Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

2,000 guests invited to Margaret Thatcher funeral in London

A portrait of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is left next to floral tributes outside her residence in Chester Square, London
A portrait of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is left next to floral tributes outside her residence in Chester Square, London
Police officers stand guard next to floral tributes outside Baroness Thatcher's residence in Chester Square, London
Police officers stand guard next to floral tributes outside Baroness Thatcher's residence in Chester Square, London
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 08:  People sitting next to graffiti displaying the message 'Coal Not Dole' celebrate the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Brixton on April 8, 2013 in London, England. Lady Thatcher has died this morning following a stroke aged 87. Margaret Thatcher was the first female British Prime Minster and governed the UK from 1979  to 1990. She led the UK through some turbulent years and contentious issues including the Falklands War, the miners' strike and the Poll Tax riots.   (Photo by Danny E. Martindale/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 08: People sitting next to graffiti displaying the message 'Coal Not Dole' celebrate the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Brixton on April 8, 2013 in London, England. Lady Thatcher has died this morning following a stroke aged 87. Margaret Thatcher was the first female British Prime Minster and governed the UK from 1979 to 1990. She led the UK through some turbulent years and contentious issues including the Falklands War, the miners' strike and the Poll Tax riots. (Photo by Danny E. Martindale/Getty Images)

Details of more than 2,000 guests being invited to Baroness Thatcher's funeral were issued today - including all her surviving former Cabinet ministers, world leaders, and Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson.

Fresh information about the ceremony at St Paul's Cathedral was released as Lady Thatcher's old political adversary Lord Kinnock revealed he would not be attending.

Ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Nancy Reagan have also said health problems will keep them away.

Argentina's president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has been left off the list after a series of provocative comments about the Falklands.

Number 10 said the guest roster had been drawn up by Lady Thatcher's family and representatives with the assistance of the Government and the Conservative Party.

More than 2,000 invitations are expected to be sent out tomorrow, with a total of 2,300 people set to pack St Paul's.

A spokeswoman said: "Those invited include family and friends of Lady Thatcher, those who worked with her over the years, including all surviving members of her Cabinets, former Chiefs of Staff, Conservative associates, peers and MPs, members of the Cabinet, members of the Order of the Garter, members of the Order of Merit, foreign associates and dignitaries and representatives from the wide range of groups she was associated with.

"In agreement with Lady Thatcher's representatives, around 200 states, territories and international organisations are being invited to send an official representative to the funeral service.

"We have invited those countries and institutions with whom we have normal diplomatic relations. In addition, there are invitations being made in a personal capacity to some current and former world leaders as well as others from overseas who had a close connection to Baroness Thatcher."

According to Downing Street, confirmed guests so far include Sir John Major, Tony Blair and wife Cherie, Gordon Brown, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, former South Africa leader FW de Klerk, and novelist Lord Jeffrey Archer.

Singer Dame Shirley Bassey, composer Lord Lloyd-Webber and broadcaster Sir Terry Wogan are also due to attend the service, which will begin at 11am after Lady Thatcher's body has been transported from Parliament with full military honours.

But it is understood that comedian Jim Davidson, a prominent Tory supporter during the 1980s, is not being invited.

A representative of former South African president Nelson Mandela - whose ANC Lady Thatcher once described as a terrorist group - has been asked.

Lord Kinnock's office said he had already accepted an invitation to a service on Wednesday for a friend who died shortly before Lady Thatcher.

"He will not be attending because a councillor in his old constituency died a few days before Lady Thatcher," a spokeswoman said. "He promised he would got to the funeral. He will be in Wales."

Lord Heseltine, who effectively forced Lady Thatcher out of office by mounting a leadership challenge in 1990, will be there with his wife, according to his office.

Downing Street confirmed Ms Kirchner was not on the list, but said Argentina's ambassador to the UK could come.

As it was not a state funeral, protocol only dictated that a representative be invited from every country with which Britain has normal diplomatic relations, a spokeswoman said.

The dress code for the event gives guests the option of "Full Day Ceremonial without swords", "Morning Dress (Black Waistcoat and Black Tie) / dark suit", or "Day dress with Hat".

It also specifies that "medals and decorations" may be worn.

The invitations will be colour coded depending on the importance of the guest. VIP versions are white with red or green stripes and recipients will be seated under the dome of the cathedral.

Other colours designate different areas of seating.

Meanwhile, David Cameron has described some reaction to Lady Thatcher's death as "pretty distasteful".

The Prime Minister said he thought the majority of national feeling was to grieve for the loss of a great leader, but conceded that sections of society did not agree.

Speaking on a visit to Derby as campaigning got back under way ahead of key local elections next month, Mr Cameron said: "I think the overwhelming sense across the country, and you can see it yesterday in the House of Commons, is that we are mourning the loss of someone who gave a huge amount to this country, that was an extraordinary leader.

"I think that is how the overwhelming majority of people feel.

"Of course, some people won't agree with that but I think that some of the scenes we have seen are frankly pretty distasteful, but people should be responsible for themselves."

Labour confirmed that it had resumed political campaigning after a pause to show respect for Lady Thatcher.

Mr Cameron also defended the decision to recall Parliament, even though MPs were due to return to Westminster on Monday.

"I thought it brought the Parliament together, it brought out the best in Parliament and I think it was part of a fitting send-off to our first ever woman prime minister," he told Sky News's Boulton & Co programme.

Asked about reports that Speaker John Bercow had been taken aback by the request to bring back MPs, he said: "The request was made and the Speaker granted it and that's why Parliament was recalled."

It is understood that Labour will not oppose a motion being tabled to delay Parliament's sitting on Wednesday and cancel Prime Minister's Questions.

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