimming trunks without taking one’s trousers off.
On his meagre income, Bean made do – stealing Christmas trees helped. He even managed the occasional holiday.
So when people around him complained about the increasingly fractious nature of British social relations thanks to the Tories, he couldn’t understand what they were complaining about; what did it matter that wages were not keeping up with inflation when your only major expense was petrol for your Mini Cooper? Why would you care if family benefits were inadequate when your closest companion was a stuffed toy?
In ’92, largely just to spite the whingers around him, Bean resolved to vote to bring John Major back for another term. However, he never made it to the polling booth, distracted on election day by the task of running a blue, three-wheeled Reliant Regal off the road.
After meeting Queen Elizabeth, Bean became a staunch monarchist. Unlike many people, he never supported Charles’s marriage to Diana and stood by the Queen’s seemingly cold reaction to Diana’s death. When Tony Blair began posturing around the passing of the “people’s princess”, Bean was appalled, and strengthened his resolve never to vote Labour.
Today, perhaps for the first time in his life, Bean shares something in common with his fellow countrymen: a sense of confusion as to what David Cameron’s “Big Society” actually entails and what role he, a tweed-wearing man of thrift, who has never participated successfully in any society (let alone a “Big” one), is supposed to play.