Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Queen to attend Thatcher funeral

Margaret Thatcher arrives at 10 Downing Street after winning the 1979 election

The Queen is to show her respect for Baroness Thatcher by attending the former prime minister's funeral next week, it has been announced.

The service on Wednesday will be held at St Paul's Cathedral, and is expected to be attended by dignitaries from around the world.

It will be the first time the Queen has attended the funeral of one of her prime ministers since Sir Winston Churchill died in 1965.

Lady Thatcher indicated she did not want the state event Churchill was granted, but will receive full military honours - the same status accorded the Queen Mother and Diana, Princess of Wales.

The details emerged as the country continued to reflect on the controversial legacy of its first woman prime minister. Labour leader Ed Miliband has "categorically" condemned a series of rowdy street parties said to be celebrating the demise of the Iron Lady - including one in Bristol where six police officers were hurt.

Tory MP Conor Burns, a friend of the former prime minister, said he was "delighted" that her opponents still felt so strongly. "The hatred that burns in their hearts against Margaret Thatcher is actually an enormous tribute to Margaret Thatcher, because she won," he told ITV.

Parliament has been recalled from its Easter break on Wednesday so that MPs can pay tribute in the chamber. But Labour backbencher John Mann questioned why they could not have waited a few days until recess ended. "I would have done it on Monday when Parliament reassembles," he said. "I do not know why we are wasting taxpayers' money on an additional session. It is perfectly valid that, when a prime minister dies, MPs can pay tribute, but this could be perfectly properly done on Monday."

Mr Mann said he would not be attending the session. "I will be at the dentist's," he added.

A senior Labour source dismissed suggestions that few of the party's MPs would turn up, insisting "large numbers" would be there. "Ed Miliband made clear his position yesterday. Lady Thatcher was a huge figure in British politics and the world stage," the source said.

Separately, Rupert Murdoch has praised the "brave leadership" of Margaret Thatcher, claiming Britain is "far more successful" as a result of her premiership. In an opinion column in the Times newspaper, the controversial tycoon praised Baroness Thatcher's role in facing down the trade unions in the 1980s. He said the Government made it possible for News International to survive a year of industrial action fighting against a move of operations to Wapping, East London. Mr Murdoch said: "Mrs Thatcher understood that risk was a vital ingredient in a free enterprise society. She understood that such a society had to be led by a government with backbone."

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