So yesterday they buried Margaret Thatcher.
You may recall from my previous post – Ding Dong The Witch is Dead – that I am no fan of Maggie Thatcher. Yet, I have been worried and dismayed by some of the comments I’ve seen on the News and Social media on the internet. It seems to me that some see Thatcher through ‘rose-tinted spectacles’ while others hold her responsible for all evils.
Numerous conversations have taken place on my Facebook and all of them have been very interesting but overall the feeling seems to be that Thatcher’s funeral should not have had ten million pounds ‘lavished’ on it. There is a feeling of irony that the woman who is considered by so many to have destroyed much of the British industry should have so much ‘taxpayer’s money’ spent on a funeral that was, in all but name, a state funeral.
Despite my dislike of the woman and my belief that her biggest crime was making greed a virtue in Britain – something we Brits still live with – I have to say that I disagree with the voices of dissent about the cost and scale of the funeral.
Margaret Thatcher, it must be remembered by all of us who disliked her, was voted back into power numerous times and was the longest-serving Prime Minister as well as the first and only female PM. The public could have taken her out during any of the elections and didn’t – so somebody liked her and agreed with her policies. She was, by this definition then, a popular leader and it took her own party to finally oust her. The public never did.
What’s more, whatever she did that you or I might consider immoral or otherwise wrong, she was not alone. Her army of ministers, civil servants and advisors guided, helped and put into practice her policies. She was not one woman – she was the figurehead of an entire Government. A Government voted in by the Great British Public.
If blames lies with her, it also lies with all of us.
Such a historically important person then, should very definitely have a large and ceremonious affair for their funeral. I think it would have been quite wrong not to.
What’s more, when we think that there are around 30 million taxpayers in the UK (according to some figures and depending on how you define ‘tax’ – it’s higher than that with other definitions) so I make it that three people paid one pound between them to cover Thatcher’s expenses. That ignores the fact I believe her estate paid for some of it. That’s just over 30p folks! I give more than that to beggars in the street for whom I care little and know nothing of. I don’t think – really don’t think – it was unreasonable of us to pay this.
For the Tax year 2011-12 the UK Government took in 543 billion pounds in taxes. Billion you note please. By comparison, Ten million is a sniff. Thatcher’s legacy will be debated for years but there is no doubt that she was a major figure in UK history – for better or worse – and she did what she considered to be her duty with honour and dignity. She was no fascist dictator who should be reviled. This expense is not unwarranted.
Amazingly, much though it pains me to agree with a Church minister who was friends with the woman (something I deeply distrust), I find myself thinking that the Right Rev Richard Chartres who gave her address yesterday hit exactly the right tone. According to The Guardian he said:
“Today the remains of the real Margaret Hilda Thatcher are here at her funeral service. Lying here, she is one of us, subject to the common destiny of all human beings.” He continued: “There is an important place for debating policies and legacy; for assessing the impact of political decisions on the everyday lives of individuals and communities. Parliament held a frank debate last week – but here and today is neither the time nor the place.”
I agree. This day was a day to pay respect if you respected her. In death, at least, she was one of us. I don’t care how much you disliked her, she was a human being and had worth as a mother, grandmother, wife, daughter and person. Death is the one statistic that meets us all and in this funeral we remembered her as a fellow human being.
That said, this was a woman who was bigger than herself. She became an ‘ism’ as Chartres also said:
“The storm of conflicting opinions centres on the Mrs Thatcher who became a symbolic figure – even an ‘ism’.”
As I said above, we made her into this. We voted her back in (I refer to all British readers here of course). We gave her the power to do what she did. Her legacy is our legacy – like it or lump it.
So, despite the fact that those who protested did so with quiet respect (turning their backs on the coffin as it passed by) I’m not sure I even agree that was the right thing to do. I think the best way to have protested against who she was as a leader was to do what millions did – don’t attend or watch the funeral on TV. Let those who loved her honour her.
The rest of us can quietly respect her as a human being. But from a distance.