Wednesday 17 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher came dressed in the Union flag


I missed the Prime Minister reading the lesson at Lady Thatcher's funeral. At last, after geting bored by the same words from David Dimbleby over and over, I found the right button to click and got the funeral on the BBC. 

At least with funerals, you know there is a good reason for them, unlike weddings.

How beautiful St Paul's is and as unspiritual as a matchbox. 

So strange that someone as young as Mr. Cameron is Prime Minister, 
"an Eton boy grown heavy",
and that so many famous people in the congregation are so very old. Lech Walesa, old, white-haired, fat! Even Francis Maude seems like a very aged Tony Blair, and I well remember Angus Maude, FM's father. Ed Miliband looks out of place. The Queen and the Duke look frail and dogged like OAPs on an outing. Gorbachev was not invited.

Mrs. Blair (Cherie Booth) has the most plebeian mouth. She looks like a chairwoman and makes me believe there must be much in genetics. 

I speak as the son of a carpenter. My mouth is not plebeian and nor were my parents'.

Mr. Blair devised Lady Thatcher's ceremonial funeral, perhaps, who knows, with his own in mind.  I am not sure whether ceremonial funerals for politicians are a good idea and yet for Palmerston, Gladstone and Churchill state funerals do seem appropriate. Perhaps the trouble is that Lady Thatcher was so extremely divisive. But, in any case, funerals are not appropriate places for protests, especially the funeral of a democratic politician who has been retired for almost a quarter of a century and senile for much of that time. A funeral is a time for Christianity, forgiveness, dignity, respect for the dead and the feelings of the deceased's family and friends.

The threats of protests turned out to be like the threats to disrupt Pope Benedict XVI's state visit, mere words. The English are too courteous and respectful, whatever their feelings about Margaret Thatcher or the Pope.

The sermon by the Bishop of London was very good indeed. if only English Catholic priests were nearly, or remotely,  so intelligent. 

He reminded us that Margaret Roberts, as a young chemist, worked on developing the ice cream, Mr. Whippy. if only Messrs Blair, Brown , Clegg or Cameron had done something useful. He also told this story:

"Nine-year-old David wrote to say, 'last night when we were saying prayers, my daddy said everyone has done wrong things except Jesus. I said I don't think you have done bad things because you are the prime minister. Am I right or is my daddy?" Perhaps the most remarkable thing is that the PM replied in her own hand in a very straightforward letter which took the question seriously. "However good we try to be, we can never be as kind, gentle and wise as Jesus. There will be times when we do or say something we wish we hadn't done and we shall be sorry and try not to do it again… If you and I were to paint a picture, it wouldn't be as good as the picture of great artists. So our lives can't be as good as the life of Jesus."
This reminds me of my meeting with Mrs. Thatcher. I was 8 and my father had taken me to the Houses of Parliament. I strayed from him and got lost looking at coins on display on the walls. She found me, took me to my father and showed us various coins that were not on public display and then showed us the members' terrace. She gave us fifteen or twenty minutes of her time, though as Shadow Education Secretary she was a busy woman (famous too - I knew at 8 exactly who she was).

The Nunc dimittis.

"Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace: according to thy word."
The Daily Telegraph describes the funeral

I liked these lines:
For her last appearance on Earth, Margaret Thatcher came dressed in the Union flag.
It was the first time the monarch had attended the funeral of a prime minister since she paid tribute to Sir Winston Churchill in 1965.  
It is said that even with their backs turned, colleagues could tell when Mrs Thatcher had entered a room.

Peter Oborne said Mrs Thatcher was only in the same league as Attlee, who did not get a ceremonial funeral (this is what Lady Thatcher and the Queen Mother received). 

However, Peter got it wrong  - Attlee was primus inter pares, a true Prime Minister, meaning a true committee chairman, like Asquith. It is a mistake to give most of the credit to Attlee for the achievements of his cabinet, several of whom were much bigger figures than he was. 

Mrs. Thatcher was different, a dominant leader like Lloyd  George or Churchill. 

Apparently, a number of people have changed their profile photo on Facebook to that of Clement Attlee, which is an elegant form of protest. Edward Heath's picture would be even more elegant.

I do not particularly mourn Lady Thatcher, or do I? I suppose I do. Comparing her with her four successors, she looks very good indeed. Adam LeBor pointed out on his Facebook wall that had she stayed in office we would have intervened in the former Yugoslavia much much earlier, something I wish had happened (Enoch Powell and Simon Heffer were against intervention). 

In her time, I loathed her and I still think she was in many ways a failure. She presided over mass unemployment and the death of many industries, though now I am unsure if it would have been right to save them.  She did not rescue the cultural, academic and educational worlds from the Left. Now, with an historical perspective, I blame her for signing the Single European Act, for too much cheap credit and for failing to restrict immigration. She was indirectly perhaps to blame for the tragic mistake of devolution. I think she was indirectly to blame for the invasion of the Falkland Islands but think she would have won in 1983 even without a short colonial war. I blame her for the Anglo-Irish Agreement. But she did restore England's self-confidence. This was a great achievement.  And she did not have a prices or incomes policy. This was an immeasurable achievement. She did reverse our long relative economic decline. The changes her government made were, I imagine, responsible for the prosperity in Britain from the mid 1990s, for which her party got no credit. I wish I understood economics well enough to be sure. 

She did curb the state, in the sense that it would have grown ever bigger were it not for her, though she did not reduce it.  She was very divisive, she inspired hatred from many good people. She broke the trade unions and that was necessary, though she would not have done it had it not been for high unemployment. 

Everyone accepts free market economics now, while in 1980 Tony Benn said the victory of socialism was inevitable. Margaret Thatcher is part of the reason for that change, devoutly to be wished for. Those who fought everything she did, like Hugo Young, later turned round and said everything she achieved would have happened anyway. They should not be allowed to get away with this trick.


  1. On the question of Mrs Thatcher's 'failure', I will only say this: the London School of Economics - founded by members of the Fabian Society and traditionally a liberal/left institution - recently published a report on the UK economy by its Growth Commission. The report, co-authored by two professors of economics noted that the UK had declined markedly, relative to the US, Germany and France between 1880-1980. In the 80s, however, the UK's economy reversed that downward trend and began a 30-year period in which it outperformed those three competitors. The reason for that turnaround was the supply-side reforms brought in by the Thatcher government - reforms which, notably, Tony Blair did absolutely nothing to dismantle. Here's a link:

  2. She wasn't evil. Maybe Purgatory is very full of souls even like Margaret Thatcher.

  3. Some carpenter's sons have very good genes.

  4. Indeed. I am recognisably an Irish peasant yet some say I look very English.

  5. Loved the comments about Cherie Blair’s plebeian mouth and think that the Bishop of London gave the best speech I have ever heard from a clergyman in Britain! He is an amazing brain. I wish the rest were as good as him. The Archibishop looked and behaved like a deacon!
    I loved the comment “ there is good reason for funerals unlike weddings”... you can say that again!! What a funny but so true comment!
    Best regards,

  6. Yes. The last Statesman. When the Queen and Prince Phillip are gone, the Last (King} and Queen will have gone.

  7. people said that when Churchill died - yet then we had Mrs Thatcher - and Enoch Powell might be mentioned in this context. The Prince of Wales will do very well. I usually disagree with Dan Hodges and like Melanie Phillips but here I have some sumpathy with Hodges. This is worth reading:

  8. Some say you look very English. Some say you sound very English too.

  9. "The Prince of Wales will do very well". Certainly he will have a lovely and Royal funeral. But alas does anyone pay him much attention in his life? I think he long ago came to like it that way. So I guess it's all good.