The ceremonial funeral of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was held in London today. A hearse and then a horse-drawn carriage conveyed her coffin two miles through central London to St. Paul’s Cathedral past a crowd of tens of thousands:
Well-wishers waved flags, both of Britain and the Falkland Islands, the British territory Thatcher went to war to recover after an Argentine invasion. They came out, they said, to honor Britain’s longest-ruling prime minister of the 20th century, a woman whose steely will is credited with rebuilding the country’s global status, accelerating the fall of the Berlin Wall and modernizing the domestic economy. . .
A private cremation was scheduled for later in the day.
Those economic policies, however, created opponents as well as supporters, and many had harsh words for Thatcher after her death April 8:
On a quest to slash waste, Thatcher moved to shrink the unprofitable state coal industry in Britain — sparking a violent, countrywide strike by miners that forever bored the year 1984 into the national consciousness. When the dust cleared, she had broken the back of once-untouchable unions and paved the way for a diverse and globalized energy sector.
In the decades since, communities like Newstead have paid the price.
All that is left of the mine that closed here in 1987 is a graffiti-covered pump station a few yards’ walk from a lonely train stop. No new employer on the same scale ever came to Newstead, leading to a rise in joblessness and a loss of community self-esteem. In a part of central England that has the feel of the American rust belt, some longtime residents have moved away or gone on welfare. On a recent afternoon, youths loitered outside the one corner shop still open on Newstead’s Main Street, talking of their futures as dead ends in the making. (Read the rest of the article here.)
On Saturday, hundreds gathered in central London to celebrate Thatcher’s death with songs and champagne, the Associated Press reported.
In this country, conservative politicians have eulogized the former prime minister as a resolute leader who refused to compromise, but Matt Latimer, a speechwriter for former President George W. Bush, writes that this is a misinterpretation of Thatcher’s character:
The truth is that Thatcher, as well as Reagan, compromised all the time, in ways large and small. On tax rates, on spending, on their approach to the Soviet Union. Before she became leader of the Tories, Thatcher was considered in some quarters a rather run-of-the-mill middle of the roader . . .
As a leader, Thatcher always wanted her way — who doesn’t? — but she had a more sophisticated understanding of governing than many of her current admirers. In her book “Statecraft,” she demonstrated characteristic certitude and bravado. But along with those came a pragmatism and flexibility that allowed her to be one of the longest-serving prime ministers in British history. “In forging a coalition to defeat one enemy,” she wrote, “we may have, at least temporarily, to deal more closely with unsatisfactory regimes which we have otherwise been right to criticize.” In other words, no leader gets everything he or she wants. What a concept. (Read the rest of Latimore’s essay here.)
For more on Margaret Thatcher, continue reading here.