It may sound unfair to say that Baroness Thatcher’s death is relatively unimportant in the greater scheme of things. After all, she was the first female Prime Minister of England, and certainly one of the most controversial and remembered heads of government in British History. Surely her life deserves recognition?
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, born in 1925, was originally a research chemist, before becoming a Barrister and later an MP. She was elected to Prime Minister in 1979, after holding the Education Secretary position in a previous government. Her Conservative party held the parliament for three subsequent terms during the 1980’s, enduring both economic instability and the Falklands War; problems that still exist today.
In her own time, Thatcher was controversial. She was given the title ‘Iron Lady’ by the Russian media, due to her dogged attacks on the Soviets. Her policies were viewed by many left wing MP’s as brutal and uncompromising.
Despite many strikes and power shortages from angry working class sectors, Thatcher’s government did seem to positively benefit the economy. This is how it seems from some statistics, though it’s not an easy thing to judge. But, even considering her importance when she was prime minister, did she truly deserve a £10 million plus funeral funded by the public, front page billing over the escalating tensions in North Korea, and a six-hour long debate over her life in the commons? Is an elderly ex- prime minister’s death truly more important than the threat of global thermo-nuclear war?
As an example, the last British Prime Minister to die was Edward Heath in 2005 of pneumonia. He was cremated at a funeral service attended by 1500 people, followed by a memorial service attended by 2000 people. The debate in commons over his life lasted only one hour.
The amount of media around Baroness Thatcher’s death seems absurd. The value of a debate session over her life is entirely lost on most people, and it seems to have only provoked outbursts of both hatred and passionate defence of Thatcher. In addition the public cost of staging the funeral, equal in honours to the Queen Mother, is simply not acceptable in these times of massive spending cuts to public sectors. Hague’s smug defence of the cost, suggesting Thatcher’s favouritism towards him, did the argument no favours.
The glorification by the Conservative party of Thatcher over the last few days, as well as the refusal of the Thatcher family to keep the affair private, has lead to an unfortunate backlash from angry members of the public. The chart ‘success’ of the Wizard of Oz tune ‘Ding Dong, The Witch Is dead’ and the violent outbursts at the parliamentary debates owe themselves as much to the Conservatives short sightedness as the public’s hatred for the Baroness.
Thatcher’s politics were controversial, and her attitude may have irritated some, but she was a strong Prime Minister in a time when, realistically, we needed one. However you feel about her, she deserves respect, especially now that she has died. However, the lengths to which the media and the Conservative party are going to in order to report her death are simply unacceptable.
If the Baroness could see the price tag on her funeral, I would imagine she would be turning in her grave, even though, generally, “The Lady is not for turning.”
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