Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Even the final act of Margaret Thatcher's life is divisive

FILE - APRIL 8: Lord Bell, spokesperson for Baroness Margaret Thatcher, announced in a statement that the former British Prime Minister died peacefully following a stroke aged 87. 
 British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street, London, at the start of her third term in office.   (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
FILE - APRIL 8: Lord Bell, spokesperson for Baroness Margaret Thatcher, announced in a statement that the former British Prime Minister died peacefully following a stroke aged 87. British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street, London, at the start of her third term in office. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A protester wears a mask depicting former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during a party to mark her death in central London's Trafalgar square, Saturday, April 13, 2013
Margaret Thatcher
Flowers laid outside the home of Baroness Thatcher in Belgravia, London following her death this morning after a stroke
Margaret Thatcher fielding questions with Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe (background), at a press conference, in London
In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI, wearing his Saturn hat, greets former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, May 27, 2009
File photo dated 11/05/83 of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher receiving Soviet writer Aleksander Solzhenitsyn at No 10 Downing Street, London
File photo dated 24/10/2000 of former Conservative Prime Ministers Sir Edward Heath and Baroness Thatcher check their watches as they listen to the debate at the Conservative Party Conference annual conference in Bournemouth. Baroness Thatcher died this morning following a stroke, her spokesman Lord Bell said
FILE - APRIL 8: Lord Bell, spokesperson for Baroness Margaret Thatcher, announced in a statement that the former British Prime Minister died peacefully following a stroke aged 87. November 1976: Conservative party leader Margaret Thatcher makes a 'victory' sign outside her home in Chelsea, London. (Photo by John Minihan/Evening Standard/Getty Images)
FILE - APRIL 8: Lord Bell, spokesperson for Baroness Margaret Thatcher, announced in a statement that the former British Prime Minister died peacefully following a stroke aged 87. Margaret Hilda Thatcher, nee Roberts, as the Conservative candidate for Dartford, Kent, and before she married husband Denis. (Photo by Chris Ware/Getty Images)
1980: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke.. British Conservative politician and first woman to hold the office of Prime Minister of Great Britain Margaret Thatcher speaks at the Tory Party Conference on in Brighton, East Sussex circa 1980. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
1985: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke.. Please refer to the following profile on Getty Images Archival for further imagery. http://www.gettyimages.com/Search/Search.aspx?EventId=108930459&EditorialProduct=Archival British prime minister Margaret Thatcher holds a chimpanzee in 1985. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
File photo dated 08/11/05 of Margaret Thatcher at the memorial service for former Conservative Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath, at Westminster Abbey in central London. Baroness Thatcher died this morning following a stroke, her spokesman Lord Bell said
The death of former Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher has divided opinion across Northern Ireland
Prime Minister David Cameron pays respects to Margaret Thatcher
Crowds gather in Derry's Bogside to 'celebrate' the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Crowds gather in Derry's Bogside to 'celebrate' the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Crowds gather in Derry's Bogside to 'celebrate' the death of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher
Crowds gather in Derry's Bogside to 'celebrate' the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
People celebrate the death of Baroness Thatcher in Brixton
People celebrate the death of Baroness Thatcher in Brixton, south London
Meryl Streep has paid tribute to Baroness Thatcher
Geri Halliwell has tweeted about Margaret Thatcher's death
Morrissey has attacked Baroness Thatcher after the former prime minister died
Members of the armed services will line the route of Baroness Thatcher's funeral procession to St Paul's Cathedral
A man lays a bunch of flowers outside the home of Lady Margaret Thatcher in Belgravia, London following her death
Margaret Thatcher pictured with her husband Denis in 1999
Margaret Thatcher waves to well-wishers after her 1983 election win
Margaret Thatcher arrives at 10 Downing Street after winning the 1979 election
The Union Flag is lowered to half mast at the Houses of Parliament after the death of Baroness Thatcher
Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke
Margaret Thatcher at the Tory Party Conference in Brighton in 1980
Baroness Thatcher's death left some Twitter users with the impression that the singer Cher had died
Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher has died following a stroke
Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Visit to Northern Ireland. Mrs Thatcher talks to Siobhan O'Hars (left) and Katherine O'Hare during her visit to Rathmore Grammar School, Finaghy. 19/6/1978 BELFAST TELEGRAPH ARCHIVE
Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Visit to Northern Ireland. Director of the Belfast Tool and Gauge Company, Mr David Woods (left) discusses the workings of engineering components with Margaret Thatcher and department foreman Mr Robert McCullough at the factory. 6/3/1981 BELFAST TELEGRAPH ARCHIVE

This woman's army: dress rehearsal for Baroness Thatcher's funeral tomorrow John Stillwell/PA

The limits of peaceful protest will be tested at tomorrow's ceremonial funeral for Margaret Thatcher. The former prime minister had meticulously planned the event in advance. But it is not known whether she factored in the thousands of people who say they will protest as her flag-draped coffin makes its way through the streets of London.

The Met Police, already grappling with the security headache of having the Queen and hundreds of VIPs all gathered in one place, have found themselves caught up in a row about the right to freedom of expression.

More than 700 Royal Navy, Army and RAF personnel will line the three-mile route of the funeral procession from the Palace of Westminster to St Paul's. Tens of thousands are expected to turn out to pay their respects.

Police have the power to make arrests even against non-violent actions if they judge they could cause "harassment, alarm or distress" to mourners.

On the other hand, the officer in charge of the 4,000-strong police operation has said her job is not to ensure that respect is shown, merely that the law is upheld.

A poorly attended 'death-party' in a damp Trafalgar Square on Saturday night saw scuffles between police and the 1,000-strong crowd, so Scotland Yard is likely to be fully prepared for any disorder.

Online chatter about former miners planning to throw lumps of coal at the cortege seems far-fetched. A plan by others to turn their backs as the procession passes has been approved by police. But before the pomp, there will be a ceremony for Lady Thatcher today, when her body arrives at the Palace of Westminster.

A short service in the chapel of St Mary Undercroft will allow MPs, peers and staff to pay their respects. The body will remain at Westminster overnight.

Lady Thatcher's ceremonial funeral may have seemed like a good idea when she planned it, but a state-funded event for such a divisive figure was always going to cause problems.

There are questions over the cost of the funeral – estimates range between £5m and £10m.

The Commons will not sit until after the funeral service has ended, meaning that Prime Minister's Questions has been cancelled.

Privately, unhappy MPs question if it was really necessary to recall parliament last week.

The announcement that Big Ben will be silenced during the funeral also raised eyebrows.

Whatever politicians at Westminster think, the reactions of the crowds in London tomorrow will determine if the decision to grant Lady Thatcher a funeral on a par with Diana and the Queen Mother was the correct one.

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