Like many I am deeply concerned that a ceremonial funeral with military honours has been granted to Baroness Thatcher, a privilege placing her term of office on a par with Winston Churchill. Whilst recognising her achievements, and believing that all deserve respect in death, I find myself sharing that profound disquiet expressed by others that by granting this privilege to someone who created possibly the greatest division in British society, it debases the honour. Whilst Churchill united the country, Thatcher divided it.
This sense of disquiet is set against the background of her contempt for others made explicit when, on winning the 1979 General Election, she misquoted the ‘Prayer of St. Francis’: “where there is discord, may we bring harmony…” Far from seeking to bring harmony she divided it and helped create discord and divisions that still run through the country. From the withdrawal of free school milk to ravaging the mining and heavy industries, the introduction of Clause 28 to the Poll Tax, she did more than any other politician to divide a society that, famously, she declared did not exist.
This funeral, designed to show national honour, has inevitably opened old wounds and exasperated new ones and should never have been given to someone who caused so much misery to so many: whose legacy of self-centredness means that the poor and disadvantaged have become stigmatised and division embedded in society. Whilst Baroness Thatcher deserves a decent funeral, the use of St. Paul’s as a focal point for the adulation of some means that it has excluded the pain of those dispossessed by her policies and that by hosting this ceremony the cathedral will show that the Church has ignored the feelings of so many who were disadvantaged by her. To recognise her passing needs acknowledgement of the deep contradiction of her politics and premiership and calls for repentance, not adulation.