Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

The Legacy of the Thatcher-fest

Channel 4 News quoting unnamed cabinet minister:

We have had a Thatcher-fest and we will reap the whirlwind.

The Funeral has (as is the victor’s practice) attempted to rewrite history.  They claim that she was the greatest post-war Prime Minister, the First Women Prime Minister, and the longest Serving Prime Minister.  Have they over-played their hand?


She was a woman; Overall as a woman  I feel proud

This has been used by some as her principal claim to greatness. OK, so she was the first PM who Adam Hills could not call “a dick”.  But why is what is between your legs more important than what is between your ears? Did her anatomy make a real difference?

What about the first PM who was a scientist (might have been her), or the first (openly) gay Prime Minister, or the first (openly) Roman Catholic Prime Minister, or the first left-handed Prime Minister, or the first Prime Minister from Grantham?  Why do any of these categorisations matter?  Unless we can show why the categorisation is relevant using it as a claim to greatness is fatuous.

Provisional title for political biography


To be the longest-serving Prime Minister (in 150 years) your party needs to be able to defeat your opposition according to the electoral rules.

The opposition she faced was “formidable”:

  • 1979 – Callaghan – crippled by in-fighting and uncooperative unions
  • 1983 – Foot – A Pacifist who wrote “the longest suicide note in history” and would never win against Thatcher post-Falklands and who (after splitting the SDP away) only represented part of the opposition.
  • 1987 – Kinnock – Still struggling against the Left and only representing part of the opposition

The British Electoral Rules are kind to the largest minority:

  • 1979 – national swing from an unpopular struggling Labour Government of 8% meant 43.9% of the vote gave Thatcher’s conservatives 337 Seats and a majority of 44 seats
  • 1983 – national swing of almost 4% increased their majority to 144, even though the Conservatives’ total vote fell by almost 700,000.  The Conservatives with 42% of the vote got 397 seats.  The SDP/Liberal Alliance with 25% of the vote got 23 seats.
  • 1987 – slight decrease in vote saw the Conservatives lose a mere 21 seats.

So should she be revered as successful or merely lucky?  Some say that even the Falklands was a lucky recovery from a calamitous strategic mistake that triggered the Argentine invasion.

Yet, She got a funeral comparable to that of Wellington or Nelson – our “fallen warrior”.  Artillery by the Tower of London fired a salute once a minute during the procession.  The military escorted her coffin on a gun-carriage.  Her coffin was draped in the Union Flag – a distinction I thought was reserved for those who had served in the Military.  Aside from Churchill, no other Prime Minister has had a comparable funeral.  For instance:

Although Attlee had served in World War I, was badly wounded in the Mesopotamian campaign and was Churchill’s deputy throughout the long struggle against Nazi Germany, his funeral had none of the military trappings that we saw yesterday. Instead, barely 150 people paid their respects at Temple Church in Westminster, while the crowds outside were just 30-strong. The next day’s papers reported the event on the inside pages, if at all. And the television cameras were nowhere to be seen. Dominic Sandbrook, BBC News Website 18 April 2013

Channel 4 News reported that there were no eulogies at the funeral at her request .. but she had agreed to the ceremonial and military presence. It was planned in Tony Blair’s day and they claimed she was conscious of the comparison with Churchill.

Was Tony Blair in agreeing this largess to his old opponent / mentor looking to securing his own legacy?  A quasi-state funeral in Westminster Abbey Cathedral perhaps?  As Ken Clarke said on Channel 4, a precedent has been set.  Presumably other Prime Ministers (and First Ministers?) have also made pre-mortum agreements with the Government.  Perhaps a Freedom of Information Request is called for?

Bystander’s Banner:

If there is no such thing as society, pay for your own funeral

It cost more than £3.6M

Public spending on Baroness Thatcher’s funeral totalled £3.6m, Downing Street has announced.

About £500,000 was spent on ceremonial costs such as St Paul’s Cathedral and receptions after the funeral. A further £1.1m went on policing and security.

An additional £2m “opportunity cost” was for police officers who would have been on other duties on the day.

Lady Thatcher’s family paid for flowers and undertaking costs. No figure has been published for those.  BBC News Website 25 April 2013 No 10: Baroness Thatcher’s funeral cost taxpayer £3.6m

I find it strange that the Great Privatiser would be happy to specify a funeral that would cost the tax-payer so much.

At one moment, the television cameras framed Lady Thatcher’s funeral cortège against a lurid hoarding for a London wine bar. And in its way, that image spoke volumes about her legacy. Dominic Sandbrook, BBC News Website 18 April 2013

Has Cameron overplayed his homage to Thatcher – possibly to appease his right-wing?  The right certainly seem reinvigorated by this Thatcher-fest and more determined  to make this current administration more Thatcherite.

Playing the Thatcher card is unlikely to appease either the Thatcherites or UKIP, neither really trust him; they probably think that he is not really “one of us” and is a “bit of a pinko”.  After the last election he cast his lot, just as Clegg did and they really ought to see the coalition through – or resign.


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